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Gandhi Day 2021

Biographies of our Speakers and Performers


Keynote Speakers:

Tushar A. Gandhi- great grandson of Mahatma Gandhi

Tushar Arun Gandhi is a great-grandson of Mahatma Gandhi, and son of journalist Arun Manilal Gandhi. Author, Peace Activist and Gandhi Story Teller, he is the Founder and President of Mahatma Gandhi Foundation in Jalgaon, Maharashtra, India, President of Lok Seva Trust (an NGO established in Central Bombay in the mid-1950s for the welfare to textile-mill laborers), as well as the Director of the Gandhi Research Foundation in Mumbai, India. 

In March 2005, he led the 75th anniversary re-enactment of the “Dandi March”.  He often calls himself an ordinary Descendant of Great Ancestors.

Audrey E. Kitagawa, JD

Audrey E. Kitagawa, Juris Doctorate, President/Founder, International Academy for Multicultural Cooperation; President, Light of Awareness International Spiritual Family; Recipient of the Spirit of the United Nations (UN) award for demonstrating the vision & spirit of the UN as expressed through the UN Charter & its Universal Declaration of Human Rights.  Chair of  Anti-Racism Initiative, Co-chair of Gender Equality Working Group of the G20 Interfaith Forum. Audrey is listed in the Who’s Who of American Law, Who’s Who of American Women, Who’s Who of Women of the World, Who’s Who of Prominent People of Hawaii.

Audrey is the UN Representative for the United Religions Initiative, an Ambassador of Religions for Peace International, Former UN Adviser to the Office of the Special Representative of the Secretary General for Children and Armed Conflict at the UN. Audrey is Installed into the royal family (Queen Mother of Development) of Ajiyamnti, Ghana, West Africa and they built a school named in her honor. 

Guest Speakers and Performers:

Willow Chang

Willow Chang is committed to the creative process, learning experience & sacred practice. A life-long singer and dancer, her multi-disciplined approach has taken her to teach and perform in Hawai’i, as well as the U.S., Canada, Europe, Asia and the Middle East. Willow is also a poet, producer, choreographer,TV host, photographer, costume designer, activist and a classically trained singer. As a jazz singer for over 25 years, she’s been celebrating the American songbook repertoire. As a dancer, she studied Hula with Kumu Alicia Smith, and has spent the past 27 years focused on Middle Eastern/Northern African dances.Concurrently, she delved into world dance, studying Classical Indian Dances, Butoh, Bollywood, Tango, Flamenco, Balinese and Modern. She’s produced numerous events, including PUJA International Music + Dance Concerts, Global Dance Café showcases, The Art + the Ink: Journey to the Heart Sutra, the Feminine Divine showcase, and the annual events Persian Excursion, Dearly Departed for Dia De Los Muertos, and Songs of the Season.

Baba Doc Gibbs

Master drummer and percussionist Baba Doc Gibbs heard a new rhythm following his highly successful musical career. He had done national and international touring and recording as the lead percussionist in the bands of high profile vocalists including: Al Jarreau, Anita Baker, Dianne Reeves, Rickie Lee Jones,and Erykah Badu. He had served as a key musician in the rhythm sections of bands including those of Grover Washington Jr., Bob James, Wyclef Jean and many others. New directions called to Baba Doc, and he has combined his multitude of experiences into a program of healing groups and individuals through sound. This easy and natural transition for him has benefited everyone along his path.

Prof Marc Jason Gilbert, Ph.D.

Marc Jason Gilbert received a Ph.D. in history from UCLA in 1978 and for many years thereafter was Professor of History and Co-Director of programs in South and Southeast Asia in the University System of Georgia.  Since 2006, he has been the holder of the National Endowment for the Humanities-supported Endowed Chair in World History at Hawai’i Pacific University.  Since 2008, he has been the editor of the e-journal World History Connected, which now reaches 1.8 million readers of two articles and 6 million visitors to the journal’s website.  From the outset of his career, he has sought to bring a global dimension to South and Southeast Asian history in numerous articles, chapters in books and monographs. Books include South Asia in World History (2017); World Civilizations: The Global Experience, with Peter N. Stearns, Michael Adas and Stuart Schwartz, now in its 7th edition (2015); Cross-Cultural Encounters in Modern World History, with Jon Davidann (2013); and The Tet Offensive, with William Head (1996). He has also edited and contributed to How the North Won the Vietnam War (Palgrave, 2002), The Vietnam War on Campus: Other Voices More Distant Drums (2000), and The Vietnam War: Teaching Approaches and Resources (1991). He is a past President of the World History Association and of the Southeast Conference of the Association of Asian Studies, and  organizer international academic conferences in Cambodia, China, Vietnam and in the United States.

