|Born||Abraham Kahikina Akaka
February 21, 1917
Pauoa Valley, Oahu, Hawaii
|Died||September 10, 1997
|Other names||Rev Abraham Kahu Akaka|
|Spouse(s)||Mary Louise Jeffrey|
|Title||Kahu (shepherd), Reverend|
Abraham Kahikina Akaka (February 21, 1917 – September 10, 1997) was an American clergyman. For the better part of three decades, Rev. Akaka was Kahu (shepherd) of Kawaiahaʻo Church in Honolulu, Hawaii. His mother was of pure Hawaiian ancestry, and his father was of Hawaiian-Chinese ancestry. He delivered his messages in both the Hawaiian and English languages.
Abraham Akaka was the fourth of seven children in a deeply spiritual family. His youngest brother is United States Senator Daniel Akaka. Each morning the Akaka household would begin with a prayer, recitation of Psalm 23 in Hawaiian, a Scripture recitation by each child, and hymn singing. The routine was repeated at the close of day. The Akaka family often looked after, and provided shelter for, disadvantaged children.
A graduate of President William McKinley High School in Honolulu, Akaka did undergraduate work at the University of Hawaii, and received his B.A. degree at Illinois Wesleyan University in 1939. He received his B.D. degree at Chicago Theological Seminary in 1943.
Akaka was first drawn to the ministry while attending the multi-national World Conference of Christian Youth in Amsterdam in 1939, when he was 22 years old, impressed by the unity of faith he saw there. He was ordained in 1944, and served for two years with the Western Kauai Larger Parish Council, nine years ministering to five different churches on Maui, and three years pastoring at Haili Church in Hilo, before becoming minister of Kawaiahaʻo Church in Honolulu in 1957.
Kawaiahaʻo Church, located across the street from ʻIolani Palace and the Hawaii State Capitol, gave him the visibility to become"...Hawaii's most influential and widely known Hawaiian since Kamehameha the Great." From that pulpit, Akaka would become a champion for civil rights, a spiritual guide to all levels of government servants, and statesman for the good of humanity.
An eloquent speaker, it is from Akaka's March 13, 1959 address at Hawaii's formal statehood ceremony that we have a clear image of the moment of the statehood announcement:
"Yesterday, when the first sound of firecrackers and sirens reached my ears, I was with the members of our Territorial Senate in the middle of the morning prayer for the day's session. How strange it was, and yet how fitting, that the news should burst forth while we were in prayer together. Things had moved so fast. Our mayor, a few minutes before, had asked if the church could be kept open, because he and others wanted to walk across the street for prayer when the news came. By the time I got back from the Senate, this sanctuary was well filled with people who happened to be around, people from our government buildings nearby. And as we sang the great hymns of Hawaii and our nation, it seemed that the very walls of this church spoke of God's dealing with Hawaii in the past, of great events both spontaneous and planned."
Akaka was the first chairman of the Hawaii Advisory Committee of the U.S. Civil Rights Commission.
Akaka was at the forefront of the civil rights movement, joining the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. on the 1963 march on Washington, D.C. He sent the flower leis seen in photos draped around the necks of King and others in the March 21–25, 1965 Third Selma Civil Rights March when King delivered his How Long, Not Long speech.
In 1972, when Kamehameha Schools faced the legal challenge of its "Hawaiians only" admission policy, and their policy of Protestant-only teachers, Akaka mounted a defense on behalf of the dwindling Native Hawaiian population.
Akaka was a ukulele player, who incorporated the instrument into his messages, and leading attendees in the singing. In a 1970 sermon at Kawaiahaʻo attended by President Richard Nixon, Akaka likened various races of the earth to ukulele strings, demonstrating how beautiful the result when they work together. That analogy would be repeated by Akaka over the years in many sermons.
Entertainer Danny Kaleikini felt that singing in the choir at Kawaiahaʻo helped set him on the road to success and a good life. Kaleikini calls Rev. Akaka "one of the greatest mentors in the history of the world." He described Akaka as an astute personality whose one-on-one guidance helped Kaleikini build an inner foundation that guided him through life.
Seldom a day went by when there wasn't news of Akaka appearing at one public function or another, often delivering invocations or blessing new homes and buildings, bus fleets and animals.
Retirement and final days
He retired from Kawaiahaʻo Church in 1984, and began to channel his energies to The Reverend Abraham Kahu Akaka Ministries Foundation, established to focus on:
- Kōkua – Direct Help to Meet Need
- Kōkua (help) to Churches
- Scholarships and help to Schools and Individuals requesting assistance in their educational goals.
- Peace on Earth – to Organizations for Worldwide Humanitarian Work
Never having fully retired, his last activity before his death was to conduct a service at Hawaiian Memorial Park Cemetery in Kaneohe. Collapsing shortly thereafter, he was in intensive care before dying on September 10, 1997 of a dissecting aortic aneurysm.
- Thonssen, Lester (1960). Representative American Speeches: 1959–1960; Volume 32, Number 4. The H. W. Wilson Company. p. 189. ASIN B001P93EZS.
- "UH-Honorary Degrees". University of Hawai‘i. Archived from the original on May 27, 2010. Retrieved June 3, 2010. University of Hawai‘i
- "Rev. Akaka – A Brief Summary of His Life". Rev Abraham Kahu Akaka Ministries Foundation. Retrieved June 3, 2010. Rev Abraham Kahu Akaka Ministries Foundation
- Staff, Star Bulletin (September 11, 1997). "Rev. Akaka dies at 80". Honolulu Star Bulletin.
- Akaka, Daniel (August 21, 2009). "Rainbow Over Pauoa Valley". Hawaii Reporter.
- Gordon, Mike (August 16, 2009). "From Kawaiaha'o Church pulpit, his message was love". Honolulu Advertiser.
- Cornell, George (April 23, 1988). "Hawaiian Pastor Touts Ukulele". Kentucky New Era.
- Akaka, Rev. Abraham. "Hawaii Statehood Address – Aloha ke Akua – March 13, 1959". Retrieved June 3, 2010.
- Hoover, Will (July 2, 2006). "The Rev. Abraham Akaka". Honolulu Advertiser.
- Booker, Simeon. "Ticker Tape USA". Jet. 80 (June 3, 1991): 10.
- "Kahu: Leis for the March from Selma". Human Flower Project. Retrieved May 25, 2010.
- "Ancestral Schools Challenged in Hawaii". The Milwaukee Journal. August 3, 1972.
- Coleman, Stuart Holmes (2004). Eddie Would Go. St. Martin's Griffin. pp. 33, 237, 238, 248. ISBN 978-0-312-32718-7.
- Canfield, Jack; Hansen, Mark Victor; Linnea, Sharon; Rohr, Robin Stephens (2003). Chicken Soup from the Soul of Hawaii: Stories of Aloha to Create Paradise Wherever You Are. HCI. pp. 162–166. ISBN 978-0-7573-0061-5.
- "The Honolulu 100 – Eddie Aikau to Winona Beamer". Honolulu Magazine. November 2005.
- Mary Kawena Pukui and Samuel Hoyt Elbert (2003). "lookup of Kōkua ". in Hawaiian Dictionary. Ulukau, the Hawaiian Electronic Library, University of Hawaii Press. Retrieved October 9, 2010.