Carl Young became very active with the Hawaiiian indigenous Return movement. He married another activist in the movement who was also a jewelry artist and became a father to her children. His early death was a blow to the political group as well as his new family.
By Doug Wade and Dave Beckwith
As much as anyone in the Class of ’64, Carl Imiola Se-Keung Young devoted his life to civil rights and justice for the exploited and those seeking self-determination. When he died in 2008 on Oahu, Hawaii, he left a host of friends, colleagues, fellow activists, family members and students who loved him and deeply appreciated his devotion to those who needed help. Carl attended the 1963 March on Washington DC, and following his Carleton graduation, headed to Ohio for training as a SNCC voter registration volunteer in Mississippi. It was a dangerous time: Carl took the precaution of asking his family church in Honolulu for bail money in case he needed it. Just before he headed south, three young men were murdered in Philadelphia, MS. Their supervisor said anyone who wanted to could drop out, but no one did. Carl finished his voter registration work and did a stint with the Peace Corps in Uttar Pradesh in northern India, assisting chicken farmers. Returning to Hawaii, and facing military duty, he became a medic specialist in Vietnam, treating U.S casualties, some badly wounded. “The time Carl spent in the South, and later in Vietnam, radicalized him,” recalled his sister, Jade, who delivered a loving eulogy at a 2008 memorial service. “When he returned from Vietnam, he got involved in Native Self-Determination movements in Guam, Palau, and later in the Waianae coast on Oahu.” Carl had great compassion, plus a facility for languages. He learned Hindi in India, and Chamorro while assisting native peoples in Micronesia, plus Spanish, French, Hawaiian and some Vietnamese. Back in Hawaii, he became active in the Hawaiian Sovereignty Movement, working to reverse injustices of colonialism, revive the native language, plus culture and food sovereignty issues. Carl stood out as a comparatively rare ethnic Chinese in the movement, but one who rarely called attention to himself. With the aid of family, he traveled to countries such as Iran and Cuba, and participated in the UN Conference on Rights for Indigenous Peoples in Geneva. “Later in life, Carl received his Hawaiian name, “Imiola,” Jade recalled. “’Imiola’ means to seek life, to seek truth, to explore and be one with profound knowledge. This is how Carl lived most of his adult life. My brother was not a flashy guy. He didn’t drive a Porsche. He didn’t own a tie. It was a big deal when he’d wear long pants to a Pang Family Christmas party. He was a simple man, who usually wore his Birkenstocks and Bermuda shorts to social events, but who through his everyday actions made a lasting impact on the lives of many.” He periodically worked, part-time and full time, as a high school teacher. For a long period, he lived in Waianae, a low-income area, moving back to his family home only in the last year of his life. In the early spring of 2008, Carl began complaining of stomach pain, and was soon diagnosed with pancreatic cancer. He reconciled with his wife, from whom he had been estranged, and decided against surgery, choosing instead to live a quality life with as much laughter and joy as possible before he entered hospice care. Carl’s final weeks, Jade said, “were full of friends visiting, singing Hawaiian songs, slack key guitar music being played, endless pots of rice and stew cooked for friends.” Jade described a final private conversation. “We discussed the Great Canoe that was getting ready to take him to the other shores. I said I would pray that he’d have a smooth and safe journey across the ocean waves. During the last few days, I believe he arrived at an inner peace where a kind of pristine wisdom began to shine through. The Wednesday before he passed, I sat holding his hand and he looked at me, eyes clear and blazing, sharing his insights….interestingly, it was not Karl Marx or Mao’s Red Book….but very simple words…”LIVE HAPPY…LOVE HAPPY.”