King Day parade grousing was unbecoming

Honolulu Advertiser
Wednesday, February 2, 2005

By David Shapiro
Advertiser Columnist

The annual parade honoring Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. is one of Hawai'i's most mellow events.

People of all ages and nationalities church members and trade unionists, Freemasons and schoolchildren, politicians and Krishna devotees, military bands and assorted protesters parade through Waikiki to remember King's great civil rights marches of the 1960s.

Then they enjoy a day of brotherhood and sisterhood at Kapi'olani Park, with uplifting speeches about justice and equality, feel-good music and great food.

It was disappointing to see this year's event soured by the carping of anti-Hawaiian zealots over the inclusion of Queen Lili'uokalani as an honoree along with King.

The 2005 King holiday fell on the 112th anniversary of Lili'uokalani's overthrow as Hawai'i's last monarch.

Parade organizers thought it appropriate to recognize that she, like King, is a symbol of freedom to her people.

But David Rosen, an attorney suing to nullify Hawaiians-only programs such as the Office of Hawaiian Affairs and Department of Hawaiian Home Lands, couldn't resist a cheap shot at this gesture of respect for our indigenous culture.

He accused Hawaiians of attempting to "expropriate this holiday for their own selfish purposes."

Then Rosen misappropriated King's "I Have a Dream" speech to insult African Americans and Hawaiians alike by using the great martyr's words to justify the trampling of Hawaiian native rights.

This was a ludicrous stretch even for a lawyer. There is no doubt as to which side Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. would have been on in the Hawaiians' struggle for self-determination.

Joining the grousing was Thurston Twigg-Smith, former owner of The Advertiser, who has made a retirement hobby of spinning his view of Hawaiian history and backing actions to strip Hawaiians of their indigenous rights.

Twigg-Smith claimed Lili'uokalani was thinking only of herself not her people when she went to court after her overthrow in an unsuccessful attempt to restore the Hawaiian constitution.

He displayed contempt for the Hawaiian people and their culture by disrespectfully referring to the revered monarch as "Queen Lil."

Twigg-Smith's grandfather, Lorrin Thurston, was a leader in overthrowing the monarchy, and his great-great-grandparents were among the first group of missionaries who landed in Hawai'i in 1820.

He's certainly entitled to stick up for his family's legacy, but his mean-spirited tone is unbecoming a man of his wealth and prominence in the community.

And Twigg-Smith is in no position to self-righteously scorn Hawaiian efforts to gain federal protection of their assets in OHA, Hawaiian Homes and Kamehameha Schools through the Akaka bill.

He owned a failing newspaper of little worth until Hawai'i senators, at his behest, helped lobby through Congress protective legislation that allowed The Advertiser to join business operations with the Honolulu Star-Bulletin.

After three decades of federal antitrust protection, in 1993 he was able to sell his newspaper that was once in danger of going belly up for $250 million more than the total investment portfolio OHA had at the time to finance services for all Hawaiians.

Having profited himself from federal protection, it's disingenuous for Twigg-Smith to now suggest there's something inherently evil in Hawaiians seeking federal help to guard against unwarranted raids on their assets.

Still most difficult to fathom is what drives men who have so much to zealously endeavor to take from those who have so little.

"Why after 112 years is it necessary for these men to continue to defame Queen Lili'uokalani?" asks Patricia Anthony, president of the Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Coalition-Hawaii. "Have they not taken everything and now begrudge still more?"

Good questions.

David Shapiro, a former managing editor at the Star-Bulletin and a veteran Hawai'i journalist, can be reached by e-mail at

© COPYRIGHT 2003 The Honolulu Advertiser, a division of Gannett Co. Inc.

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