Mālia Ko’i’ulaokawaolehua Helelā

Kumu Mālia is beloved by students around the globe for her kind heart and loving style of teaching, not to mention her deep knowledge, beautiful voice and exquisite dancing. She is a traditionally graduated kumu hula and lomilomi practitioner/trainer, as well as a cultural consultant for Still & Moving Center.

Malia Helela completed her hula ʻuniki (graduation) under Kumu Hula Puluʻelo Park in 2002, and studied oli (traditional Hawaiian chant) under Kumu Hula Keola Lake. Malia has been teaching both practices ever since to a wide range of students, from infants to kupuna, and leading her halau (school), Nā Hula Ola Aloha. Kumu Malia has personally taught thousands of hula students in Hawaii. Additionally, the many Japanese hula teachers whom she has trained over the years teach hundreds of their own students in Japan using the style, method and philosophy of Kumu Malia’s hula lineage.

Kumu Malia considers her hula practice and lomilomi practice to be two parts of the same whole. From her 20 years of lomi experience, she developed a 128 hour massage training program of her own called Puana Lomilomi, based on the intertwined practices of lomilomi, hula, pule, oli and lei-making.

As a member of Ka Pā o Lonopūhā, Malia participates in the sharing of native Hawaiian healing arts that focus specifically on lomi aʻe and elements of haki kino, laʻau lapaʻau and hoʻoponopono. Malia regularly teaches lomilomi for the Salvation Armyʻs Womenʻs Way program representing their cultural healing classes for women in recovery.

As an ambassador and guest lecturer of Hawaiian culture, Malia has delivered presentations for Leeward Community College, the Hawaii Yoga Institute, Outrigger Reef on the Beach, Mid Pacific Institute, Hawaiʻi Pacific University, Manoa Cottage, Honolulu Theater for Youth, numerous groups of International middle and high school students and Still & Moving Center. Kumu Mālia Helelā is currently researching and writing a trilogy of historic novels centered on the Kawehewehe and Kalia area. As a kumu hula and lomilomi practitioner, she looks to the ‘āina, the land, for grounding and inspiration.

Veena R. Howard, Ph.D

Veena R. Howard, Ph.D. is Associate Professor of Asian Religious Traditions in the Department of Philosophy at California State University, Fresno. She is also the coordinator of Peace and Conflict Studies Program. She teaches and researches Asian religious traditions, Gandhi’s philosophy, animal ethics, and gender issues in Indian philosophy. She has received many awards and accolades including a Provost’s faculty award and faculty membership to Phi Kappa Phi Honor Society.

She is the author of journal articles and book chapters. Her publications include the books, The Bloomsbury Research Handbook of Indian Philosophy and Gender (ed.), (Bloomsbury Publishing, forthcoming 2019); Dharma, Hindu, Jain, Buddhist, and Sikh Traditions of India (ed.) (IB Tauris, 2017); and Gandhi’s Ascetic Activism: Renunciation and Social Action (SUNY Press, 2013), as well as “Oxford Bibliography Article: Mohandas K. Gandhi” (Oxford University Press, 2019). She currently serves on the President’s Commission for Human Relations and Equity at CSU, Fresno, and she has also served on the Board of Trustees of the Parliament of the World’s Religions. She is currently involved in the SDG Academy helping develop Ethics in Action-Massive Open Online Course on Hindu environmental ethics and gender.

Raj Kumar, Ph. D.

Dr. Raj Kumar is the Founder & President Emeritus of Gandhi International Institute for Peace (GIIP) in Hawaii. Dr. Kumar is also a liaison for sister-state relationship between Hawaii and the State of Goa, Republic of India. He is also the President of the Indian-American Friendship Council (Hawaii Chapter). He also serves on the Advisory Board of the Interfaith Alliance Hawaii. 

