Learn more about the participants in the 2021 Rainbow Town Hall series.
For more information, please contact Ian Tapu at email@example.com
B. Lani Prunés is a strategist with foundations in journalism, media, and movement building. She has contributed significant expertise to community-led mobilization efforts as far and wide as Sincelejo, Colombia; on the Hill in Washington, D.C.; her own hometown of Philadelphia; and most recently in Honolulu, Hawai’i, lending capacity building strategic communications for policy and grassroots campaigns. Ultimately, Lani sees liberation as being core to her work and pivotal in seeing justice come to fruition in our lifetimes.
Rev. Kyle Lovett, a clergywomen in the United Church of Christ, has served churches in Northern California and Hawai’i. A Cal grad (Go Bears!), Kyle has two adult sons, made the old-fashioned way. Kahu Kyle came out to herself and the world in her twenties when she was in seminary. Folx in Hawai’i started calling her “Chaplain to the Rainbow People” after she rallied supportive clergy to stand with people at the State Capitol during the marriage equality struggle.
Rev. Dr. Moses D. Barrios is the newly called Senior Pastor of Calvary by the Sea Lutheran Church in Honolulu, Hawai’i, originally from Los Angeles, CA with 20 years of ministry experience. He holds a Master’s in Theology and a Doctorate of Ministry from Fuller Theological Seminary. His other theological studies derive from Pacific Lutheran Theological Seminary in Berkeley, CA and Luther Seminary in St. Paul, MN. He is an Ordained Roster Minister of Word and Sacrament with the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA) and loves to teach and speak on race, diversity, multiculturalism, inclusion and rethinking church ministry.
Rev. Blayne Higa was born and raised in Hilo, Hawai’i and is a graduate of Waiakea High School. He holds a Master of Divinity degree from the Institute of Buddhist Studies in Berkeley, California with a focus on Shin Buddhist ministry and chaplaincy. Rev. Blayne is currently the Resident Minister of the Kona Hongwanji Buddhist Temple. He previously served as Assisting Minister of the Moiliili Hongwanji Buddhist Temple and as Assistant Chaplain for the Pacific Buddhist Academy in Honolulu, Hawai’i. Before entering the ministry, he spent over 17 years in state government and in non-profit fundraising. He holds a Master of Public Administration degree as well as a Certificate in Urban and Regional Planning from the University of Hawai’i at Mānoa. He received his Bachelor of Arts degree from Willamette University in Salem, Oregon. Rev. Blayne is the Chair of the Committee on Social Concerns for the Honpa Hongwanji Mission of Hawai’i. He also serves on the Board of the American Civil Liberties Union of Hawai’i and Vibrant Hawai’i. He is a past President of the Moiliili Hongwanji Board of Directors and former First Vice President of the Honpa Hongwanji Mission of Hawai’i. He also previously served on the Advisory Council for Project Dana and on the Board of The Interfaith Alliance Hawai’i. Rev. Blayne received Tokudo ordination in 2012 and Kyoshi certification in 2018 from the Jodo Shinshu Hongwanji-ha.
Kristin Wiberg was born in Provo, Utah and raised in Pasco, Washington and Boise, Idaho. At 18, she forewent her athletic scholarships to pursue knowledge about my indigeneity. This was done through both formal and informal education in Laie, Hawai’i as well as the land of my iwi in Whangaruru, Aotearoa. Some of the most influential mentorship regarding my indigeneity and genealogy has been from Tevita Ka’ili, Kamoa’e Walk, Isaiah Walker, Chadd and Clem Paishon, Pomai Bertelmann, Rowena Reid, Valetta Jeremiah, Seamus Fitzgerald, as well as family members Kingsley and Julie Purcell Ah You, Mona and Jason Porter, Tina Purcell Niumatalolo, Tone and Ali Iuliano, Honey and Les Paora and a plethora of other family members.Kristin was a full-time minister for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints in Michigan. She was also an early morning seminary teacher for students at Kahuku High School. Today, her ministry continues as she identifies as an active, practicing, unorthodox, queer member of the church. My ministry also continues professionally in the home automation industry as I’m focused solely on recruiting, developing, and promoting bipoc and lgbtqia+ individuals. Holding the tension between my religious organization and my faith, sexuality and indigeneity is a daily practice.
Lina Robins is a singer and musician from Wai’anae, the west side of O’ahu, Hawai’i where she was born and raised. She hails from a long line of musicians, songwriters and Hula dancers. She grew up singing Hawaiian music at the age of 2, inspired by her dad, who introduced her to R&B, Soul, Jazz, Pop and Rock and Roll, he is the reason for her passion for music. Lina plays the ‘ukulele, guitar and bass and has been performing professionally for just over 10 years now. One of her proudest moments was being on the Oprah Show at age 12 with one of her heroes, Mariah Carey. For the past 9 years, she has been playing Hawaiian music in a trio formed by her and her cousins, ‘Uhe’uhene. They are currently working on their first album. As a solo, Lina performs a mixture of RnB, Pop & Gospel and brings a soulful lift to Hawaiian and Island music. She is also working on her own music to be released.
