Ed. Note: I grew up Haole (white/foreign/non-local) in Hawaii, and it would be impossible for me to present this story without presenting the history of the islands as I was taught it by those who were so generous as to let me call their land my home. Hawaiian culture is not my culture, but it is the culture that raised me, and I will always remain a steward of it.
For any mainlander, the mention of Hawaii evokes images of beaches, leis, palm trees, and carefree days– the state relies on this image of paradise to sustain it’s economy through tourism. Politically, the 50th state is a far more complicated place, where calls for a rightful reinstatement of the sovereign Kingdom of Hawaii are as mainstream as participation in the American System. Hawaiian statehood is the result of European colonization, an American coup to overthrow Queen Lili’uokalani and the Kingdom of Hawaii, illegal annexation to the United States, and ultimately, Hawaii’s value as a military base. In many ways, Hawaii has known all along what so much of white America is just waking up to. Our history exemplifies the American history of colonization, theft, and domination that is coming into focus across the country.
Against this complex cultural and political landscape and on the 100th anniverary of women winning the right to vote, what makes a first time woman voter? Photographer Bailey Roberts explores.
I refuse to believe that I can’t do anything about it.
This promise has echoed in my head throughout the last eight months.
Pandemic, racial injustice, economic disenfranchisement, politics, apathy, fear, confusion, depression, alienation… I refuse to believe that I can’t do anything about it.
I realized that “doing something about it”, can take shape on a small scale; a scale that is well suited to me, my gifts and my voice. That my voice, regardless of how small, can inspire someone, give someone motivation, perhaps even hope.
2020 marks the centennial of the 19th Amendment, granting women the right to vote. On the precipice of this upcoming election, I turned my lens onto a group of first time female voters. People that exist in my community at home in Hawaii.
As a snapshot of suffragist success, this anniversary reveals the many women left out of frame. After an arduous year of injustices and tragedy, this cross-section of women voice their consensus of conviction as they prepare to cast their first ballots. By making their voices heard they carry the torch and broaden the lens through which all may be seen and heard.