Sixty men in “Ocean Pacific Blue” along with 24 community members attended an annual Hawaiian celebration called Makahiki, in San Quentin’s Visiting Room on October 4.
Family members drove hundreds of miles to celebrate the feast. “I’ve been to a lot of prisons and there is nowhere like this. It’s all about family and community,” said Louis Sale’s wife who drove from San Diego.
“For today I was very impressed by the men’s newly discovered talent and how it shines through their hard work and dedication,” Adel “Auntie” Serafino, the cornerstone of the group said.
Entrance to the event be- gan at 2 p.m. when all invited inmates passed 30 men who were strategizing about the day’s festivities. Participants listened to a Bob Marley mix provided by event deejay Stephen Piscascio as the stage was set for performances.
The musical event started with a traditional Polynesian introduction. The story be- hind the song is “the person chanting has a house, a beautiful house in the forest…and my house is perfect except for the one thing missing….you, the visitor—and of course, you only arrive with love and respect,” Patrick Makuakane told the audience, setting the tone of “family” for the show.
The chant was followed by the first dance from the eight-man team. It honored a prince who “went to jail like us be- cause he tried to restore the queen’s leadership against the white puritanical leader- ship that overthrew the culturally-based government,” Makuakane said.
The second dance, called Halo Haina Lei, described Hawaii’s mountain on the island of Lanai, the second wettest place on earth, where torrential rainstorms fertilize the valley. The dance is a metaphor for appropriations of land to, and fertility for, the Hawaiian culture.
“We are a family”
After the chants and dance, ukulele players set up their set. Brother Louis Sale introduced “Auntie” Adel saying, “Without Auntie we all would not be here today.”
Her team opened with a Tahitian song the elders used to sing to their young people as they left for Hawaii. The song was titled “Tamari ‘I Hokulea.”
Other songs included so- los by two men who are leaders in the Pacific community at San Quentin:
Louis Sale rewrote “Paho-ho”, a Tahitian song he dedicated to his wife. Pahoho is about the soothing sounds of the waves crashing against the reef while the approach- ing Queen is offered an apetahi flower by her loved one.
“Auntie” Adel introduced Brother “D” who has been at Auntie Adel’s Ukelele Group’s Neil Prudente, Chanton Bun, Tith Ton, Jackson, Adel “Auntie” Serafino, Jackson, Moua Vue, Sean Koyota, Patrick Makukane and Louis Salé
The Q for 12 years. D asked the audience to travel back to 1972 when he and his wife Margaret first heard Elvis’s recording of “I Can’t Help Falling in Love with You.” “I was only 5 years old,” said Margaret, D’s wife since their marriage as teenagers. “And still going strong,” D proudly responded to a cheering crowd.
At intermission, all comers enjoyed a traditional Hawaiian dinner, including shredded pork, marinated chicken, catfish, poi, coconut yogurt, mixed vegetables, coleslaw, soda and cookies. Tables opened in a traditional luau style that allowed the men, volunteers and family to dine together.
Here, Makuakane took time to reflect on his service at San Quentin.
Makuakane teaches island chant and dance to men at the prison every Thursday afternoon. Discussing his four years of service, he highlighted this performance as most rewarding. “This work over the years is gratifying as we provide culture, mentorship and most important of all community to our brothers here,” said the native Hawaiian Makuakane.
“Makahiki” originated hundreds of years ago during a three-month moratorium placed on Pacific Island cultures during ancient and historical battles. Warring parties agreed on this cease fire to allow their warriors time to reflect, re-nourish and celebrate life,” said Makuakane.
After intermission the men performed two more songs from “the land of the cowboys,” known as Maui. The first invited people to learn a song about hot lava hitting rocks as it pours down the mountain. Then everyone in the room performed a song that included a volcano, which, in part referred to the power of a glowing sky “hot above the crater.”
The day’s final song Makuakane first learned as a child — “Boy From Lapohoehoe.” It was the first hula he learned and tells the story of a boy who likes to do what all young men in Hawaii aspire to do; they like to fish, eat and paddle.
“Auntie” Adel then shared her experiences with the group.
She reflected how she came to San Quentin through her relationship with Jun Homomato, who teaches origami.
In March of 2015, Homomato recognized Adel’s passion for teaching and invited her to San Quentin. From that point on she was committed.
“Not one day after I started the ukulele class at San Quentin did I ever think this would end,” Adel said. Her dedication and passion shows. “We are a family,” she said, referring to Pacific Islanders.
The Native Hawaiian Religious Group (NHRG) al- lows them the opportunity to teach chants and traditional dance for San Quentin’s men. NHRG gives men the ability to connect with their roots, providing a spiritual platform for any inmate wishing to find a peaceful path full of love from the Pacific Island community.
Through the years, Aun- tie Adel has spent countless hours with men who are driven by heritage to learn music and songs of the Hawaiian culture. Auntie Adel teaches the men performance styles of singing Island vocals and playing the four-string and eight-string ukuleles. “And remember with men being blessed to go home, we are looking for another 10-15 people of any race and ethnicity to join the NHRG. We hope each will get a slice of paradise,” said Auntie.