Our 2016 Joyful Mele Celebration
On September 4, more than 300 members of our Hawai‘i community gathered at the beautiful Kahala Hotel & Resort to celebrate Joyful Heart’s journey to end sexual assault, domestic violence, and child abuse forever. We joined together to honor the brave hearts who walk this path with us—making our work possible and our roots in Hawai‘i. Our work in Hawai‘i, our birthplace, reflects and informs Joyful Heart’s national initiatives.
It was in the islands and oceans of Hawai‘i that Mariska first envisioned Joyful Heart. She founded Joyful Heart in Kailua-Kona, with the intention of helping survivors heal and reclaim joy in their lives. We could not have foreseen that in just 12 short years, Joyful Heart would be recognized as a leading voice in healing, education, and advocacy in Hawai‘i and across the country. Our Joyful Mele celebration honored the meaningful progress we’ve created with our community, while looking to our future—the path ahead—to the end of this violence.
The evening was made possible by our Honorary Chairs Rick Blangiardi & Karen Chang, Herb & Nancy Conley, Adrian Kamali‘i, Valli Kalei Kanuha, Jim Lally, Palama Lee, Jamee Mahealani Miller, Mark Polivka, and Al Tomonari; Planning Committee Chairs Michele Dominick, Nalani Holliday, Lynn Lally, Karen Polivka, and Joyce Tomonari; Dinner Chairs Lauran & Myrna Bromley, Wendy & Tony Crabb, and Elizabeth Grossman; the Hawai‘i Hearts—our dedicated group of volunteers; the Hawai‘i Advisory Committee, our local advisors, and our brightest guiding lights, our Board of Directors.
As guests arrived, they enjoyed music from local musicians Lehua Kalima and Shawn Pimental in the elegant lobby of the Kahala Hotel, while sipping cocktails and taking in the breathtaking views. Just before sunset, the buzz of conversation and laughter was broken by the distinctive sound of Kumu Hula Kaleo Trinidad and the Kamehameha Hawaiian Ensemble blowing the Pū. The blowing of the Pū (conch shell), is a deep part of Hawaiian culture. The pū conch shell was used to alert our guests that it was time to gather for our meal.
Students from the Kamehameha Hawaiian Ensemble, the premier Hawaiian Hhula performing arts hui at the Kamehameha Schools Kapa-ālama, led our joyful guests from the lobby to the Maile Ballroom for dinner. Designer Micah Laukea and a creative team from Weil & Associates had transformed the room—bringing the outdoors in—with ferns, flowers, coral, sand, and gently flickering candles on every table. The centerpiece of their design, a living curtain of orchids glowing pink on the stage.
After guests were seated, the 60 students of the Kamehameha Hawaiian Ensemble took the stage and filled every corner of the room performing an opening oli (chant) and an ancient hula (kahiko). After the dancers left the room, our master of ceremonies for the evening, founding Board member Peter Hermann welcomed guests and introduced tireless advocate and beloved Joyful Heart Board member, Reverend Al Miles. Rev. Miles led us in a pule, or prayer, to focus our attention and bless us as we began our program with a delicious buffet of island specialties including Kahala salads, Huli Style Chicken Breast with Grilled Maui Onion, Macadamia Nut Crusted Mahi Mahi, Oven Baked Molokai Sweet Potatoes with Coconut Flakes and Salted Caramel, and Ahi Poke with locally sourced ingredients prepared by Chef Ed Kenney.
As guests finished the last delicious bites of poke, Peter returned to the podium to express our gratitude to our event leadership and corporate sponsors; share an overview of Joyful Heart’s work, programs, and accomplishments with the audience; and tell the story behind our new mission and logo. He introduced national Board members, and local residents, Kalei Kanuha and Karen Polivka, who presented our special ʻōlelo noʻeau (Jawaain proverb) for this event and talked about our work and impact in Hawai‘i.
We were blessed with our ‘ōlelo no‘eau for this evening—which reminds us that the past always gives light to growth in wisdom and action—from Adrian Kamali‘i, a member of our Hawai‘i Advisory Committee. Kalei shared the ʻōlelo noʻeau:
“ʻO ke au i hala ka lamakū i ke ala i ke kupukupu. The past is our torch on this path of growth.”
