'Unity of brotherhood' on display at MLK parade
• Photo gallery: King parade steps through Waikiki
By Mary Vorsino
Advertiser Urban Honolulu Writer
Hundreds of people lined Kalākaua Avenue yesterday to celebrate the legacy of Martin Luther King Jr., cheering on a parade whose message of unity isn't about everyone agreeing but about everyone agreeing to hear each other out.
"The whole essence of this holiday is exactly what we're seeing — people of all races and denominations coming together to make a difference," said Billy Mills of Mānoa, who was sitting on a rock wall at Kūhiō Beach watching the parade with his wife, Luz. "It's all right to disagree. (The parade is) just an eclectic array of folks with varying opinions."
And that eclectic array grew this year.
Organizers said there were about 75 units in the King parade yesterday, compared to 58 units last year. There also appeared to be more attendees, they said, estimating the turnout for a rally after the parade at more than 2,000 people.
Hundreds more watched the parade along its route from Magic Island down Kalākaua Avenue to Kapi'olani Park.
"I want to say Martin brought them out," said Patricia Anthony, president of the Martin Luther King Jr. Coalition, which planned the parade. "This year, it was just a unity of brotherhood. There's no discord. It is so fabulous to see."
The parade included gay rights activists, Native Hawaiian sovereignty groups, members of the military and advocates for peace. "There were the unions," said Anthony, "and the folks who want to keep the country country." People pushing for more affordable housing, equal justice for the poor and an end to sex trafficking marched, too.
Florenza Lee, whose husband is in the Army, snapped photos of the parade and laughed and waved to people she knew who were marching. She said she didn't agree with the messages of all the groups in the parade, but was happy to see them being included and speaking out. In a divisive age, with so many issues to argue over, Lee said, she liked the idea of people just presenting their opinions — without saying that they're right and everyone else is wrong.
"There's so many things that we can look at to divide us," she said.
But yesterday, she added, was about finding common ground and recognizing how far we've come, while acknowledging more work still needs to be done. "This is what Martin saw," she said, pointing to the diverse crowd — of moms with small babies, of older couples and younger ones, of people of all different ethnicities and backgrounds — enjoying the morning together.
"We can be united," Lee said. "Are we there yet? No. We've still got a long way to go."
Janet Nillias, of Kapālama, attended the parade for the first time. Joined by her daughter and grandson, she sat on a beach chair on the sidewalk, smiling as floats went by.
"It's a terrific parade," she said. "Everything is all (about) peace. Martin Luther King told us there can be peace."