Feature

Blue Hawaii, 1975

Soka Gakkai Culture Festivals

Sandy Ampon was in charge of volunteers who created thousands of costumes for all the performers of the 1975 Blue Hawaii Convention. Through this experience, Ms. Ampon developed the spirit to never be defeated. Photo by Debra Williams.


An Abiding Peace Is Created Through Fostering Friendship

SGI President Ikeda writes about the Blue Hawaii Convention in volume 22 of The New Human Revolution, p. 157. He appears in the novel as Shin’ichi Yamamoto.

[Shin’ichi Yamamoto said:] “Fifteen years ago, I made the first step in my global travels for peace here in Hawaii. I am a Buddhist. I am a pacifist. I reject all violence and believe in the absolute dignity of life. I believe in forging amicable relations with all peoples and nations. And our organization promotes peace and culture based on our Buddhist beliefs.

“As a Buddhist, I have always stressed the fact that bringing peace to our world is a matter of building relationships of trust and sympathy with others as fellow human beings, transcending differences in ethnicity, nationality or ideology. I’ve visited 37 countries and territories in my attempts to promote global peace.

“We cannot have peace in the world if we concentrate solely on pacts among nations. A truly deep and abiding peace can only be created through fostering friendship and harmony among peoples and individuals. Fostering peace on the individual level is, I believe, the way to achieve lasting world peace.”

An illustration of Sandy working on costumes in volume 22 of The New Human Revolution. Illustration by Kenichiro Uchida.

Living Buddhism: Hello, Sandy, thank you for speaking with us. Can you tell us how you were introduced to the SGI?

Sandy Ampon: I was born in San Francisco to a Filipino father and an African American mother. My father’s family in the Philippines experienced the horrors of war when the Japanese invaded their country. My relatives were forced out of their home, lined up and killed by the Japanese military. My dear father struggled with mental health challenges from those horrific experiences. Eventually, my mother moved me to Los Angeles.

Growing up, I struggled with my identity and lack of confidence. I felt like I didn’t belong and that I was never good enough. This led me to escape into drugs. I was introduced to Nichiren Buddhism on two different occasions and received the Gohonzon in 1973.

We understand that you played a critical role in the Blue Hawaii Convention? Can you tell us about your experience?

Sandy: I was put in charge of volunteers who created thousands of costumes for all of the performers around the U.S. I was also a chapter young women’s leader, a district women’s leader and a member of the Fife and Drum Corps, with a full-time job.

The costume committee worked out of a warehouse in Los Angeles each night for about four months. Even though there was so much to do, everyone worked with a deep sense of mission, and no one complained. I was so moved by the harmony and commitment of all the volunteers.

My experiences during the Hawaii festival and many other SGI festivals enabled me to develop the spirit to never be defeated and to strengthen the oneness of mentor and disciple relationship in my life. Over time, I would make these costumes, with the spirit that Sensei and Mrs. Ikeda would be wearing each of them. From this faith training, I developed a successful career in costume design in TV and film. I learned that with the Gohonzon, nothing is impossible!

President Ikeda actually wrote about your efforts for the Blue Hawaii Convention in The New Human Revolution. What was this experience like for you?

Sandy: I received a call from the Soka Gakkai Headquarters in Japan asking me for some photos of myself in the warehouse. I actually didn’t even know it was printed until I saw the installment in the World Tribune. I took this as encouragement from Sensei to continue fighting for kosen-rufu and to never give up.

What words would you like to share with the youth of today?

Sandy: No matter how seemingly insignificant the causes you make for kosen-rufu, you will definitely receive profound benefit. Each cause you make is an irreplaceable thread that creates a beautiful tapestry of worldwide kosen-rufu. You may not be able to see this in the moment, but in the future, you will definitely experience the beautiful fruits of your present efforts.

President Ikeda gives a standing ovation to performers during a community event in Daly Plaza, the day after the 1st Grand World Peace Culture Festival, June 1981. Photo by Seikyo Press.

Blue Hawaii, 1975

Six months after the founding of the Soka Gakkai International in Guam in January 1975, the Blue Hawaii Convention was held as a symbol that world peace is possible. Several thousand members traveled to Hawaii from across the United States and other countries to seek from their mentor, SGI President Ikeda, and renew their united resolve to work for the happiness of their families and communities. The main festival was performed on a floating island off of Waikiki Beach, constructed by volunteer members. In addition, members constructed a Polynesian Village to celebrate the culture of people from the Pacific Islands who suffered greatly during World War II. President Ikeda personally met with as many members as possible, especially those who worked hard behind the scenes.

(pp. 20-22)