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About Us

Our Mission

To Preserve and Perpetuate the Culture and Traditions of Hawai'i

Based in North County San Diego, UMEKE is a 501(c)(3) organization dedicated to the preservation, perpetuation and education of Hawaiian culture. Our vision is to educate local communities through cross-cultural learning, embracing an intersectional approach to work towards the equity and advancement of all marginalized and underserved populations. It is with that spirit that we  share the vision with our extended Asian & Pacific Islander communities. 

We chose the 'umeke, or calabash, as a symbol of our commitment to nourish and sustain communities through traditional Hawaiian values and practices. The 'umeke holds poi, a traditional dish made of kalo (taro), the primary food in the Native Hawaiian diet. 

We acknowledge that we practice the indigenous traditions of Hawai'i on the ancestral lands of the Luiseño/Payómkawichum and honor the native stewards of this land.

Our Vision

UMEKE envisions a future where the rich cultural heritage of Native Hawaiians flourishes and is cherished by both diasporic Kanaka Maoli and the wider society. We aim to be a resource for cultural preservation, education, and community empowerment. Our vision is to create a vibrant and interconnected community where Native Hawaiians can embrace their identity, share their traditions, and inspire future generations. Through educational initiatives, cultural events, and community partnerships, we strive to foster a profound appreciation and understanding of Hawaiian culture, contributing to a more inclusive and culturally enriched world.

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Ilima Kam Martinez

Founder and board president of UMEKE

Ilima, a passionate and dedicated advocate for her community, is the founder and board president of UMEKE. As a Kanaka Maoli (Native Hawaiian), Ilima's journey is deeply rooted in her heritage and her unwavering commitment to empowering others.

Born and raised in the beautiful Oceanside/Carlsbad area, Ilima developed a strong sense of community and connection to her native culture. She realized the importance of preserving and promoting the rich traditions of her people, which led her to return to higher education. She pursued a Bachelor of Arts in Anthropology with a specific focus on Indigenous studies at California State University San Marcos. This academic path allowed her to better understand the complexities of her own cultural heritage and the challenges faced by Indigenous communities worldwide.

Ilima's dedication to her cultural roots and her determination to make a positive impact on her community didn't stop at her educational achievements. In 2018, she assumed the role of Director of Youth Enrichment at Hui O Hawaiʻi of San Diego, and in 2019, transitioned to become the Director of Culture. She is also a current member of the 'Ahahui Kiwila Hawai'i O San Diego Civic Club, which aims to promote the spirit and traditions of Hawai'i throughout the San Diego community.

Beyond her role at UMEKE, Ilima the Kumu Hula, or hula teacher, of Kuhai Halau O ‘Ilima Pa ‘Olapa Kahiko, sharing the art and beauty of hula with her students and nurturing the next generation of cultural practitioners. 

She co-created the Southern California Asian & Pacific Islander Festival, an event that celebrates and highlights the diverse cultures of the Asian and Pacific Islander communities in the region. Through this festival, Ilima has brought together people from various backgrounds, fostering understanding and unity.

Ilimaʻs contributions to the community have not gone unnoticed. In recognition of her unwavering dedication, Ilima was named Rep. Mike Levin's Constituent of the Month in May. This honor underscores the positive impact she has made in her community and her commitment to creating a more inclusive and culturally enriched environment.

Throughout her journey, Ilima's love for her supportive family has been the driving force behind her tireless efforts. They have inspired and encouraged her in all of her endeavors, providing the foundation for her achievements.

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