He laid the foundation of GIIP on September 11, 2001, the day when the Twin Towers were attacked by terrorists in New York City. Since then, GIIP’s mission has been to raise awareness about peace and non-violence. GIIP and Dr. Kumar have achieved this in various ways. 

In October 2007, Dr. Kumar organized a ‘World Peace March’ from the Magic Island to Kapiolani Park in Honolulu, Hawaii. Over 20 organizations, peace activists, teachers and students participated in this event. 

 In 2015, GIIP initiated a Bill in the Hawaii Legislature to establish October 2 as “Mahatma Gandhi Day”, which was signed into Act 5 by The Honorable Governor David Y. Ige, making Hawaii the first State in US to declare October 2 as “Mahatma Gandhi Day”. 

GIIP also initiated the resolution in the Hawaii Legislature adopted to establish a sister- state relationship between Hawai’i and the State of Goa, Republic of India. This relationship would promote trade, tourism, education and cultural exchange programs between two states. Governor Ige and Gurudas Pilarnekar, Goa’s Director of Art and Culture, signed this historic agreement at Washington Place on September 28, 2018.

Further, GIIP initiated House Bill, HB 349, into the Hawaii Legislature to declare “June 21 each year as International Yoga Day in Hawaii”, which was signed into Act 102 in June 2019 by Honorable Governor Ige. 

Since 2007, GIIP has been organizing annual international Day of Non-Violence in Hawaii to promote peace & non-violence in the community and encourages Hawaii residents to practice Aloha.

On a personal front, Dr. Kumar has authored numerous books. He plans to release his latest work on Mahatma Gandhi titled “Anger and Nonviolence” in 2021. He has contributed several articles on faith, peace, nonviolence and health in Hawaii’s leading newspapers between 2005-2018. 

Ramdas Lamb, Ph. D.

Ramdas Lamb is a professor of Religion at the University of Hawai’i at Manoa, where he has been teaching for more than 3 decades. Prior to entering higher education, he was an Hindu sadhu (ascetic monk) for nearly 10 years in India. While there, the study and practice of the ashtanga yoga system was an integral part of his life and it remains a focus of much of his continuing research and teaching at UH.

Miku Lenentine

Miku is deeply passionate about living in harmony with the self, others and all beings. She truly believes that each one of us contains the seeds of wisdom for the universe and the true purpose of being a teacher is to help guide each person to access the wisdom they already hold within themselves.

An experienced meditation practitioner and circle facilitator, Miku was raised in a mindfulness tradition and has trained with Dr. Eric Carroll at the Center for Vibrant Living for the past 10 years. She has guided weekly meditation, movement, and community dialogue circles since 2013 and facilitated a number of workshops in the greater Seattle area over the years most recently including Soulshine, Songaia, and Star Community. She has also presented mindfulness, yoga, and movement offerings at festivals and gatherings such as Beloved, Flowstate and the Northwest Permaculture Convergence. Miku is delighted to have moved to Honolulu, Hawaii, which she finds strangely similar to her birthplace, Alaska.

State Representative Hon. Matthew S. LoPresti, Ph.D.

State Representative Matthew S. LoPresti, Ph.D. (University of Hawai’i at Manoa) is beginning his first session in the Hawai’i State House, currently serving as Vice-Chair of the House Transportation Committee, and member of Education, Higher Education, Labor & Public Employment committees and the O’ahu Metropolitan Planning Organization. Rep. LoPresti is Chair of the Asian Studies Program at Hawai’i Pacific University and has been teaching philosophy since 1999. While at HPU (since 2004) he has expanded his teaching to include courses in religious studies and the inter-disciplinary humanities.

Rep. LoPresti had the pleasure to serve various philosophy programs around the world while a graduate student. Between 1999 and 2005 he had been invited to teach philosophy in India, Hawai’i, Ohio, and West Virginia – where he was awarded a Pre-Doctoral Fellowship to bring Buddhist Philosophy to one of the country’s largest land-grant universities. In 2003 he was invited to serve as Lecturer of Buddhist Philosophy and Field Research Advisor for the Antioch Buddhist Studies Program in Bodh Gaya, India for American university students studying abroad.

