US Navy Base School, 1960
I have a Black father from North Carolina and Japanese mother from Tokyo. My parents mixed-race marriage was illegal in most states in the United States. Inter-racial marriage finally became legal with a U.S. Supreme Court ruling in 1967, when I was 11 years old.
When I was in 4th grade my father had to go to war in Vietnam. We were living in Vallejo, California. My Dad wanted to move his family to a nearby housing area so we could still walk to our elementary school. This complex refused to rent to my Dad because he was a negro. This housing area had about a hundred white families, two Asians, but no colored families. This was 30 miles from liberal San Francisco. California in 1966 had housing discrimination.
I learned at a young age, your race defines you in America. Living on the continent is stressful if you are not white. It is much easier to be a kid in Hawaii. Many of my Hawaii friends are mixed-race and being hapa was normal.
I'm grateful my parents decided it would be best to raise their children in Hawaii. The respect for different cultures could not be found anyplace else in the world. Our inter-racial family was happier living in Hawaii.
I attended Waipahu Elementary, Aliamanu Intermediate and graduated from Radford High School in 1974.
When I was at Waipahu Elementary, I remember the ashes floating in the air in our playground when sugar cane was burned. Our school was near the Waipahu Mill. My first mumu was bought at Arakawa plantation store. In the 1960s, Waipahu was mostly Japanese families who then moved to new development in Pearl City and Mililani. Waipahu then welcomed Filipinos in the 1980s.
I attended Aliamanu Intermediate at the peak of the Vietnam war. Our school had to make room for military kids by expanding with portable classrooms. About half of the kids at Aliamanu and Radford were local and half were military. The locals were Japanese, Filipino, Chinese, Hawaiian, Samoan. The military kids were mostly white, with a small number of black students. Our school campus was a wonderful mixture of diversity.
I was elected the first female Band President. Before me, only boys were elected president. Our uniforms were old. Our band never traveled off-island. I wanted this to change. I was 16 the summer before my senior year. I designed new band uniforms and came up with plans for our first neighbor islands band trip. When school started, the kids loved the new goals I presented and I was nominated to be Band President. I ran against more popular kids for president, but because of all the work I had put into planning the upcoming band year, I won the election. The lesson I learned at 16 was if you do good work, you can beat more popular kids. My belief in meritocracy would carry me forward for the rest of my life.
Our band performed in Maui and the Big Island. Some kids had never traveled before.
My big idea worked. We had pride.
My teen years were typical local girl. We went camping at Hanauma Bay with our Girl Scout troop. I became a certified scuba diver. Went with friends to the Crater Celebration on New Years Day. I had a retail job at the newly opened Pearlridge mall. And our senior prom was at the Sheraton Waikiki.
Radford's Class of 1974 had its 25th Reunion in July 1999 at the Hale Koa hotel in Waikiki.
My classmates, we were 42-43 years old at this reunion.
People were impressed I was strong enough to finish a Triathlon.
Triathlons prove you have mental endurance. I competed 24 Triathlons and 6 marathons from 1984 - 2002, age 27-45.
Imiloa is Hawaiian meaning distant traveler and seeker of knowledge.
New York Times Sunday Magazine "near miraculous success of some older mothers can give hope " March 19, 2006.
Senator James Jeffords, Independent from Vermont, Ranking Member on the Senate Environment and Public Works committee holds a press conference on May 4, 2004 to tighten rules for safe drinking water.
Tap water in the District is testing above the federal limit for lead contamination. Lead causes brain damage to babies and young children. There was a two-year coverup by the DC water utility. Gloria Borland used her leadership skills to help organize parents to get lead out of the city's drinking water. She was invited to testify in front of the Environment subcommittee of the United States Senate. As a result of her actions, U.S. Senator Jeffords from Vermont introduced legislation in 2004 to replace old lead pipes in cities around the country. Federal funds became available for states and utilities to replace lead service lines. Over the years $20 Billion was dispersed. President Biden added $15 Billion in his 2021 infrastructure package. Gloria Borland was part of the initial effort that created the $35 Billion federal program for the replacement of lead water pipes nationwide.
The Washington Post April 8, 2004
EPA - federal funds to replace lead service lines
Parents want the best education for their children. I came up with the idea to start a new dual "English-Chinese" language elementary school. A free public charter school in Washington DC. The original Dupont Circle International Academy, opened in 2008 as Washington Yu Ying.
2020 - The Chinese Public Charter School is now 12 years old, has over 600 students and $9 million year annual budget.
I'm not an educator. We hired educators. This school got off the ground because I think like an entrepreneur. I led a group of 71 parents who wanted our tax dollars to go towards a unique international school for our children. Our biggest opposition came from government educators who didn't think American kids could learn a difficult language like Mandarin. We were pressured to drop Chinese and offer Spanish.
I learned public education is very political. We had to elect a new Mayor in 2006 who appointed a new Superintendent of public schools. Reforming public education took a movement led by parents. Our Chinese public charter school finally opened in fall 2008. Thousands of children have received a world class education for free. These children are now prepared for the global economy. It was my idea. A woman from Hawaii made a difference in our Nation's Capitol.
Gloria Borland (age 56) and Imiloa Borland (age 10)
Halau O'Aulani in Arlington, Virginia, April 2013
photo: The Washington Post
In 2007, when my daughter Imiloa was 5, we enrolled in Halau O'Aulani in the Washington suburb of Arlington, Virginia. The Halau was founded by Kamehameha School alumni Ku'ulei Stockman and other Native Hawaiians living in the DC metro area. The Halau was under the direction of Kumu Hula Keith Awai and his brother Kumu Hula Kimo Awai, who both studied under the late Aunty Nona Beamer. www.Halauoaulani.org
After hearing Kumu Kimo say "Hula is the heartbeat of Hawaii" I was inspired to learn Hula in the Kupuna class. It was amazing to see Hawaiian traditions being practiced and preserved at this East coast Halau located more than 4,000 miles from Hawaii nei.
In 2015, while serving on the Foster Village, Aliamanu, Salt Lake Neighborhood Board, I came up with the idea for a new museum. A few months earlier, Honolulu had lost its bid to host the Obama Presidential library to Chicago. Hawaii also suffers from a lack of recognition of the many accomplished citizens it has produced. This museum is not just Obama, but also Senator Inouye, Congresswoman Mink, entertainer Bruno Mars and soldiers from the 442.
Other residents living in the neighborhoods surrounding Aloha Stadium supported the concept for a new "Hawaii heroes" museum. Grassroots support for the new museum spread throughout Oahu in 2016. The museum was included in Honolulu's Final Plan published in July 2017 for Transit-Oriented Development at the Halawa Rail Station near Aloha Stadium.
Our goal is to build a new museum close to the Arizona Memorial and near the Aloha Stadium Entertainment District.