Karen joined Kalei to talk about Joyful Heart’s story in Hawai‘i:
“Our programming in Hawai‘i is nourished by the partnerships we have built with local organizations. Our work here reflects the entire program portfolio of Healing, Education and Advocacy—all with a local perspective and reflective of local needs. I’m proud to tell you that we have invested over $7 million in Hawai‘i in our programs and partnerships.”
Kalei thanked our guests for all they have helped us accomplish in Hawai‘i:
“Tonight we join together as nā lamakū—big, bright torches—to light the pathway towards healing as individuals, families, and communities. We thank each and every one of you for being part of Joyful Heart’s past, joining with us tonight at Joyful Mele and guiding us in our continued work toward a future bright with possibility and hope.”
Karen introduced Raúl Esparza, accompanied by Zachary Lum, Shawn Pimental, Anna Callner, and Rachel Saul, who dedicated their performance to honoring and celebrating the strength and resiliency of survivors everywhere.
Raúl and the musicians performed a beautiful rendition of “Til It Happens to You,” Lady Gaga and Diane Warren’s Oscar-nominated song from The Hunting Ground, a piercing documentary about rape on college campuses. Filled with fierce passion, and gentle compassion, Raúl’s performance brought many to tears and the audience came to its feet for a standing ovation. He then introduced Joyful Heart’s National CEO, Maile Zambuto.
Maile expressed her deep gratitude to our guests for believing passionately that we can change things and for creating change with us. She shared Joyful Heart’s progress on our path of change—turning everyone’s attention to our national NO MORE PSA campaign—which continues to defy gravity and has reached an audience of over 5 billion. Maile told the story of our work to bring the NO MORE campaign to Hawai‘i, bringing together more than a dozen of Hawaii’s leading government and non-profit organizations for a statewide campaign promoting local values that reflect aloha, pono (justice, balance, respect) and our connections through 'ohana (family). She thanked our producing partner, Hawaii News Now and the cast of beloved locally—and nationally—recognized musicians, television personalities, athletes, cultural practitioners, and community leaders who appear in the Hawai‘i Says NO MORE PSAs:
“In our own decidedly local version of the spots, our community members and icons will join in this chorus of voices. In their messages, they bring not only a stirring call to action to stand up to the victim-blaming myths and excuses survivors hear, but the spirit of aloha, 'ohana, and pono—the spirit of everything that makes Hawai'i, Joyful Heart's birthplace, special.”
Guests got a preview of the Hawai‘i Says No More PSAs, directed by Mariska and produced with our generous media partner, Hawaii News Now, scheduled to launch in the fall. The cast members in attendance—Rick Blangiardi, Nalani Choy, Dr. Kamana‘opono Crabbe, Carolyn Edward, Dr. Lilikalā Kame‘eleihiwa, Kaumakai‘wa Kanaka‘ole, Kealoha, Daniel Dae Kim, Mileka Lincoln, Lehua Kalima, Kara Teng, Kumu Hina Wong, Nicolas Zambuto, and Kini Zamora—then joined Maile on stage. As the cast gathered, Maile remarked:
“We matter in Hawai‘i. We need local people to stand up for these issues and be heard. Not only national celebrities or professional athletes. As someone who was born and raised here, I know it’s hard to talk about hard things in our home. But, Hawai‘i Says NO MORE is a way for us to begin the conversation on our own terms, in our own voice, with our own people.”
Maile and the PSA cast members presented Mariska with a calabash, gifted from Wendy and Tony Crabbe, as an expression of gratitude for directing the PSAs. A calabash in Hawaiian culture is simply a wood bowl. From ancient times it served many functions, but mainly as a bowl large enough to share food among family, friends, and honored guests. As a gift to Mariska, it symbolized her connection to the people of Hawai‘i and the mutual love for the community. Local people use “calabash cousin” to refer to someone who may not be a blood relative but is as close as blood because of what they share - in other words, ‘ohana. The bowl, made of milo wood from Hawai‘i Island—Joyful Heart’s birthplace—was made by an artist in Honolulu.
