I am very thankful today to learn that Qpid.me CEO Ramin Bastani has made public his decision to change the name of the “hula” STD alert app. In the last couple of weeks he has made it a point to contact various people who have been actively opposing his branding choice, and sincerely listened to all that we had to say. Much of it was not pleasant or easy for him to hear, and he showed character in considering very many different points of views. I laud his decision, and that of his company.
I have been very harsh toward Ramin Bastani, his company, and his advisors, in many of the blogs I’ve posted in the last five weeks. This was deliberate, and whether or not it was necessary, is probably up for debate. I felt this was a matter that required pressure to achieve change, and I was definitely NOT in an “aloha” frame of mind. I probably have given offense to some, and for that I apologize. But not for my efforts to bring up important considerations of ethics, multicultural competency, indigenous rights, cultural genocide, and other “macro” aspects of this issue.
Again, I want to express appreciation for this decision to announce the company’s intention to change the app name and I am thankful that a useful product will soon function as it should, without the taint of offensiveness and cultural appropriation. I also hope that future entrepeneurs learn from this marketing “case study” and avoid making similar mistakes with regard to indigenous practices, traditions, language, and art forms.
Here is a copy of the first AP news article that I’ve seen:
Hawaiians spur STD app to change ‘Hula’ name
Web Staff and Jennifer Sinco Kelleher, The Associated Press
Updated: Tuesday, May 6, 2014, 1:33 pm
Published: Tuesday, May 6, 2014, 12:54 pm
HONOLULU (AP) – The founder of an app called “Hula” that provides information about sexually transmitted diseases says he plans to change its name after complaints that it’s culturally insensitive to Hawaiians.
Ramin Bastani told The Associated Press on Tuesday that after weeks of learning to understand the concerns of the Native Hawaiian community, he’s moving forward with changing the app’s name.
An online petition asking him to change the name argues that the name exploits a sacred cultural art form. Bastani previously resisted changing the name even after the petition gained attention in March. But he said he immediately removed any references to “getting lei’d” in marketing the app.
He says he’ll continue to educate others not to associate “getting lei’d” with his health tool.
Bastani says a new name hasn’t been determined.
The following is a statement from Hula app founder Ramin Bastani:
We recently learned that Native Hawaiians had concerns with our name, Hula. We immediately engaged the community and listened with an open mind. By doing so, we gained a great respect for hula, the Hawaiian culture and its history. For those that were offended by the name, we sincerely apologize – that was never our intent.
We promise to change the name in the very near future.
We give thanks to everyone who contacted us and are especially grateful for the thoughtful leadership of Dr. Diane Paloma, the Director of the Native Hawaiian Health Program at The Queen’s Health Systems and Dr. Kamana’opono Crabbe, the CEO at the Office of Hawaiian Affairs.
And here is the news that was released yesterday, May 5th.
Copy of the letter sent by Hawai’i State Senators to Ramin Bastani, as referenced in the article below.
The following is from an article posted on the Hawai’i Senate Majority Website:
Senate Hawaiian Affairs Caucus and OHA Take Issue with “Hula” App.
Hawai’i Leaders Urge CEO to Cease Use of the Native Hawaiian Word Hula
In defense of the cultural practice and intellectual property of Native Hawaiians, two leading state organizations on Hawaiian affairs are asking the creator of an app that helps people get tested for STDs to stop using and branding the word “Hula.”
The app, which at one point used marketing phrases as “it helps you get lei’d,” connects users to various STD testing facilities and promotes itself as the new platform to have discussions about STD.
The letter, signed by members of the Hawaii State Senate Hawaiian Affairs Caucus and the Office of Hawaiian Affairs (OHA), is addressed to the chief executive office of Qpid.me, Inc., Ramin Bastani, and identifies two key issues that are of concern:
Hula is a sacred Native Hawaiian cultural expression and important cultural property;
Naming a commercial product after a Native Hawaiian sacred cultural expression without meaningful consultation is inconsistent with state, international, and the Native Hawaiian people’s policies.
Although recognizing and appreciating the efforts of the company to support STD awareness and prevention, the letter also notes that the use of word “Hula” is hewa (or wrong) because it “represents a highly insensitive, tactless and inappropriate misappropriation of a culturally sacred and cherished practice.”
“It’s unfortunate some think that it’s okay to throw culturally-meaningful expressions around without thinking about the group of people it may affect. Hula is a sacred dance that Native Hawaiians cherish,” said Senator Malama Solomon. “As Hawaiians it is our kuleana (or responsibility) to protect our cultural traditions. We don’t want to see continued disrespectful and inappropriate commodification of our culture.”
According to the letter, hula remains an important medium for the perpetuation and preservation of Native Hawaiian history and culture, and continues to be vital for the mental, physical and spiritual health of individuals as well as the Native Hawaiian Community.
The Hawaii State Constitution recognizes and protects Native Hawaiian traditional and customary rights, including cultural expressions and practices such as hula. The state legislature has also affirmed “that the Native Hawaiian people are recognized as indigenous, traditional knowledge holders and they have collective intellectual property rights. Additionally, the United States supports the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (“UNDRIP”), which confers upon indigenous peoples the right to maintain and control traditional knowledge, cultural traditions and intellectual property relating to their cultural heritage, traditional knowledge and traditional cultural expression and manifestations.
Senators who signed the letter include: Senators Malama Solomon, Committee on Water and Land; Brickwood Galuteria, Senate Majority Leader; Clayton Hee, Judiciary Committee; J. Kalani English, Transportation and International Affairs Chair; Maile Shimabukuro, Hawaiian Affairs Committee Chair; Gilbert Kahele, Tourism Committee Chair and Michelle Kidani; Ways and Means Committee Vice Chair.
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