Highlighting the works and lives of African American’s in Hawaii – part 1

Posted on February 14, 2015

0


With the strong possibility of the Presidential Library for President Barack Obama being built here in Honolulu, Hawaii, we heard from many of Hawaii’s African Americans who wanted to take some time to create dialogues, share some history and reflect on some of the works and the lives of Hawaii’s African American’s. We will look at and discuss the history and events of Hawaii’s African Americans with this new series titled “The works and lives of African American’s in Hawaii”.

President Barack Obama was born here in Honolulu, and became the 1st African American President of the United States and assumed office in 2009 as the 44th President. President Barack Obama’s pathway to the White House was largely molded by Hawaii’s rich diversity and influences of the society here in the Hawaiian Islands.

"Hibiscus"  The Four Seasons of Love  artwork by  Hawaii's African American Artist John Henry Nichlos. And is the official flower of Hawaii, the stately hibiscus portrayed in a beautiful array of colors.

“Hibiscus” The Four Seasons of Love artwork by Hawaii’s African American Artist John Henry Nichlos. And is the official flower of Hawaii, the stately hibiscus portrayed in a beautiful array of colors.

Yet, many African Americans have observed and commented to us, on the lack of any actual monuments, buildings, tributes of the African American history or dedications to African Americans in Hawaii. Even with our current President of the United States, Barack Obama, an African American who was born and raised here in Hawaii. Hawaii’s African American population and contributions often go overlooked and unannounced here in the State of Hawaii. While as an example we can however find a Japanese Cultural Center and a China Town with a broad array of examples, activities, merchants, and statues in Honolulu’s China Town.

We recently discovered in a conversation with one of Hawaii’s own African American Artist John Henry Nichlos, who has been painting for over 3 decades here locally, that there is a lack on African American Artwork at the Hawaii State Art Museum or in the State and City buildings across the Islands, and the last know displays of an African American artworks has not occurred since the late 1800’s here on the islands. John hopes to draw attention to this inadequacy by sharing some of his pieces with others and to create some events showcasing his and other african american’s from Hawaii artworks. John continues to seek the help of the State Art Museum, whom he stated has only done a piece on the Music and Jazz of African American’s. John shared that next week he is meeting with the current Governor, Governor Ige and hopes to share the need for more events, dialogues and tributes to Hawaii’s African American population. In John Henry Nichlos’s Self Portrait, John uses the influences of Hawaii’s diverse culture adding Chinese Calligraphy to the piece.

Self Portrait by  John Henry Nichlos includes Hawaii's culturally diverse influences by adding  Chinese Calligraphy

Self Portrait by John Henry Nichlos includes Hawaii’s culturally diverse influences by adding Chinese Calligraphy

Another strong case in point is the African American’s role on the front lines of war and used for some of the most hazardous and dangerous work by the United States Military establishment. Often a missed history that remains unwritten in our history books, the gallant achievements and efforts of our African American soldiers across the United States and in perticular here in Hawaii during the War times go untold.

Many African American Soldiers perished from the West Loch Disaster - May 21, 1944 the WW II Maritime explosion sinking of 6 LST ships was kept top secret until 1960.

Many African American Soldiers perished from the West Loch Disaster – May 21, 1944 the WW II Maritime explosion sinking of 6 LST ships was kept top secret until 1960.

In May of 1944 Hawaii and the nation’s history again failed to acknowledge the tragic lose of lives, a full Battalion of young African American Soldiers from Schofield who died in the waters of West Loch. A tragedy that was underscored by the militaries need to stay off the scopes and radar, as weapons, ammunition, and ships assembled here in Hawaii for the invasion of Saipan. With top military officials ordering a full fledge press silent by the Military & Hawaii Media back in 1944, to what many call the second “Pearl Harbor” . The West Loch disaster was classified as Top Secret until the 1960s.

Many African American Soldiers perished at the West Loch Disaster,  on May 21, 1944 and remain as only "Unknown" without any proper identification, memorial  or honor to their sacrifice

Many African American Soldiers perished at the West Loch Disaster, on May 21, 1944 and remain as only “Unknown” without any proper identification, memorial or honor to their sacrifice

To date these deceased men continued to be unidentified, only considered as unknowns, it’s unsure and perhaps some are still at the bottom of the loch or possibly apart of several mass grave burials site, in about the year 2000. some of the graves were updated from just “Unknown” to to “Unknown, West Loch Disaster, May 21, 1944” and still remain Unidentified. Though there was a early morning roster that listed each man’s name separately, the African American Soldiers of the 29th chemical Decontamination Unit assigned to Schofield Barracks, made the ultimate sacrifice and died on May 21, 1944 for our freedom. But yet these African American Soldiers seem to rise to only a miniscule level of recognition and only in the last few years. Even Wikipedia list no account of African American Soldiers or the the unit. We found no monument or listing of the Men, the history and events at Pearl Harbor and only a gated, guarded, inaccessible plaque on base at West Loch. The disaster started with a massive exploxision of ammunition aboard one of six LST ship’s with troops loading the heavy ammunition and a total lost of the African American soldiers of the 29th chemical decontamination unit.

Article by Tina Quizon February 14, 2015

Check back as we will be continuing this series and scouring the Hawaiian Islands for more of the works and lives of Hawaii’s African Americans.

Advertisements