Aloha! My name is Kim Sherwood. I am an Admin Partner in HR, Global Talent Acquisition, based out of Ronler Acres in Hillsboro, Oregon
May is Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage month, and I am so excited to have this opportunity to share about the heritage I grew up in. The heritage that makes me, ME. I am the daughter of a second-generation Filipino, my mom, and a third-generation Japanese, my dad. My Filipino grandparents and great-grandparents were immigrant workers of the sugar plantation era and my Japanese grandparents and great-grandparents were immigrant farmers. Born and raised on the Big Island in Hawai’i, I often reflect upon my upbringing and how it has impacted me as a mom, wife, and contributor.
Life was not easy for my family. My mom and dad started their family at a young age. They were extremely hard workers and made many humbling sacrifices as their main priority was to care for us. Some of my fondest memories as a child are the weekend camping and fishing trips, which I recognize now were probably done out of necessity. As kids, these trips were all about fishing, swimming, and snorkeling all day, but the island’s waters provided an abundance of food that our family needed.
Although my parents worked hard to provide for us, they were not alone in raising my two younger siblings and me. We grew up surrounded by our entire ‘ohana (family). Our grandparents and most of our relatives lived on the same island. We were also surrounded by a lot of family friends, all of whom were referred to as either ‘uncle’ or ‘aunty’ out of respect and to honor them as our elders. Our ‘ohana accompanied us on many of our camping and fishing trips, and they all made an impact on us as kids, whether it was helping support our family or being an influence. While the support and involvement of ‘ohana in the raising of children may not be unique to Hawaii, it is truly an island way of life.
My family’s values and beliefs were influenced by Asian, Hawaiian, and Western cultures. They instilled in me the values of humility, putting family first, working hard, loving and respecting others, and caring for and respecting the island that provided for our needs. I was raised with a deep understanding that these are the foundations that are rooted in our customs and culture. And, yes, I grew up with the incredible music and movies of the ‘70s and ‘80s, which had a huge impact on my view of the world. But, at the core, it was always to live pono and with aloha.
To live pono means to live righteously—with goodness and excellence—in terms of self, others, and our land. To live with aloha means to love others before yourself, to take care and give help wherever it is needed. These values that were rooted in my upbringing still ring true and are taught and practiced in my own household.
My husband and I moved from Hawai’i to California almost 26 years ago, and we eventually established roots in Oregon with our four kids. We try to live pono by being good stewards of what we have been entrusted with: our home and land. We have discussions at the dinner table about the history of Oregon and how we should honor, respect, and learn more about the state’s native indigenous cultures. We live aloha by caring for our family, friends, and complete strangers in their time of need. We strive to remain humble and always be thankful for our circumstances and our blessings. The practice of hula, the indigenous dance form of the Hawaiian people, also helps me stay connected to the traditions of Hawai’i and helps to reinforce its cultural values. Although our kids do not have the same life experiences I had while growing up, they are still surrounded by ‘ohana that supports and influences them. Our ‘ohana are our relatives in Washington, our church family, our friends and neighbors.
Having this opportunity to share my story is an honor. In our U.S. history, there was a time when the voices of BIPOC communities were not heard and were overshadowed. There was a time when our voices didn’t matter. Those days no longer exist. Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month was created to uplift the voices and stories of our people. It has given our communities a platform to help break the misconceptions and cultural appropriation that we have been subjected to. It also allows us to make change happen through community conversations, self-education, and the sharing of knowledge so that we ALL can uplift each other’s culture and heritage.
Live pono. Live aloha.