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Tuesday, January 18, 2000



By Craig T. Kojima, Star-Bulletin
First Circle Dance members, from left, Pam Wheeler, Eve Raposo
and Samantha Tavares, practice their steps at Ala Moana Beach
Park before yesterday's Martin Luther King Jr. Day parade
in Waikiki. The dancers are wearing Nigerian costumes.

King Day celebrants
express mixed views

By Gordon Y.K. Pang


There was no disputing the message or the messenger on Martin Luther King Jr. Day 2000 in Hawaii.

But those attending King Day activities at Kapiolani Park yesterday were split on how far Hawaii has come in its civil-rights movements.

Jeff Lindsey, 23, stationed with the Air Force in California and happy to be home for a visit, said, "Up on the mainland, it's basically black, white and Hispanic. There's so much racism up there, it's nice to able to come home and smile, say 'hi' to everybody and not have to worry."

King Day is needed in Hawaii, he said, to make residents remember "it's not like this everywhere."

Janice Holi, Lindsey's cousin, views Hawaii as one of the most ethnically diverse and socially tolerant places in the country.

"In Hawaii, you can see that even though there are cultural differences, we can all still get along," said Holi of Pearl City.

Holi, 23, said her two young children don't yet understand King's significance in the American civil-rights movement "so I have to answer a lot of their questions."

Charles Scott, 27, an African-American, grew up in Florida. "Where I come from, skin color does matter," said Scott, who has been stationed at Schofield Barracks for about 18 months.

"I haven't had that problem since I've been here," Scott said, noting that he constantly reminds his children of their history.

"If you don't know where you come from, you don't know where you're going," he said when asked why he and his family spent King Day with others at the park.

Pearl City couple Ethan Twer and Junedale Nishiyama say they have mixed views about where Hawaii is when it comes to the civil-rights movement.

"On the East Coast, there's a lot of white and black," said Twer, who grew up in New York. "In Hawaii it's a lot more gray."

That's good and bad, he said.

The different ethnic groups in Hawaii have learned to live with each other with humor playing a role in helping people accept each other's differences, he said.

And Nishiyama, who went to college in New York, noted that Hawaii's mishmashing of food traditions also may leave some with a sense there is a melting pot here. "But that doesn't mean we cohabitate well," she said.

The two believe that perhaps Hawaii people are too extreme in their tolerance and tend to be complacent sometimes when they should be standing up for their values.

"Injustice and racism might slide off the shoulders a little easier," Twer said. "And if it slides off the shoulders, there's no growth."

Caroline Vierra, a superintendent and investigator with the Hawaii Civil Rights Commission, said she sees the need to continue King's fight for equal rights at her job every day.

"There's a good mixture of people but we still need to strive for equity and justice," she said.

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