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The Hawaii Alliance for Progressive Action (HAPA) awards its inaugural Kuleana Academy Fellowship to Ernesto “Sonny” Ganaden

Focus will be on criminal-justice reform and education.

Human rights attorney and journalist Ernesto “Sonny” Ganaden was awarded HAPA's inaugural annual Kuleana Academy Fellowship, geared to support grassroots community work.

Ganaden’s fellowship will focus on criminal-justice reform and education. 

The Kuleana Academy fellowship is new, and open to all graduates of the organization’s leadership training program.

Anne Frederick, Executive Director of HAPA, describes how the fellowship is a natural expansion of Kuleana Academy that will enable graduates to pursue grassroots organizing in their field of expertise. “When we have hired former Academy graduates in the past as grassroots organizers, we saw tremendous positive community impacts.” She adds, “We are thrilled to support Sonny’s community work through this inaugural Kuleana Academy Fellowship."

As an attorney, Ganaden represents indigent defendants, local businesses, juveniles, and survivors of domestic violence. As a community organizer, he has worked with youth groups, the faith community, and the contemporary arts community. As a journalist, he has worked internationally, and won numerous accolades from the Hawaii Chapter of the Society of Professional Journalists and The Hawaii Publishers’ Association. Ganaden also teaches ethics, writing skills and the history of local-justice movements at the University of Hawaii at Manoa.

Ganaden elaborated on his focus area: “Mass incarceration in Hawaii has historic roots in social inequalities that have been codified into law. Our criminal justice system is too expensive, too ineffective, and creates outcomes that perpetuate cycles of trauma and inequality for residents of all ages. Our current adult inmate population is at least double what it should be. Our county and state criminal codes have criminalized poverty at the expense of human rights and local values. The current plan to build a corporate prison on Oahu for half a billion dollars must end, in favor of a plan based on public safety and the needs of our diverse island communities in the 21st century.” 

The mission of HAPA, which administers the fellowship award annually, is to  “catalyze community empowerment and systemic change towards valuing ʻāina (that which feeds us) and people ahead of corporate profit.”

The Kuleana Academy Fellowship is a continuation of HAPA’s initiative to nurture and support Hawaii’s community-rooted leaders.

The call for 2020 fellowship applications will be announced in November 2019.