TheRoot.com, By Shanelle Genai, Posted September 8th 2023
The media mogul has been the biggest landowner in Maui and bought an additional 870 acres back in March.
Oprah Winfrey is stepping up and using her platform, power and resources to help those in need in Hawaii who’ve been affected by the fatal wildfires in Maui. However, it looks like her attempts to help are getting the side eye from others. I’ll explain.
You see, the veteran TV host and media icon spent her time visiting shelters and offering a helping hand, giving out supplies to those who have been displaced. However, things got a bit dicey when she tried to enter the War Memorial Complex in Wailuku with a CBS camera crew in accompaniment and was promptly turned away, per London’s Sky News.
The County of Maui later clarified in a Facebook post that Winfrey’s visit was “truly heartwarming” and that they “appreciated her understanding of our policy of having no camera crews or reporters accompanying dignitaries and celebrities in our emergency shelters.”
While that explanation seems understandable, some folks used it as an opportunity and took to Twitter to express their disdain over why she even thought to bring cameras during this vulnerable time and the fact that she owns a lot of land in the county.
“I take back what I said about Oprah being trash. She’s the garbage juice at the bottom of the trash where the maggots are,” wrote one user.
“Don’t be fooled by celebs and billionaires dispensing charity to survivors of #LahainaFires. From Bezos to Oprah, every one of them is also a colonialist in in Hawaii. They are all guilty of land-grabbing, beach-grabbing, labor exploitation, water theft, tax evasion…” said another.
“Disaster zone culture vulture Oprah needs to stop walking into Maui recovery hubs with empty hands looking for a photo op. Why don’t you return the land you stole from Kanaka Maoli first? I hear Maui residents are looking for housing options… Write a check & stay at your house,” another user said.
Yet and still, it didn’t look like the media mogul was phased one bit as a recent news story with her and CBS Mornings aired and showed her yet again out at shelters, handing out supplies and talking with evacuees.
She also took to her personal Instagram on Sunday and posted a message of what all she’s learned and some of the people she’s met during her time helping out.
“Hey everybody. You know what this week has taught me? Is that when you don’t know what to do, you do whatever you can,” she began. “I went to visit one of the big shelters here at the War Memorial [Stadium] and asked people what it is they needed and then went shopping for some things, some, you know, basic things like towels and sheets and shampoo and other necessities.”
“And at some point, I will make a major donation after all of the smoke and ashes have settled here and we figure out what the rebuilding is going to look like. This is going to be a long and difficult process. But, spending time at the shelters, I’ve met so many incredible people,” she continued.
She went on to describe one resident who barely escaped the fire but told her that he was in need of nothing because “my life is now my greatest gift.” She also talked about families who were sharing cots and had nothing left to their names—but were still grateful to have each other.
“There’s such an incredible spirit going on in this entire community, people helping other people. And I know that long after all the camera crews are gone and the rest of the world has moved on, the rebuilding will just begin. And Hawaiians are a strong cultural people and a family-loving people. And with the help and support, you’re gonna see a lot of phoenix stories rising from the ashes here,” she concluded.
As of Monday, the death toll for the fire reached 96 people and it’s expected to rise as crew and volunteers continue to dig through the remains. The Root sends its prayers and thoughts to all those affected, for information on legitimate organizations to donate to, please visit Honolulu Civil Beat.