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  • Kimberlee Bassford

Patsy Mink's legacy continues 10 years later


Yesterday, I went to Maui to be a guest speaker during the Q&A of Rise of the Wahine: Champions of Title IX at the Maui Arts and Cultural Center.


The film was directed, produced and written by my high school classmate Dean Kaneshiro and premiered at the Hawai‘i International Film Festival in 2014 (the same time I premiered Winning Girl), where it took home the Audience Award for Favorite Documentary.


I can see why. The film is informative, action-packed and inspiring, telling the little-known story of the UH Wahine athletics program and its role in the creation and defense of Title IX, the law that mandated gender equity in education and athletics in America. And it interweaves the connections between the UH Wahine and Patsy Mink, who co-wrote the landmark legislation.


I actually appear in Dean's film a few times, giving background information on Patsy. It felt a little strange being considered an "expert" on Patsy especially since I never met her personally, but I appreciated having the experience of being on the other end of the camera. It's not easy being interviewed, and I give all the people I've ever interviewed credit for enduring what can be an unnatural and awkward process.


I also give Dean credit for continuing to work on his film. While he premiered it in 2014, he spent another four years re-editing it, cutting it down from 90 to 75 minutes and making it more fitting for a younger audience. I don't know if I'd have the stamina to re-edit a film. I'm usually so exhausted by the premiere that I just want to move onto the next project. But kudos to Dean for sticking with it as the recut is definitely tighter and even more engaging than the original. He re-released the film last fall, and it's been screening around the islands since, especially this month which is Women's History Month.


Dean has also been generous inviting me to participate in a couple of post-screening Q&As, like the one on Maui yesterday. I had been a little out of practice answering questions about Patsy Mink since my film about her was released now more than 10 years ago. Yikes! I also wasn't sure what I could add to the discussion, but I was pleasantly surprised to find that people were still really interested in Patsy Mink and I think I adequately managed to field their questions.


There are two more screenings of my Patsy Mink film next month. One is in a sociology class at the University of Hawai‘i at Mānoa, and the other is at Hawai‘i Pacific University. I'm grateful that the film continues to screen at all. It's had a longer life than my other films, mostly due to the fact that people are still discovering Patsy Mink and her legacy.


One person during the Q&A yesterday asked if I'd support renaming the new high school in Kihei for Patsy Mink. Heck yes! Apparently, a group of passionate (and wise) citizens is spearheading an effort to rename the Maui school for her, though it seems the group is running into resistance. But I'm all for anything that helps honor Patsy and keeps her legacy alive.


I remember when I was in production on the documentary and one of my executive producers, Robert Pennybacker of PBS Hawai‘i, said that I was working on the first documentary about her. I remember thinking, first? Will there by more?


Well, I'm glad there are more, like Dean's, that continue to highlight Patsy's impact. My film is in no way exhaustive. There is so much I wasn't able to include. Maybe if I did a re-edit now 10 years later, the film would be vastly different. I could expand the section on Title IX for instance. Though Rise already did that well.


Nonetheless, the more we remember Patsy in any form-whether a film or sculpture or the name of a school-the more we'll remain committed to the ideals she embodied and fought for. And making those ideas a reality is an ongoing and important struggle that needs all of our attention and efforts.