Sarah “Mili” Milianta-Laffin teaches STE(A)M Lab at ‘Ilima Intermediate School in Ewa Beach, Hawai’i. She proudly serves on the GLSEN Hawai’i Board as the Public Policy Coordinator, on the Hawai‘i Society for Technology in Education (HSTE) Board, the TFA Hawai’i Alumni Advisory Board as the TFA Hawai’i PRISM Co-Chair, along with being a DonorsChoose.org Teacher Advocate. She’s an active member of the Hawai’i State Teachers Association (HSTA), currently serving on HSTA’s State Board of Directors. In March 2021, Mili was one of 4 teachers recognized nationally by House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and First Lady Dr. Jill Biden for the 2021 Women’s History Month Celebration based on her work supporting LGBTQIA+ youth.
She’s 1 of 45 national educators to receive the prestigious 2022 California Casualty Award for Teaching Excellence, dubbed “The Oscars of Teaching” through the NEA Foundation, along with local education awards. She sponsors the ‘Rainbow Royales’ Gender Sexuality Alliance Club (GSA) that won GLSEN’s 2020 GSA of the Year, out of 8,000 national clubs. She’s a 2x State Finalist for the distinguished Presidential Award for Excellence in Math & Science Teaching (PAEMST), the nation’s highest commendation for K-12 Math and Science teachers (2019 & 2021). On the weekends you can find her snorkeling around O’ahu trying to spot manō.
Thaddeus Pham (he/him) is currently Viral Hepatitis Prevention Coordinator for the Hawai’i State Department of Health in the Harm Reduction Services Branch. He is also co-Founder and co-Director of the Hep Free Hawaii Coalition, which oversees Hep Free 2030, Hawaii’s Hepatitis Elimination initiative (www.hepfreehawaii.org). In 2018, he was recognized by the National Minority Quality Forum as a 40 Under 40 Leader in Minority Health. He is a current Bloomberg Fellow at Johns Hopkins School of Public Health. He approaches public health from a social justice perspective and seeks to enhance community partnerships and systems-level policy changes to address health disparities, regardless of disease state.
Dr. Tatiana Kalani’ōpua Young or Kumu Tati is a Kanaka ‘Ōiwi Maoli (Native Hawaiian), māhū+ (queer/transgender) healer, scholar-activist, university lecturer and community organizer. She hails from the beautiful coastline of Waianae, Oahu, a descendant of the Young, Keamo, and Aken ohana or families.
Dr. Young completed her phD in the Department of Anthropology at the University of Washington. Her dissertation, Constellations of Rebellion: Home, Makeshift Economies and Queer Indigeneity (2019) is based on three years of ethnographic fieldwork at the largest outdoor encampment in Hawai’i, Pu‘uhonua O Waianae. It examines, among other things, the daily life of frontline Maka’ainana (O’iwi and Pasifika+ people said to be the eyes of the land/commoners) whose ability to negotiate agency for land in an economically disenfranchised tent city empowered cultural understandings of family, gender and sexuality to build community autonomy and institutional power.
By observing and participating in the sharing and movement of ideas, goods, resources and services at Pu’uhonua o Waianae, Dr. Young became part of a thriving indigenous queer space of spiritual abundance led by Native Hawaiian wāhine and māhū whose stories of rebellion and resilience came to transform Hawai’i’s formidable homeless crisis into an opportunity for restoring and investing in pu’uhonua or places of refuge as an alternative to status quo degradation and punishment.
Sarah KamakawiwoHawai’iole (MS Ed, MPH) works at Papa Ola Lōkahi (POL), the Native Hawaiian Health Board, as their Policy & Compliance Coordinator. Her educational background is in exercise science and public health, and she recently graduated from the University of Hawai’i at Mānoa. Though still new to many policy spaces, she hopes to work in federal, state, and local advocacy to contribute to the POL mission to uplift the well-being of the lāhui.
Mana Shim (she/her/’o ia) is Kanaka Maoli and a 3L at William S. Richardson School of Law. She is a former player of the National Women’s Soccer League and continues her work as an advocate for other players in the league. She identifies as bisexual, is a survivor of sexual abuse, and is diagnosed with bipolar disorder. Her passions include surfing, spending time with her dog Nalu, and talking about social justice issues.