As Mariska joined the cast on stage, Kumu Hina Wong chanted an oli (chant) to honor Mariska, in celebration and appreciation. Moved to tears, Mariska expressed her profound gratitude:
“I’ve had the great privilege of directing these spots all over the country now, and I’m always so deeply moved by the way that people show up to film them. I think people’s willingness and generosity gets them there, and then they bring so much more: their vulnerability, their pain, their openness, and just so much courage. And I can’t tell you how honored I feel to bear witness to such a deep place in their souls. And to be able to do that here in Hawai‘i, with the souls and the hearts that are of this place that first gave me the gift of the idea for this foundation, I really just don’t have words for it.”
Mariska turned her remarks to the rape kit backlog, Joyful Heart’s number one advocacy priority. She talked about the hundreds of thousands of untested rape kits sitting in storage facilities across the country, each one representing a survivor who underwent an invasive and exhaustive examination to collect evidence from her body. She called the backlog one of the most shocking demonstrations of how we regard these crimes in our society. Mariska shared that she was so outraged she is in the process of producing a documentary about the backlog with HBO.
After showing a powerful clip from the film, Mariska told the audience about the progress we are making on the backlog, pointing to Detroit—a wake up call to the nation. And our successful advocacy for funding to provide communities across the nation with the resources they need to test backlogged kits, prosecute and investigate cases, and re-engage survivors in the criminal justice process. Mariska invited Kata Issari, Joyful Heart’s Executive Director for Hawai‘i, to talk about our local work on the rape kit backlog.
Kata recounted our journey working with our partners in the community on this issue and ultimately working with a group of courageous and visionary state legislators—The Hawaii Women’s Legislative Caucus—who earlier this year introduced a bill calling for processing of all untested sexual assault evidence kits. Joyful Heart boldly joined the Women’s Caucus to advocate for sexual assault survivors, testifying at nine legislative hearings, providing informational packets and offering short briefings to all 76 state legislators, and meeting repeatedly with the bill sponsors and other key leaders. The bill—mandating the testing of all previously backlogged and untested rape kits, and the swift testing of all new kits—was passed unanimously by both chambers of the Hawaii Legislature. This was a momentous occasion for the Womenʻs Caucus, for our community, and Joyful Heart. But getting there was not easy. Kata courageously shared:
“As significant as this legislation was, there is much more still to do to fully reform our state’s processing of rape kits. As thrilling as this moment was, for me, it was also filled with deep disappointment because—we were the only sexual assault organization in the state to advocate for the passage of this bill. We stood alone. Alone.”
Kata invited everyone to join us as a catalyst for change and good in our community:
“We ask each and every one of you to be brave with us to further rape kit reform in our state. We must all speak for every survivor whose very life may be in danger if she tells; we must all advocate for every mother whose daughter was assaulted by a teacher in her school; we must all confront every bias that boys and young men face when they are sexually exploited by those they trusted.”
Kata turned the stage over to auctioneer Eric Schiff who got the crowd engaged in spirited bidding over our one-of-a-kind experiential packages, as well as raising their cards to provide additional support for our programs. At the conclusion of the auction, Peter took the stage to introduce the next performance, Kaumaka‘iwa Kanaka‘ole, accompanied by Miss Aloha Hula 2016 Kayli Ka’iulani Carr with Shawn Pimental on guitar. They performed two beautiful songs and hula, enchanting the crowd.
Raúl and the musicians returned to the stage for the night’s final performance. With Kaumaka‘iwa dancing a graceful hula, Raúl performed a song that he had learned from the musicians the day before, a deeply moving rendition of Ka’ena.
Our night did not end there. Peter took the stage to invite guests to the Bloomingdale’s Lounge, chaired by Catherine Lin, Jill McLean, Rachel Ross, and Jeanie Schmaltz, celebrating Hawai‘i Says NO MORE, for dancing, drinks and dessert. The Hawai’i Says NO MORE and national No More PSAs displayed on screens and the print ads covered the walls. DJ Samantha Ronson spun hits that kept the dance floor packed. Guests went home with action cards, NO MORE lapel pins and car magnets so that they can promote the initiative.
To all those who made our joyful evening so special, we offer you our deepest mahalo. Thank you for all you have helped us accomplish, and for the strength you give us as we blaze the trail ahead.