SELMA, ALABAMA (HawaiiNewsNow) - Sen. Mazie K. Hirono and Congressman Mark Takai traveled to Alabama to commemorate the 50th anniversary of Bloody Sunday. On Saturday, Senator Hirono and Congressman Takai joined civil rights leaders, President Obama, and a bipartisan group of lawmakers in marching across the Edmund Pettus Bridge in Selma.
Senator Hirono and Congressman Takai plan to present flower lei to civil rights leaders commemorating the march, just as Rev. Abraham Akaka did for Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. in 1965.
During his life, Dr. King had strong ties to Hawaii. In 1959, Dr. King addressed the Hawaii state legislature, where he praised Hawaii for its diversity. Dr. King also had a strong relationship with Rev. Abraham Kahikina Akaka, Hawaii's first commissioner for civil rights and the older brother of the Senator Daniel Akaka. In 1965, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and other civil rights leaders wore lei on their third march from Selma to Montgomery. Rev. Akaka and Dr. King became close when Dr. King attended a Civil Rights Week symposium at the University of Hawaii in 1964.
During the third Selma march in 1965, Dr. King and other marchers were photographed wearing white lei, which were a gift from Rev. Akaka. The lei were draped on marchers to channel the spirit of aloha and peace from across the Pacific to Selma. The photograph of the lei-clad civil rights marchers was featured on the front page of the New York Times on March 21, 1965.
“Fifty years ago this weekend, civil rights leaders marched into history by walking across the Edmund Pettus Bridge in the face of danger to stand up against intolerance and fight injustice,” said Senator Mazie K. Hirono. “In Hawaii, we are a diverse people of many cultures and have a unique understanding of the dream of Dr. King and the marchers in Selma. We know that while our differences may define us, they should never divide us. This weekend, I will honor the men and women who risked their lives in the name of equality on Bloody Sunday by presenting civil rights leaders with flower leis, just as Rev. Abraham Kahikina Akaka did during the third Selma march in 1965, to bring the spirit of peace and aloha from across the Pacific to Selma.”
“Fifty years ago civil rights leaders took a courageous step forward for all Americans. The Freedom Marches — and the progress toward voting rights, civil liberties and tolerance that they helped to bring about — have left their mark on the generations and resonate deeply with us today," Takai said. "Before the Third Freedom March, The Rev. Abraham Kahikina Akaka of Hawaii sent to Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and other civil rights leaders traditional Hawaiian lei, to symbolize aloha and compassion from the people of Hawaii, and empathy with the marchers in Alabama. To honor that legacy, this weekend, I, along with Hawaii Sen. Mazie Hirono, will be bringing the same type of lei worn in 1965 by the leaders of the marches, to present to civil rights leaders, including Congressman John Lewis, who was present at the original 'Bloody Sunday' march. The lei will again stand for peace and aloha as we cross the historic Edmund Pettus Bridge, marching in solidarity for civil rights for all.”