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VOICES: Never too early to ‘Lift Ev’ry Voice’

With the Thanksgiving holiday a couple weeks ago and the Hawaiian Makahiki season having risen with Makali‘i , the Pleiades constellation at sunset now, my thoughts turn to how to celebrate Martin Luther King, Jr.’s birthday in January 2022.

After many years of live gatherings in Lihu‘e on the national holiday, we went to make a video last year in response to COVID restrictions. You can still watch all or parts of the two-hour creation of Dr. Robert Zelkovsky by going to the website for the Interfaith Roundtable of Kaua‘i and clicking on the photo of Dr. King.

I have a vision for a hybrid celebration this year. Another video will be produced which will be simpler editing and shorter. It will be one hour long and consist of 20 five-minute pieces from our Kaua‘i island community.

It will once again demonstrate our wonderful diversity and our desire to create the type of peaceful, safe, cooperative, successful, loving world that King strove for and died for.

If you need any inspiration, please watch our video from last year, but first, just type in a search for quotes from MLK.

Unless you have successfully hidden away on one of our gorgeous isolated beaches or in the jungle or mountains with no contact with other people or media, you probably are aware that our world is in need of the focused, hard-working, non-violent approach to change that MLK taught.

For me, celebrating MLK Day each year is a perfect way to refocus my creative intentions near the beginning of a new calendar year and to move the community that I live in and love toward being the healthiest ‘ohana we can be.

There are infinite ways for you to help co-create this celebration. Spreading the word by mouth or electronically is very helpful. I have a personal tradition since 1989 of singing the hymn “Lift Ev’ry Voice” in public on MLK DAY. This hymn which became known as the Black national anthem was first sung in a school in Florida in 1900 for Abraham Lincoln’s birthday. It was recognized as an important inspirational song for the civil rights movement. At that time, reprinting was done on manual presses.

The thousands of hand-printed copies of the song were then delivered to churches all over the U.S. by foot and horseback until it appeared in almost every hymnal in churches of all denominations across the land. With our smartphones, etc we can probably reach all of our 72,000 or so residents if we make an effort.

The message that I hope you will want to spread is one of unity and caring.

The prompt that I have in my mind that I would love to have thousands of you respond to is something like: “ I bring peace to my world by building bridges or tearing down walls, and the way I am doing that is…”

I would especially love to get written pieces from children on this topic. The responses could be the five-minute videos that will be compiled for our one-hour 2020 internet presentation, or it could be artwork, or a community service project idea, and certainly songs from individuals or ensembles or choirs.

The other part of the celebration on Monday, Jan. 17, 2022, the national holiday or Saturday, Jan. 15, 2022, his actual birthday, or the Sunday after, would be to host a small safe gathering, ideally outdoors with weather permitting. So, we would have neighborhood pod gatherings from Kekaha to Ha‘ena.

My home in Kapahi will be an open house retreat for one or all of those days. We will watch the new video together and last year’s and other film clips. We will share our ideas for bridge-building, for increased cooperation, and celebrate our freedoms, especially speech, with talks, poems, songs and share some food too like the proverbial table that Dr. King spoke of us sitting down together at.

To get involved in any way email me at or text/call me at 808-346-2587.


Steve Backinoff is a resident of Kapa‘a
Source: The Garden Island

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