Amid pandemic and protests, an Oahu man shares message of aloha through music

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Every day, without fail, Stephen Akana leaves his residence at Maluhia Elderly Housing Apartments to board a Handivan.

“It’s my limo,” quipped the 72-year-old. 

Armed with his ukulele, Akana gets dropped off at Ala Moana Beach Park to exercise and “talk story” with friends. 

“It keeps me healthy. The saltwater is like our medicine. If you’re Hawaiian, you know,” said Akana, who grew up on Papakolea Hawaiian Homestead. 

The daily trips to the beach is a way for Akana and his fellow kupuna to escape every-day life. 

“Gathering together, it’s so wonderful. Kind of makes you forget the bad stuff going on,” explained Akana. 

Those brief few hours by the beach are a welcome respite in the midst of a coronavirus pandemic, and as protests turn violent on the mainland over the death of black man George Floyd while under the custody of Minneapolis police. 

“Come to the ocean. Look at the ocean. It’s different. It makes you feel different. It takes away your anger. For me, that’s what it does,” said Raymond Hookano, 84. 

His circle of friends are slowly dwindling. 

“Plenty guys died already. Plenty of my friends that used to hang here with us, died,” said Jacob Mahi, 82.

“Come to the ocean. Look at the ocean. It’s different. It makes you feel different. It takes away your anger. For me, that’s what it does,” said Raymond Hookano, 84. 

Though Akana couldn’t exactly describe his hope with words, he can with song.

Strumming the ukulele, he sings his rendition of “Over the Rainbow,” ending it with a simple message of hope:

“There’s gonna be better days.”

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