A local champion of the disenfranchised is honored for her service in the spirit of Martin Luther King Jr.
Patricia McManaman grew up in Hawaii but as a little girl was witness to an incident on the mainland that steered her toward a career in social justice.
During a family visit with grandparents living in Illinois, she was on a public bus when the driver zipped right past an African-American man waiting at a bus stop. All the passengers were “clapping and shouting encouragement to the bus driver” for not stopping. “This was before the civil rights movement, but for me it was incomprehensible,” said McManaman, who was 7 at the time.
An attorney, community leader and government executive who has devoted 37 years to helping the disenfranchised, McManaman is the recipient of the 2017 Martin Luther King Jr. Peacemaker
Church of the Crossroads will present its annual award to her at 7 p.m. Monday at 1212 University Ave. The public is invited to join in honoring McManaman for the courage and compassion she exemplified in the spirit of King, a Nobel Peace Prize winner.
From 2011 through 2014 McManaman was director of the state Department of Human Services, whose programs included public assistance, Medicaid and adult and child welfare services. She was deputy executive director of the Hawaii Civil Rights Commission from 2008 to 2010. Prior to that McManaman was CEO of Na Loio Immigrant Rights and Public Interest Legal Center, which provided free legal assistance for low-income immigrants. Currently she is a per diem judge of the District Court of the 1st Circuit.
She has received a plethora of accolades for her work, including the Rhoda Lewis Award for Public Service from the Hawaii Women’s Legal Foundation, the President’s Award from Hawaii Women Lawyers, the Ho‘okele Leadership Award from Hawaii Community Foundation, the Kalo
Award from Hawaii Public Health Association, the Friend of Social Workers Award from the National Association of Social Workers’ Hawaii chapter, the Bette Takahashi Service Award from Planned Parenthood Hawaii, and the Friends of Family Court Award.
In anticipation of policy changes under a new president that many expect to threaten health coverage, and the rights of immigrants and gay and transgender people, McManaman said it’s vital for people to fight back locally and nationally.
“Being vigilant, staying informed and standing up and speaking out are the key ingredients for moving forward. … We need to respond to the challenges that we’re going to see for the next four years because if we don’t stand together, we have no hope.”
She expects to see people turning to the courts to litigate issues and place injunctions against the more egregious policies. But she also has confidence in the appointment of many judges by the Obama administration across the federal judiciary system.
“One terrific thing that will hopefully come out of this is for the broad swath of liberal-minded people and organizations is that, I think, we’re going to see a lot of heretofore disparate organizations joining hands and standing together shoulder to shoulder. I think there’s a real impetus to create a movement again for social justice, a broader platform for justice as opposed to a single-focus issue. I think we’re going to see the environmental folk standing together with social justice (advocates),” as an example, she said.
In reviewing famous quotes by King, “One of them that had great appeal to me was (paraphrasing): It’s only at our darkest moments that you can see the stars,” McManaman said.
“Being vigilant, staying informed and standing up and speaking out are the key ingredients for moving forward”