Spirit of Martin Luther King Jr.’s message kept alive in parade

| January 19, 2018 | 0 Comments

The 25th Infantry Division Band marches in the Hawaii Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Parade and Unity Rally in Honolulu, Monday.

Story and photos by
Kristen Wong
Contributing Writer
HONOLULU — Blue skies welcomed parade participants and onlookers at Ala Moana Beach Park’s Magic Island for the annual Martin Luther King Jr. Parade and Unity Rally, Monday.

Coordinated by the Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Coalition of Hawaii, multiple organizations, public figures, businesses and individuals walked from Magic Island to Kapiolani Park, wearing costumes, holding up banners and greeting members of the crowd.

The 25th Infantry Division Band was also part of the parade this year, and has been in prior years.

“It’s obvious he’s a giant in the civil rights struggle,” said Maj. Scott McKenzie, the commander of the 25th ID Band. “He stood for American ideals and so does the United States Army. We will be part of this parade proudly.”

As the assemblage of parade participants left Magic Island for Waikiki, Army veteran Martin Conmy stood on a nearby bridge overlooking the water, waving and cheerfully greeting to folks in the parade. The Kaaawa resident shares a birthday with King.

“This is the first time I’m going to walk the Martin Luther King Parade. It’s always been something I wanted to do,” he said. “I was always proud to have been born on the same day as Martin Luther King.”

As an 8 year old in the 1960s, Conmy said his father was involved in politics, so he paid attention to the Civil Rights Movement. He remembered watching the videos, the film of hoses being used on people and King’s 1963 speech.

“It resonated with me,” he said.

The rally
After the parade, families, friends and parade-goers gathered at Kapiolani Park for recreation and food. Catfish, spare ribs, chicken wings and collared greens were among the food available for purchase.

Several organizations performed at the Kapiolani Park Bandstand in honor of the day. One such performer was Ron Takamoto, who served in the Army during the Vietnam era as an emergency medic. Takamoto dressed as the late pop singer Michael Jackson, wearing a glittery black, white and silver outfit. He danced to “Don’t Stop ‘Til You Get Enough” for attendees.

“We all have to think about our futures and future generations regarding political interests,” Takamoto said. “This goes beyond political interests. It goes into human rights, and this affects all generations here in the future. That’s how important this Martin Luther King tradition is to me.”

Mary Kraft of Chicago was visiting family in Hawaii and came to the rally to watch the performances at the bandstand.

“I can remember watching the march on Washington on TV,” Kraft said. “I was in a bad time in my life in college, and it felt so good to hear him speak. It was wonderful. Respect is the most important part of my life. Respect everyone.”

Among the attendees were Master Sgt. Anthony Booker, an operations noncommissioned officer with Headquarters and Headquarters Battalion, 325th Brigade Support Battalion, 3rd Brigade Combat Team, 25th ID.

“I feel that it’s important that I get out here to show people we are out here, that we want to make the community better,” he said. “At the same time, I want my kids to see that I’m making a difference in life for them.”

Booker marched in the parade with the Free and Accepted Masons of Hawaii and Its Jurisdiction, Inc. He said he felt it was important for the group to show representation at the parade as founder Prince Hall was African American and established the African American side of freemasonry.

Booker’s family was also present to watch the parade and enjoy the festivities at the park.

“I look forward to seeing my dad (in the parade) cause this is a day that celebrates a lot if you think about it,” said Booker’s daughter, Marshe, 15. “(The parade) celebrates all races, no matter if you’re white, black, whatever you are. You’re getting celebrated because that’s what he fought for – equal rights to all, not just one. It’s for all lives and that’s what matters.”


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