WAILUKU - In commemoration of Martin Luther King Jr. on Monday, African-American organizations and communities on Maui joined together to celebrate the civil rights leader's message of peace and equality.
"The message is what Dr. King always stood for: peace and nonviolence," said Ayin Adams, spokeswoman for African Americans on Maui Association. "We're looking at equality, equality through access. We're looking at what we can do for our neighbors. . . . We're looking at working together, harmony. It's all one."
Opening ceremonies began in the morning at the Martin Luther King Jr. Stone of Hope monument, where a mayoral proclamation was signed to honor King.
Scholar, historian and retired University of Hawaii-Manoa professor Kathryn Waddell Takara speaks to a crowd of about 50 people, including Ashanti Sherman (second photo), 9, at an event commemorating Martin Luther King Jr. on Monday morning at Wailuku Coffee Co.
The Maui News / CHRIS SUGIDONO photo
Members of the event then marched down Market Street and gathered at Wailuku Coffee Co., where about 50 people listened to retired state Circuit Judge Sandra A. Simms and retired University of Hawaii-Manoa professor Kathryn Waddell Takara give speeches on King's impact and his message.
"We continue to celebrate Dr. King and honor his legacy with poetry, with music and speakers," said Adams.
This is the first year that the association has partnered with the African American Heritage Foundation of Maui for the commemorating day.
King events continued in the afternoon at Queen Ka'ahumanu Center, where hula instructor Carolee Aricayos organized and participated in song and dance. Affectionately known as "Auntie Doll," she danced a solo hula and played the ukulele while her students, kupuna from Kaunoa Senior Center, danced hula.
"For us here in our little island way out in the Pacific Ocean, you sometimes think that we're not any use because we're so little," she said. "But I found as I grew up that we're so important because we're in the middle of the Pacific Ocean, where people from the West and from the East come and rest . . . and then travel on."
Aricayos, who has hosted several African-American group events in the past, said that she was glad she was asked to host this year.
"I'm thankful that I got the chance to be a part of this day of celebration," she said.
The event concluded with more entertainment, including Vice President Gwyn Gorg of the African Americans on Maui Association introducing international exchange students from the Maui Language Institute at the University of Hawaii Maui College to the stage. Gorg said that people sometimes forget King's message was for all people and races, not just African-Americans.
Students from about a dozen different countries held signs and sang with the audience about love and togetherness.
"There is no separation, and so that unity begins now, and it begins with us," said Aricayos. "We here in the community are showing other organizations and groups that come out with us that we're one. One world, one people."
* Chris Sugidono can be reached at email@example.com.