Not many musical artists get their start by finding inspiration in the sounds of a vacuum cleaner. But that’s exactly how Alt-Pop artist Izik got started. At four years old, his mother discovered him sitting on the staircase humming to himself while matching the pitch of the vacuum as she cleaned their family home.
Izik, who credits his musical influences to artists like Mariah Carey, The Carpenters, Amy Winehouse, Loyal Garner, Beyoncé and Frank Ocean, has developed a unique sound never before heard in Hawai’i. When asked how he would describe his sound, Izik says, “I’m what would happen if Sam Smith, Teresa Bright, Solange & Maggie Rogers re-recorded ‘Lady Marmalade’.”
He has spent years honing his craft and begin performing in local venues across Hawai’i in early 2013. Since then, Izik has become an award-winning performer with multiple local, national and international tours under his belt.
The Hawai’i-raised singer/songwriter released his second album &bougainvillea (Zeo Music) in October 2019; a follow up to his debut release, Obsidian.
Hinaleimoana Wong-Kalu is a Kanaka Maoli (Native Hawaiian) teacher, cultural practitioner, and community leader. Born in the Nu’uanu District of O’ahu, Kumu Hina was educated at Kamehameha Schools and the University of Hawai’i. She was a founding member of Kulia Na Mamo, a community organization established to improve the quality of life for māhū wahine (transgender women), and served for 13 years as the Director of Culture at a Honolulu public charter school dedicated to using native Hawaiian culture, history, and education as tools for developing and empowering the next generation of warrior scholars. Kumu Hina is currently a cultural advisor and leader in many community affairs and civic activities, including Chair of the O’ahu Island Burial Council, which oversees the management of Native Hawaiian burial sites and ancestral remains. In 2014, Hina announced her bid for a position on the board of the Office of Hawaiian Affairs, one of the first transgender candidates to run for statewide political office in the United States.
Phylesha Brown-Acton (she/her) hails from the village of Fineone Hakupu Atua, Niue Island. She identifies as Fakafifine (Niue). She serves MVPFAFF+ people and their families globally. She is the Executive Director of F’INE Pasifika Aotearoa Trust. F’INE is part of the Pasifika Whānau Ora Collective. Phylesha’s primary role is to support F’INE staff to serve MVPFAFF+ people and their families in achieving self-determined aspirations of well-being by providing navigation support and services. Her work over two decades has been to challenge rhetoric and oppressive systems and policies that minimise or invisibilise her communities and people.
Sha Merirei Ongelungel is a Micronesian (Palauan) rabble-rouser specializing in multimedia content production. Her childhood was spent surrounded by activists, including her parents, who fought against the American imperialism and militarization of Indigenous lands. She strives to uphold those same values that guided her parents and mentors through her work with IEN, as well as through her personal activism. She has dedicated the past two decades to cultivating her multimedia-based skill set in order to educate and raise awareness on issues affecting BIPOC communities and throughout Pasifika. She is best known for her #BeingMicronesian hashtag and its associated Twitter thread, podcast (The Sha Nanigans Podcast), online radio station (Native ExPat Radio), and decolonization-based webcomic (Colorful & Noisier).
If anyone could be described as having “Hawaiian heart & soul,” it is Kamakakehau Fernandez. Born in Little Rock, Arkansas, this 6 week old infant was adopted by Robyn Nae’ole and brought to the shores of Maui, Hawai’i. He is a graduate of the Hawaiian language immersion program Kula Kaiapuni and is a proud Hawaiian language speaker. Kamakakehau became enamoured with the ‘ukulele and leo ki’eki’e (falsetto) singing. In 2003, he won his 1st falsetto singing competition which later propelled him into winning Hawai’i’s Na Hoku Hanohano Awards in 2013. Kamakakehau has since been featured in the Hawai’i LIVE Tour 2019 in the Pacific Northwest and also featured in the Hawaiian language remake of Disney’s “MOANA” as the character “Tamatoa” and continues to have a strong presence in Hawai’i, the continental states and Japan.
Lina Robins is a singer and musician from Wai‘anae, the west side of O‘ahu, Hawai’i where she was born and raised. She hails from a long line of musicians, songwriters and Hula dancers. She grew up singing Hawaiian music at the age of 2, inspired by her dad, who introduced her to R&B, Soul, Jazz, Pop and Rock and Roll, he is the reason for her passion for music. Lina plays the ‘ukulele, guitar and bass and has been performing professionally for just over 10 years now. One of her proudest moments was being on the Oprah Show at age 12 with one of her heroes, Mariah Carey. For the past 9 years, she has been playing Hawaiian music in a trio formed by her and her cousins, ‘Uhe’uhene. They are currently working on their first album. As a solo, Lina performs a mixture of RnB, Pop & Gospel and brings a soulful lift to Hawaiian and Island music. She is also working on her own music to be released.