YWCA honoree Faye Kennedy broke racial barriers

YWCA honoree Faye Kennedy broke racial barriers
Amy Agbayani
Amy Agbayani

HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - Faye Kennedy's passion for equality and diversity issues, comes from personal experience. She's proud to represent the two percent of African-Americans living in Hawaii. Having served on the Hawaii Women's Political Caucus and Hawaii Civil Rights Commission, her involvement in public service earned her an honoree spot at this years YWCA leader luncheon. She's only the second African-American to ever get the honor.

Faye Kennedy is a leader, but don't tell her that. She's the first to tell you she isn't.

"If you think of Faye Kennedy as a leader, I think they would say 'Why is she a leader?'"

Born during the Great Depression in Kansas City, the youngest of five girls, her education on civil rights issues started early.

"The Ku Klux clan came to the door, and they said that we weren't welcome there, and they wanted us to move out. So my father got his shotgun and said okay the first one to cross this threshold is going to be in trouble. So all my life they taught us to stand up for ourselves."

When she was married in 1960, to her husband of 50 years, there were still 16 states that had laws prohibiting inter-racial marriage.

"When I was married to my husband, who is Caucasian he would have to go first to look at an apartment every place we lived he had to go first," she explains.

All her experiences left Faye with a personal and unique perspective that she brought with her to Hawaii 32 years ago.

Amy Agbayani knows Faye well, this is what she had to say about her best friend.

"I think Faye does understand what civil rights really means, she's lived it and she now has the opportunity to help others. I heard her speak once and she said that the older she gets the less she likes stress, she prefers stressing other people out than get stressed herself. What that means is that she will take a stand regardless what problems will confront her what challenges there are" said Agbayani.

Faye was one of the first people to get behind Carl Richie. The African American ran a lap-dancing business and was sentenced to 10 years for promoting prostitution. Faye didn't endorse his lifestyle, but felt the sentence was unfair, overly harsh, and possibly motivated by race and status discrimination.

"Finally I got with Cayetano and with the city prosecutors and we got him back and oh, that was so great," said Kennedy.

She was also instrumental in successfully securing the Martin Luther King Jr. holiday in Hawaii.

"That's one of my proudest accomplishments is that several of us were aware that Hawaii was one of the last three states to get the holiday."

Dr. King's son even came down for the reception.

Faye has collected numerous accolades for her public service. She's a published author and columnist, and loves politics. But don't tell her she's a leader.

"I always thought of myself as the person who organizes like for Donis Thompson, got that, project helped get the money so I never thought of my person as a person who would be an honoree. The fact that I got this honor, I just wake up in the middle of the night just happy, I love it," she says.

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