Molokai student’s winning peace poem illustrates island values

Sixth-grade student Jantzen Mahiai-Paleka from Kaunakakai Elementary School was awarded the grand prize in the 19th annual Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Peace Poetry Awards on May 30 before a crowd of more than 75 people.

“We are delighted to receive work of this caliber from this young Molokai poet,” said Melinda Gohn, director of the International Peace Poem Project, the nongovernmental organization sponsoring the competition.

Maui County Mayor Alan Arakawa congratulated Mahiai-Paleka, accompanied by state Rep. Lynn DeCoite and County Council Member Stacy Crivello, to a crowded room celebrating 12 student winners from two Molokai schools. The winning students were honored for writing peace poems in the countywide competition organized by the International Peace Poem Project. Three students and teacher Greta Martinez also received special recognition certificates from Gov. David Ige’s office.

The annual competition is to honor King, the civil rights leader who promoted nonviolent means to achieve social change.

The ceremony was held at the Molokai Public Library in Kaunakakai. Mahiai-Paleka was selected from a field of more than 95 Molokai entries. Awarding Mahiai-Paleka was Dr. King Peace Poem Awards Director Melinda Gohn and Arakawa. Mahiai-Paleka received an aluminum canvas photo furnished by Maui artist Chad Paranto and a certificate of recognition from Ige.

Gohn said, “Jantzen Mahiai-Paleka’s winning poem, ‘Peace is home,’ is written in a sonnet form. The poem illustrates island values and reveals the Hawaiian lifestyle of sharing the bounty of their island home.”

Mahiai-Paleka’s poem begins, “Peace is home, peace is sweet/we have peace wherever we go/We go to the beach and have a lot of fun/we hear the waves as we watch the sun.

“Peace is rare, peace is rare/please handle peace with care/we have parties with our families as they have peace/my whole family makes a huge feast.”

The poem concludes, “Gather around the table everyone/we have peace at last/Eat eat eat, the good food we make/there is a lot of food take take take./Peace is home, peace is sweet/we are free at last with peace. “

Gohn continued, “Jantzen Mahiai-Paleka has written an sonnet narrative about peace in a family setting that reflects how nature is tied to the Hawaiian lifestyle. We are delighted that tonight Molokai residents heard the memorable peace poetry produced by their young people.”

Ige and the state House of Representatives provided certificates for top contest winners. Kualapuu PCCS teacher Greta Martinez received a certificate from Ige’s office as the Molokai Dr. King Peace Poem Teacher of the Year. All student winners received a Certificate of Achievement from Arakawa, a certificate provided by Crivello from the Maui County Council and a King commemorative prize poster furnished by the International Peace Poem Project.