Today we celebrate the Birthday of one of the USA’s greatest heroes–Martin Luther King Jr. I can’t think of another person from the 20th century I’d rather celebrate. King was a man of God, stirred by a Holy fire for justice and with the wisdom, eloquence, and grace to walk it out.
Last year his autobiography was one of my audio book “reads”. Beyond his own personal thoughts and writings were recordings of some of his speeches which carried a power that sent chills down my spine. When someone is speaking truth about justice lovingly, it rings in the heart! For me, as a white woman, it was empowering to listen and learn from this great man of God. I count him among my “teachers” though we didn’t get to be alive at the same time.
King’s poignant words about justice mean that much more to me now that I live in the occupied Hawaiian Kingdom. The same kind of colonialism, elitism, classicism, and racism that led to the enslavement of Africans has infected the islands out in the Pacific. My brothers and sisters in Pacifica resonate with the Black Lives Matter movement and though theirs is a different struggle, they feel some of the same pain. This ugliness dehumanizes all of us–the oppressor and the oppressed–black, brown, white… everyone in between.
So today, when I heard that my kanaka (Hawaiian) brothers and sisters were assembling for the MLK march through Waikiki and were told that this year the US color guard would go ahead of them (in past years the kanaka were honored as the guardians of the land and led the march), I cried. I wasn’t with them when this happened, but I could “see” their tears and feel the sense of hopelesness that threatens to overwhelm you like a tidal wave and snuff out the burning wick of your hope that you’ve guarded so carefully.
Darkness cannot drive out darkness:
only light can do that.
Hate cannot drive out hate: only love can do that. — MLK
I haven’t been part of the Hawaii story long… I only moved hear a year and a half ago with a Divine call to stand with my Hawaiian brothers and sisters for the restoration of the Nation. I don’t claim to understand what my friends go through, I can only ask God, “Help me to understand. Help me to respond in a way that honors you and honors them.” I have seen the way they stand with Aloha in the face of perpetuated injustices. It is a LOVE that drives the darkness and the hate away and makes the enemy into a friend. I have learned so much from my kanaka family!
And so what can I do today but lament with them… lament that while so much has been gained, the goal still seems far. Lament that while people with power and privilege are buying up property and moving into this tropical paradise, Hawaiians are being pushed out beach parks and far away places like Las Vegas where housing is actually affordable. Lament because many of the tourists I see on my morning jogs to Waikiki will never know the beauty of the culture of the people of the land they tread upon because someone put a price tag on Hawai’i and paved paradise.
Sometimes, all I can do is find songs of lament to carry me to the foot of the cross…
How long, O Lord? Will You forget me forever?
How long will You hide Your face from me?
2 How long shall I take counsel in my soul,
Having sorrow in my heart all the day?
How long will my enemy be exalted over me?
3 Consider and answer me, O Lord my God;
Enlighten my eyes, or I will sleep the sleep of death,
4 And my enemy will say, “I have overcome him,”
And my adversaries will rejoice when I am shaken.
5 But I have trusted in Your lovingkindness;
My heart shall rejoice in Your salvation.
6 I will sing to the Lord,
Because He has dealt bountifully with me.
And so with a grieving heart reaching for HOPE I cry out “Come! Come Lord Jesus! Come make all things new. Come make all things right. Ride forth in JUSTICE!”
And I look back at a hero, a saint, who has gone before and is now with the great cloud of witnesses watching us today. Martin Luther King Jr is with the King of Kings at His throne, eternally worshiping the one who makes all things right. And so looking at King who points to my Jesus, I look to the one who hung on the cross so that we could be FREE!
And I say…