For the past 15 years Rep. LoPresti has served as a volunteer locally in numerous community organizations, including the Limu Project, painting over graffiti throughout ‘Ewa Beach as a volunteer with HPD’s Weed & Seed officers and kids from the Boys and Girls Club, serving as a judge for Hawai’i student Speech and Debate tournaments, and serving on the ‘Ewa Neighborhood Board. He was elected twice to the Executive Committee of the Sierra Club, O’ahu Group twice and served as its Vice Chair. Rep. LoPresti has taken on entrepreneurial projects starting two businesses and co-founding an innovative renewable energy company to help our island community achieve energy independence through renewable resources and encouraging cradle-to-grave recycling efforts to reduce our waste stream. His focus as a legislator is to bring greater confidence and trust back to government, constantly improve the quality of public education and ensure that Leeward O’ahu has the transportation and government infrastructure it deserves.

Zeny Ogrisseg

Zeny Ogrisseg E-RYT 500, YACEP, AWC (Ayurvedic Wellness Counselor) 

Zeny is a Yoga Educator, Musician, Sound Healer and Sri Vidya Practitioner. With a mixed heritage that includes Punjabi Indian, Filipino and Spanish, Zeny was raised in a culturally and spiritually diverse home. Her first yoga experience was listening to her mom chanting “Om” when she was a child.

Zeny’s yoga teaching emphasizes alignment, core stability, balance and deep stretching for the hips and shoulders. Her favorite poses are backbends, because they help open the heart. Zeny’s classes are noted for their depth in alignment, practical philosophy and rich spirituality.  

She has traveled extensively all over India, studying Yoga, Tantra, Mantra and Ayurveda.  She is certified at the highest level recognized by Yoga Alliance as a Yoga Teacher Trainer, conducting 200 and 500 Hour Yoga Trainings through her school Hawaii School of Yoga.  Her teachers include Guru Karunamaya, former head priest at Devipuram temple, a lineage holder of Sri Vidya, one of the most ancient Indian spiritual traditions whose main icon is the Sri Yantra;  Swami Khecharanatha, a lineage holder of Kundalini Sadhana (derived from Kashmir Shaivism) and founder of Rudramandir in Berkeley, CA; and Russil Paul (Anirud Jaidev), recording artist, music producer and author of the book “The Yoga of Sound.”

Inspired by one of India’s greatest Yogi’s, Sri Aurobindo, who was the  first to say “All Life is Yoga”, Zeny promotes the yogic way of life, not just the practice on the mat. Her own daily practice involves meditating and chanting daily, studying the source texts of yoga, practicing Sri Vidya, and teaching yoga classes.

With a passion for sacred music, Zeny plays the piano, harp, harmonium and Tibetan singing bowls.  Her main instrument is her voice. She has a gift for Sanskrit chanting and conducts kirtan and chanting sessions all over Oahu.

Dr. Kahu Kaleo Patterson, Ph.D.

Dr. Patterson is the longtime President of the Pacific Justice and Reconciliation Center, & Nonviolence Educator and Trainer. He is a well known Hawaiian Priest in the Episcopal Church, founded by Kamehameha IV and Queen Emma in 1662; and Professor of Peace Studies and Social Work. He has been active in International Human Rights and has served ad a Church World Service delegate to many United Nations General Assemblies, Forums, and Meetings related to Racism, Indigenous Peoples, and Hawaiian Sovereignty. He was the Co-Covener of the Racial Justice Working Group of the National Council of Churches USA, and Executive Board Member of the the Native American Legal Rights Fund. He has also convened many forum and conventions on Hawaiian Governance and Sovereignty. In 1993 Dr. Patterson was the recipient of the Church of the Crossroads Martin Luther Jr.; the State of Hawaii Martin Luther King Jr. Award, and many other awards and recognitions for is work in reconciliation, Hawaiian Environmental and Social Justice, Peace and Nonviolence. Today Dr, Patterson is active in Prison and Criminal Justice Reform, as the Prison Chaplain of the Episcopal Churches of Hawaii. 

Roger Sinha

Roger Sinha is a choreographer, dancer, artistic director and founder of the company Sinha Danse, as well as one of the pioneers in the field of contemporary dance inspired by non-western cultural practices in Canada. Over the course of his 30-year career, he created numerous distinctive and original creations and has received recognition and numerous awards. In various ways, his personal history set the scene for his artistic work and defined his signature choreographic style which he is known for throughout Canada and beyond. 

