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by Makana Shook, staff writer


Ho‘omau is central to the Hawaiian philosophy of unity and perseverance. According to Mary Kawena Pukui and other Hawaiians, to “ho‘omau” is to continue forward through impending adversity and to have the courage to remain faithful in the wake of ruin. HPU’s Lynette Cruz embodies this very Hawaiian concept.

Dr. Cruz is an assistant professor of anthropology in the College of International Studies. Her journey from assembly-line pineapple trimmer in the old Dole Cannery to one of Hawai‘i’s most prominent justice advocates, and a respected university professor, has made her an influential woman in the islands’ Hawaiian and academic communities.

While Cruz’s life story is full of twists and turns, her philosophy is simple: “Our sense of well being is rooted in community, and in ‘place’…. Growing roots in a community is important for allowing aloha (love, compassion, charity), kuleana (self-responsibility), pono (moral excellence and well-being) malama (care for others), and ho‘okipa (hospitality) to blossom.”

Unlike many other successful women in Hawai‘i who measure their achievements by the ability to govern a bank, chair a board, or preside over the state Senate, Cruz’s influence lies in her ability to positively affect the lives of those in need. She has worked as an advocate for homeless people at Sandy Beach Park, for inmates at Halawa Correctional Facility, and for dialogues on Hawaiian culture and sovereignty. She has also served as a volunteer and board member of the American Friends Service Committee (a Quaker organization for peace and justice) and as president of a grassroots funding organization called The People’s Fund. She is a member of the Hawaiian Affairs Caucus of the Democratic Party of Hawai‘i and of Kalei Maile Ali’i Hawaiian civic club.

Fran Orian, treasurer of the Hawaiian Affairs Caucus, has known Cruz for 10 years and describes her as “a very strong role model for young women who wish to be involved in their communities, especially at the grassroots level.” Orian added: “She has honesty, integrity, courage, strength, and humility.”

As she was finishing her master’s degree in 2003 at the University of Hawai‘i at Manoa, Cruz recounts, she began to think about “how to make things better by taking some kind of action as a Hawaiian woman.” The idea turned into a lifestyle; she was not just another advocate for social justice, but a Hawaiian woman with a special relationship to the ‘aina (land), a relationship that, she explained, balances and roots one’s sense of self and place.

Knowing what it meant to “be Hawaiian” enabled her to bring to the table a separate set of talents and understandings that people needed to see and hear. Drawing on her collected experiences, Cruz has discovered that today she can make the most impact on the world by trying to pass on to her students that schooling and life are about more than learning a craft or being professionally competent.

Specifically, Cruz continues serving others by teaching her students that they should think creatively about the world and take responsibility for the well-being of others by putting to work all the knowledge and resources at their disposal.

HPU geography instructor Serge Marek describes Cruz’s students as “exposed to another way of learning that breaks significantly from more typical, Western-centric educational methods.
“ She brings this spirit into the classroom,” Marek added, “and leaves a deep impression on her students.”

Cruz’s instructions, especially to young Hawaiian women, are simple: “What it all comes down to is aloha: sharing love, caring, nurturing good energy, and healing with others.”

“ Lynette has a quiet ability to recognize the problems that plague our world, to see beyond the problem, and connect it to larger situations,” said MelanieTjoeng, an anthropology major who took Cruz’s Making a Difference class.

“ Some people are born with special gifts and purposes; Lynette has the ability to change the world, one classroom at a time,” Tjoeng added.

 
 

 

 

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