Let’s Fulfill MLK’s Dream in Hawai‘i

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Keliʻi Akina, Ph.D., Trustee, At-Large

The birthday of civil rights leader Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., was celebrated last month on January 15. King’s activism and legacy have played a significant role in the advancement of civil rights, and the promotion of racial harmony and integration throughout the world.

All of us in Hawaiʻi are included in King’s legacy as we continue to work together to achieve his dream of freedom, equality and justice for all. We recognize that amidst the diversity of our racial and cultural identities, we are one people committed to advancing freedom and democracy.

As your OHA Trustee-at-Large, I will continue to strive to honor Dr. King by working to make his dream a reality in Hawaiʻi for both Hawaiians and non-Hawaiians. I am also reminded that he recognized the progress that Hawaiʻi’s people have made in working to fulfill his dream.

Photo: Dr. Martin Luther King and civil rights leaders
Dr. Martin Luther King and civil rights leaders wearing lei during the historic march from Selma to Montgomery, Alabama. -Photo: Ebony Magazine, 1965, p. 46.

On Sept. 17, 1959, King made a historic visit to Honolulu and addressed the first session of the Hawaiʻi State House of Representatives. He stated, “As I think of the struggle that we are engaged in the South land, we look to you [Hawaiʻi] for inspiration and as a noble example, where you have already accomplished in the area of racial harmony and racial justice, what we are struggling to accomplish in other sections of the country.”

King recognized Hawaiʻi’s diversity and the model we have set for the rest of the country. During the iconic march from Selma to Montgomery, Ala., King and his fellow civil rights leaders wore lei sent by supporters in Hawaiʻi as a symbol of aloha and friendship. Both Hawaiians and non-Hawaiians throughout the islands sent their prayers and well-wishes. This was truly a picture of the racial harmony King sought.

In King’s “Letter from Birmingham Jail,” he wrote, “Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere. We are caught in an inescapable network of mutuality, tied in a single garment of destiny. Whatever affects one directly, affects all indirectly.”

I am passionate about the advancement of Native Hawaiians and the betterment of our conditions. At the same time, I am committed to the advancement of all peoples. We are woven together and the undoing of one is the undoing of all. Similarly, the betterment of one is for the betterment of all. As King underscored, we share a common fate. Our keiki deserve a future where his dream can truly be realized.

As we honor the memory of Dr. Martin Luther King, let freedom ring from the fertile hills of Hilo to the beautiful cliffs of Nā Pali. Let freedom ring from the windy landscapes of Keahiakawelo to the majestic Koʻolau Mountains. Let freedom ring from the fishponds of Molokaʻi to the brave new beginnings in Lahaina! It’s up to us to ring the bell of freedom, equality and justice for all.

E hana kākou! Let’s work together to make Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s dream a reality.