LIHUE — Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. touched the lives of many people, including those on Kauai.
“He was a role model for me when I was in high school,” said resident Beth Pualani Baptista, who attended the annual MLK Day celebration Monday hosted by The Interfaith Roundtable of Kauai. “I’m pleased that he is honored. He’s not the only person who fought for freedom, but he was a huge icon for me.”
About 50 people gathered at the Lihue Neighborhood Center on the holiday honoring King’s birthday. The festivities kicked off with performances by Hawaiian singer Blu Dux, followed by the opening prayer led by Aunty Hana and Lono Montgomery.
“It is not only a national event honoring Dr. King, his ideas and his values but also there are over 100 countries who also celebrate his life,” said Jeffrey Pears, IROK chairman. “The Martin Luther King Day celebration really represents equality, shared values and it crosses boundaries and we wanted to share that with the Kauai ohana.”
Resident Giorgio De Paz, who attended the MLK Day remembrance, said the civil rights pioneer was his idol.
“I love this guy, he’s one of my heroes; he’s my inspiration,” he said. “I have kids, so I want them to be inspired by his energy, by his words. He’s an inspiration for a lot of human beings.”
Guest speakers included IROK members Cynthia Moore and master of ceremony was Sharon West, who reflected on the man whose “I Have a Dream” speech has become a cornerstone in American history before he was shot to death on April 4, 1968 in Memphis, Tennessee.
There was also a lunch and a video about King’s life called, “If I Had Sneezed.”
During the film, audience members listened to King’s final speech the day before his death. The civil right’s activist stated that during one book signing session in New York, he was stabbed with a knife that almost clipped his aorta. So severe was the injury, had King done anything as simple as sneeze, he would have died from a ruptured vessel.
“I was able to look through his eyes and see what freedom is,” Baptista said. “I think he really understood what freedom is for a lot of people. We live fairly free here so we didn’t realize that the people weren’t able to do the same things as us.”
A Hawaiian Cultural Reflection of MLK Day was also held by Kumu Sabra Kauka, in which the teacher spoke about King’s influence on America and the world.
King’s message is especially worth remembering on Kauai, De Paz said, because of its multicultural population, where so many walks of life live side by side. But it’s a message of unity upon which the whole world should reflect, he said.
“That’s what we need,” he said. “I think we need all human beings just to be respectful of each other and to love each other.”