eLuma is committed to impacting lives with the help of each and every individual we work with. We want to make sure that you have the chance to get to know these amazing people through our Leaders in Education series. In this profile, we feature Keilani Clark who is an Academic Advisor at National Education Partners.
Keilani Clark is a leader in education because she expands the definition of an expert to include indigenous people of rich cultural backgrounds who aren’t always published, given societal merit or titles such as “Doctor”, and so forth. When I interviewed Keilani about traditional and academic cultural experts, I liked the term she used, “bridging the gap,” because it reminds me to understand each other; we need to know each other and work together.
At her day job, Keilani works in academic and financial advising for Doctoral programs. She hasn’t seen many Polynesians represented at this level in academia, and when they do apply to such prestigious programs, she wants to be a familiar face in leadership, so that she can say: I see you, I hear you, I understand you. In her free time, she teaches a Polynesian fitness class and writes children’s books preserving the oral traditions and heritage of the people in Hawai’i. Her vision is to bring a village of experts in oral history and storytelling to paper, film, and industries where they’ve long been underrepresented.
“It’s funny because I can’t always cite her in a publication but my grandma knows the most about Hawaiian history and culture because she lived it,” -Keilani Clark
In the 4th grade, Keilani won an essay contest and met the author of a book about Hula, a native Hawaiian performing art. She was confused when the author was Caucasian, not necessarily disappointed but confused. Later, when she questioned why a Hawaiian did not write books about Hula, someone told her it was because Europeans write better than Polynesians. As a child, the comment felt disturbing and personal, but as she grew older, she realized it just wasn’t the indigenous choice of recording. But, moving forward she hopes this will change, as she’s seen a resurgence of cultural Polynesian knowledge being shared.
She’s helping in this resurgence of Polynesian knowledge by writing children’s books. She began writing her current children’s book after she did a quick Google search on top children’s books in Hawai’i and found that none of the characters resonated with her. Her current book, which will hopefully become a series, follows a young Hawaiian girl who is participating in her first May Day performance, a popular contemporary tradition in Hawai’i. Keilani’s book is now scheduled to be published by the end of the year.
Keilani is a leader in education for making more room at the table for all types of experts to sit together and share what they know.
About the Author
Joy Marie Curtis, eLuma CX Operations Coordinator, Master in Education with an emphasis in Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages, B.S. Early Childhood Education with a minor in International Relationships, experience teaching kindergarten on the Navajo Nation reservation and in rural Utah at a title I school.