Marchers continue to advance King’s vision
Gathering of many races is ‘proof we are living his dream’
WAILUKU — Despite President Donald Trump being accused of fueling racial tensions through his speeches and actions, participants at Wailuku’s Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Peace March said they believe society has advanced too far to stop King’s dream from being realized.
Wailuku resident Chrissy Tabb said racial tensions have persisted, even before Trump, but society as a whole has come together.
Tabb, who is African-American, pointed out that the crowd outside the Kalana O Maui building included residents of many races, religions and backgrounds.
They stand as “proof we are living his dream,” she said.
Tabb was among several hundred march participants and attended festivities organized by the African Americans On Maui Association Monday morning in Wailuku. Maui joined the nation in commemorating what would have been the 89th birthday of King, the slain civil rights leader. Large groups participating in the event included the Hawaii Government Employees Association, Hawaii State Teachers Association and the Maui United Buddhist Women’s Association.
The sixth annual Martin Luther King interfaith service was held Monday evening at Christ the King Catholic Church in Kahului. It was sponsored by Faith Action for Community Equity, or FACE.
This year marks 50 years since King was assassinated on April, 4, 1968, while standing on the balcony at a motel in Memphis, Tenn. He was in Tennessee to support a sanitation workers’ strike.
Mary Wagner, who was marching with her union, the HGEA, said her father was a black sanitation worker in Chicago.
She thanked King and other union officials for fighting for better working conditions for sanitation workers, who decades ago comprised mostly blacks as there were few other choices available to them other than those with unhealthful and poor working conditions.
Wagner said that nowadays it is hard for African-Americans to obtain competitive sanitation jobs.
“It’s because of the unions,” she said.
Wagner said she can’t believe that Trump is president. Every day, she wakes up and says to herself, “It can’t get any worse.”
And yet, it seemingly does.
Last week, Trump allegedly made disparaging remarks about Haiti and African countries, calling them “sh–hole” countries during a meeting with lawmakers on immigration reform. Trump has denied using that word and his denials have been supported by some Republican lawmakers while others at the meeting stand by their allegations.
In August, Trump initially failed to condemn bloody white supremacist rallies in Charlottesville, Va. He later blamed both sides for the deadly violence that erupted when white supremacists gathered to protest the removal of a statue of Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee, saying there “were very fine people on both sides.”
On Monday, Trump spent time golfing. On Friday, he signed a proclamation for the federal King holiday. He praised King and encouraged Americans to observe the day with acts of civic work and community service.
Kahului resident Layla Sheikh had no kind words for Trump. Instead, she raised up her two middle fingers when asked about Trump and his actions.
“Two fingers,” she said.
Sheikh moved from Somalia to the United States in 2003. Somalia is one of the countries Trump allegedly made the “sh–hole” remark about last week.
Nevertheless, she expressed affinity for everyone, including Trump.
“I love everyone,” she said.
She would like to bring both businesspeople and humanitarians together.
Wailuku resident Chris-Tina Symonds brought her five children, ages 5 to 13, to the event to teach them about King.
“He changed the world,” she said.
Even with Trump fueling racial tensions, Symonds said she believed her children would accept people of all races because she and others have taught them about acceptance.
Teenager Preston Summit, the 2015 winner of the 16th annual Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Peace Poetry Contest in Maui County, read his poem during the King observance.
Part of it said: “What is peace? Peace is the ultimate force to stop war, if peace is there there’s no need for gore, peace is what happens when people are friends, all of the teasing coming to ends.”
* Melissa Tanji can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.