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Pono Pledge Video Wins Silver Telly Award

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From left, Tracey Niimi, Mayor Mitch Roth, Bruce Torres Fischer and Lito Arkangel pose for a photo following Monday’s presentation of their Telly Award at the mayor’s office in Hilo. (Photos by Nathan Christophel)

Mayor Mitch Roth and other officials honored three East Hawai‘i residents Monday, Aug. 22, who created and produced a video to share and promote in ‘ōlelo Hawai‘i and English a pledge that asks visitors to be mindful, safe and pono while on Hawai‘i Island.

The “Island of Hawai‘i Pono Pledge,” directed and produced by Hilo’s own Lito Arkangel who was assisted with the video’s creative direction and videography by Hilo-born Tracey Niimi of TN Photography, was awarded a 2022 Silver Telly Award in the Online General, Public Interest/Awareness category earlier this year.

Director and producer of the “Island of Hawai‘i Pono Pledge” video Lito Arkangel, right, speaks during Monday’s presentation.

Roth on Monday honored Arkangel and Niimi along with Bruce Torres Fischer, a master’s student in the Hawaiian language and literature program at the Ka Haka ‘Ula O Ke‘elikōlani College of Hawaiian Language at the University of Hawai‘i at Hilo who translated the pledge and its website into Hawaiian, and presented them with their Telly statues.

The Telly Awards, established in 1979, honor video and television across all screens. Niimi said Monday that the Telly Awards are given to television segments, everything outside movies and TV shows. That includes documentaries and commercials. Other silver winners this year were from companies such as Al Jazeera, Comcast, NBC News and CBS News.

Arkangel on Monday likened the award to the equivalent of a Grammy, only for commercials. Niimi said he would have never expected a video he literally produced from his home in Hilo would have a chance going up against some of the other names awarded.

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“It’s pretty amazing and such an honor,” he said about getting the award, adding what’s more important, however, is being able to get the message of the Pono Pledge out there that much more.

To have the video be honored and stand alongside some of the other big companies and big organizations that won is exciting, Niimi said.

The Pono Pledge was created in 2018 in partnership between the county and Island of Hawai’i Visitors Bureau. It asks visitors to pledge not only to travel the island with respect and safety, but go a step farther and give back to protect its natural resources and wildlife. Island of Hawai’i Visitors Bureau Executive Director Ross Birch said in a press release that the Big Island is a special place and its community comes first.

“The Pono Pledge is a direct ask to our Hawai‘i Island visitors on the behaviors and actions we expect them to take while they’re enjoying the island’s splendor,” he said in the release.

The Pono Pledge is also identified in the Hawai‘i Tourism Authority’s Hawai‘i Island Destination Management Action Plan and the county’s Tourism Strategic Plan as a vessel to communicate with and educate visitors on pono practices.

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The video was a collaborative effort to accurately depict the people and place the pledge aims to protect. The Telly Award is the culmination of those efforts.

“We’ve worked with some great partners that have taken the original message we created and have taken it to a whole new level,” Birch said Monday. “That’s what this video has done.”

Frecia Cevallos, tourism and culture specialist with the county Research and Development Department, said the entire effort has been community driven and supported.

“That’s the whole point of getting the Pono Pledge messaging out there,” Cevallos said Monday. “We really want to lift up the community voices and bridge the relationship between community and visitors.”

Mayor Mitch Roth speaks Monday before presenting the Telly statues to Niimi, Torres Fischer and Arkangel.

Arkangel said the pledge and the video really come down to authenticity. During Monday’s presentation, he said he thinks wherever people go in the world, they want to see everything in its authenticity — they want to live, at least for a little while, like the people in the place they are visiting, to feel the culture and absorb it.

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That, he said, is the foundation of what the pledge is trying to accomplish. Roth echoed those comments.

“We’re really excited about the Pono Pledge and about the commercial,” the mayor said Monday. “Really, for us, what we’re looking at is as we’ve started reimagining tourism, and regenerative tourism especially, we’re looking at making sure we have the right kind of tourists. So the pledge is really going out there, trying to get those right kinds of people. People that look at our culture, that come here to know about us as a people … “

Arkangel said in the press release it doesn’t matter if someone is visiting the island or resides here — everyone needs to be pono.

“Whether you are a visitor or resident, you must understand that not being pono is detrimental to the welfare and safety of not only yourself and your ‘ohana, but to the ‘āina and all of the ‘ohana here at home as well,” he said. “Please help by sharing the Pono Pledge with friends and family near and far. Together, we can make a difference and protect the island of Hawai‘i and all that makes it special.”

Arkangel and Niimi felt it was important to involve the community in the video project and have representation from residents of diverse backgrounds, upbringings and ethnicities. Torres Fischer said a big part of it for him was normalizing the use of ‘ōlelo Hawai‘i again in the community. As far as he knows, this is one of the first videos out there with at least half in Hawaiian. He said it was an honor for him to serve as translator.

Niimi added that the most exciting part of the project for them was to increase awareness of the pledge. He appreciates the help of all those involved in the project and said it is definitely one of the most rewarding projects for him.

“Mahalo nui to all of you who contributed to an awesome expression of who we are as residents and what it means to be pono on Hawai‘i Island,” Arkangel said in the release. “We believe in the Pono Pledge and its teachings full heartedly and we’re honored to be able to work on this project and accept this award on behalf of the Island of Hawai‘i Visitors Bureau and the County of Hawai‘i.”

Roth congratulated the three men Monday for the awards and their work. He’s proud of the product, which is now being seen around the world.

“If all of our visitors can get on board and take the pledge, both our residents and visitors alike with benefit greatly,” the mayor said in the press release.

For more information, to take the pledge and to view the award-winning video, visit the Pono Pledge website and follow Pono Pledge on Facebook @PonoPledgeHawaii and Instagram @PonoPledge.

From left, Frecia Cevallos, tourism and culture specialist with the county Research and Development Department; Ross Birch, executive director of the Island of Hawai‘i Visitors Bureau; Niimi; Roth; Torres Fischer; and Arkangel pose for a photo following Monday’s presentation.
Nathan Christophel
Nathan Christophel has more than 20 years of experience in journalism, starting out as a reporter and working his way up to become a copy editor and page designer, most recently at the Hawaii Tribune-Herald in Hilo.
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