OPINION: Honoring Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

Photo Credit: 
Faletuiga

(HONOLULU--JANUARY 30, 2015)--Talofa lava my Samoa. It's your Samoan-American journalist in Hawai'i. As the national U.S. holiday celebrating Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.'s legacy drew to a close Monday night, Jan. 18, I took some time to reflect on his dream and its context in modern-day society.

I often wonder how much time the average American puts into reflecting on King' work and seeing to it that his legacy is being honored in the things we say and do. We all have the responsibility to do so. My family and I spent most of the national holiday visiting the graves of our loved ones at La'ie Cemetery. The cemetery visit was followed by a picnic and swim for the kids at Kakela's Beach on the north side of O'ahu. Throughout the day, I thought of the late Rev. King, the beloved American Civil Rights leader and freedom fighter who earned a Nobel Peace Prize for his work.

When I think of Rev. King, I think of Tupua Tamasese Lealofi III. I'm sure not many people would place the two men in the same thought. But in the mind of a Samoan-American journalist, they're inseparable. They are more alike than they are different. They both fought for freedom. They used non-violent means to advocate for peace. They fought for love. They were both killed, assasinated, because they stood for peace. While I like to remain color blind in my writing, it would be a great betrayal to the human experience not to highlight the fact that they were both men of color.

As a journalism student of the late Mrs. Marrianne Ring (the wife of Mogens Ring), of Germany, you'd have learned that even before Rev. King, there was Tupua. My journalism teacher found it significant to highlight that point about Tupua. It's safe to say that freedom is as much a Samoan ideal as it an American ideal. We didn't have to learn about freedom from America. Samoa fought for its freedom -- and won it. It's Tupua's story and that of the Mau Movement that locked me into this field of work. We can thank Michael Field for writing that book.

Two of my daughters are students of schools in the State of Hawai'i, funded by the U.S. Department of Education. I was educated in the same system. In reflecting on how Rev. King's legacy is passed down in our education system, I asked my seven and 13-year-old daughters some questions. As is customary in the American education system, on the days leading up to the "MLK" holiday, which is observed the third Monday of January, students re-visit the story of Martin Luther King who was born Michael Luther King. I enjoy hearing about what my children learn at school. Before I go any further, I'd like to send a huge thank you to my children's school teachers at Honowai Elementary School and Waipahu Intermediate School. I appreciate their hard work, dedication and their support of my children. Even in our most difficult times, my children's teachers have been understanding and extremely supportive. Thank you Marlins and Jr. Marauders!

For my seven-year-old, Rev. King was "a good person." I'm amazed at the many things she's retained about him from her classroom lessons. The first thought that comes to her mind is: "He wanted us to live in peace."

I ask her to tell me more. This is what she said:

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