Roger Sinha was born in London, UK, to an Armenian mother and an Indian father. When he was 8 years old, his family moved to Saskatoon in Canada where he grew up and received his early education. Late in his twenties, he discovered a passion for dancing and obtained a degree from the prestigious School of Toronto Dance Theatre. The young dancer decided to settle in Montreal where he quickly became involved in numerous collaborations within the blossoming local artistic community. Those were the years of the so-called nouvelle danse movement in Quebec and Roger Sinha had the chance to collaborate as a dancer with some of the big names of that time: Jean-Pierre Perreault, Hélène Blackburn, Sylvain Émard, Pierre-Paul Savoie, Daniel Soulières. Eventually, he became interested in developing his own work, which led him to establish his company Sinha Danse in 1991. His personal struggles related to questions of mixed cultural identities and the experiences of racism became central themes in his choreographic work. 

Roger Sinha’s signature contemporary style was described as very athletic and dynamic, characterized by the precision and the explosive energy the martial arts and freely inspired by the sophisticated gestural aesthetic of Bharata Natyam. Throughout his long career, the choreographer remained determined to choose the road less traveled and experiment with different interdisciplinary approaches to dance by integrating into his choreographic work new technologies and interactive media (Zeros and Ones, 2008), poetry (Apricot Trees Exist, 2004), live music (Sunya, 2013), literature and theater (Burning Skin, 1995). In 2016, he decided to invite non-professional participants to join forces with professional dancers in his contemporary Bollywood ‘community choreo’ piece called Montre(olly)Wood! or MoW! and co-choreographed by Deepali Lindblom. Out of Bark and Bone is his most recent project, furthering the exploration of the use of live music and advanced sound technologies in contemporary dance. 

Renée Tillotson

Renée Tillotson, Director, founded Still & Moving Center to share mindful movement arts from around the globe. Her inspiration comes from the Joy and moving meditation she experiences in the practice of Nia, and from the lifelong learning she’s gained at the Institute of World Culture in Santa Barbara, California. Still & Moving Center aspires to serve the community, support the Earth and its creatures, and always be filled with laughter and friendship!

Enthusiasm fills every class and event Renée leads. The motto: ‘Move your body. Still your mind. Find center. Find Joy!” motivates her daily life.

A second degree Nia Black Belt, Renée says, “Through Nia I realized that I was born to dance…and perhaps everyone is! Nia connects me to pure Joy. I aspire to extend that Joy into the rest of my life and share it with every student who steps into my circle. Nia embraces both the yin and yang energies, helping all of us to balance our natures. Nia serves as a moving meditation for me, as well as a chance to play like a child again! I like to think of my classes as invigorating the body and elevating the spirit.”

Engaged in an earnest, life-long spiritual quest, Renée assembles the Still & Moving Center Almanac each year, filled with inspirational quotes by everyone from the Dalai Lama to Dolly Parton. She loves taking part in conversations that merge philosophical, spiritual and scientific thought with a lifestyle of compassion.

Renée has been moving and sharing Nia since 2002. She took all of her Nia intensive trainings at Nia International Headquarters from the co-creators of Nia: Debbie Rosas and Carlos Rosas. She considers herself a citizen of the world, and brings mindful movement practices from around the globe under one roof at Still & Moving Center.

Artistic Director of this event-Neelanthi Vadivel

Former Cirque du Soleil Performer and Artistic Director, Neelanthi Vadivel, heads operations at Still & Moving and leads the new division Hoa Hele Retreats.

After leading 3 world-renowned Cirque du Soleil productions to over 40 countries, Neelanthi hopes to share her experience “wrangling clowns”: Inspiring others to achieve personal and professional growth, through ongoing periods of instability and challenging environments, while balancing professional mandates with personal wellbeing.

Her interests lie in the discovery and understanding of all forms of movement and self-development, and how the body and mind can connect through a shared experience.

Her role at Hoa Hele Retreats is to draw on 20 plus years in the performing arts industry, to develop unique experiences that nurture personal growth through the mind and body arts.

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