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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Tuesday, January 22, 2002

3,000 march in MLK parade

By Rod Ohira
Advertiser Staff Writer

Where else but Hawai'i could there be a Martin Luther King Jr. celebration with the oldest living "buffalo soldier" in a parade, vendors in the park selling soul food, hot dogs, sushi, manapua and fried noodles, and Hawaiian chants and hula to start a unity rally?

Amber Johnson, Miss Teen Island, rode yesterday with Victoria Hudson in a parade car during the Martin Luther King Jr. Parade.

Jeff Widener • The Honolulu Advertiser

It was diversity to the max yesterday.

"I don't see color, I see people," said 93-year-old O'ahu resident William Waddell, a retired veterinarian and Army "buffalo soldier" captain who earned 135 service medals. "We have work to do to make a better world where everyone sees people and not the tint of their skins."

With 3,000 participants, this year's King Day parade was the largest ever in Hono-

lulu, organizers said. Twelve local labor unions were represented in the march from Magic Island to Kapi'olani Park, where a unity rally took place afterward.

"People need to remember that Rev. King was killed while trying to help poor people to organize so they could advance opportunity for themselves," said U.S. Rep. Neil Abercrombie, D-Hawai'i, at the rally.

King was assassinated April 4, 1968, while supporting striking sanitation workers of the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees Local 1733 in Memphis. Local HGEA and UPW unions are affiliated with AFSCME.

All across the country, thousands gathered to pay tribute to King and his message of unity and equality.

In Atlanta, a standing-room-only crowd of about 2,000 packed the Ebenezer Baptist Church, where King once preached.

First Lady Laura Bush, who also attended the service, called King "a man committed to peace and a man committed to change."

"American history is unimaginable without him," she said. "He stood for truth, he did the will of God and made America a more just nation."

In Boston, King's eldest daughter, Yolanda, addressed 1,500 people at the city's largest annual MLK Memorial Breakfast. She said Sept. 11 erased racial differences — for now.

"Skin color was covered by the ash of burning towers," King said. "Perhaps the best response to this tragedy is to not go back to normal."

Just before the parade got under way, Jamika and Mathew Pruitt, ages 5 and 8 respectively, celebrated the holiday that commemorates slain civil rights leader Martin Luther King Jr. by dancing near the staging area.

Jeff Widener • The Honolulu Advertiser

More than 50,000 people attended the King Day march in San Antonio, Texas, one of the largest in the nation. T-shirts and hats bearing King's image were common in the crowd, as were American flags.

In St. Paul, Minn., former Vice President Walter Mondale said King would demand that America respect civil rights in its battle against terrorism.

"That's the only way to fight it," Mondale said. "I'm sure if King were around, he would say that his struggle is designed to help all Americans be a part of the fullness of American life."

In Honolulu, Karen Umemoto, a University of Hawai'i-Manoa professor who teaches urban and regional planning, marched in parade yesterday with the Japanese-American Citizens League. Afterward, she bought a plate of soul food for lunch: barbeque ribs, corn bread and fries.

"The openness to different foods is a reflection of the openness of people embracing different cultures here," Umemoto said of the variety of foods on sale and different ethnic groups in the march.

On Maui, some 250 sign-toting marchers paraded down Ka'ahumanu Avenue from Maui Community College to the Maui Mall in the largest King Day observance ever on the Valley Isle. School teachers, college instructors, union members, church groups, preschoolers and Maui Mayor James "Kimo'' Apana joined members of the African American Heritage Foundation of Maui at the program honoring King.

Noting that the Sept. 11 attacks seemed to have made an impact on attendance, Jack Spock of the Baha'i Faith Maui Center said, "It's pulled people together."

Meanwhile, Kaua'i celebrated King Day with a two-hour event featuring prayers, speeches, music and dancing at the Kukui Grove Center main stage.

The Rev. Jan Rudinoff, an Episcopal priest in Lihu'e, said he was impressed by King's continuing relevance in terms of economic issues — specifically the gap between the rich and the poor. "In Hawai'i, he would have been devastated by the economic disparity," Rudinoff said. "Economic separation is what's going on."

Waddell, who served with the Army's 9th Cavalry, 5th Brigade during World War II, was at Tuskegee Institute in Alabama when he met King. He got to know King well enough to call him "Mike," which is what close friends and family called him, said Waddell.

"We enjoyed fellowship with a little wine," Waddell recalled. "You could see, even back then, that he was an angelic man and a leader. I've always said that he was a man sent by the Lord to correct things on Earth."

Staff writers Jan TenBruggencate and Timothy Hurley contributed to this report, which also contains information from Advertiser news services.