For 22 years, Jewel McDonald has been the backbone of the Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Unity Rally at Kapiolani Park.
An events coordinator for the rally since the inception of the Martin Luther King Jr. Coalition-Hawaii, McDonald was selected as the grand marshal for the 2011 parade Monday to recognize her longtime commitment to the African-American community.
The Moiliili resident is also president and one of the founding members of the African American Association of Hawaii. McDonald, a notary and travel agent, also serves as the membership chairwoman for the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People — Hawaii Chapter.
Her community involvement also includes organizations such as the YMCA and the Hawaii Foodbank.
Turning 65 this month, McDonald shares the same birthday as King (Jan. 15). While she will be stepping down as event coordinator after this year’s rally, McDonald will continue to keep King’s legacy alive.
"He wanted all mankind to be treated equally," she said. "He wasn’t just for people of color. He was for all people. I could relate to that."
SCHEDULE OF DR. MARTIN LUTHER KING JR. 2011 EVENTS:
» 5:30 p.m. Annual Candlelight & Bell Ceremony at the Nagasaki Peace Bell at Honolulu Hale to honor King’s Jan. 15 birthday.
For more information, go to the Martin Luther King Jr. Coalition-Hawaii website at mlk-hawaii.com/home.
McDonald moved to Hawaii from Chicago in 1973 after she heard a woman share stories of Hawaii’s balmy weather. At the time she was going through a divorce from her second husband.
McDonald worked as a security guard and cook while she studied at Leeward Community College and the University of Hawaii at Manoa, where she obtained a bachelor’s degree in human development. All the while, she cared for her children.
She recalled a part of King’s historic speech: "I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin, but by the content of their character."
McDonald, mother of seven adult children, shares his sentiment. With her children married to people of Japanese, Samoan, Caucasian, Portuguese, Hawaiian and Filipino descent, she said, "We are a close-knit family. We don’t see color. That’s the most important thing."