NAACP honoring local civil rights advocate Kennedy
Faye Kennedy, who helped push to recognize Martin Luther King Jr. Day across the islands and worked to proclaim that February be recognized as Black History Month, among other achievements, is scheduled to be honored today with the NAACP’s Distinguished Service
Award for Lifetime Achievement at Dole Cannery’s Pomaikai Ballrooms.
Kennedy, 86, is being recognized for decades of public service in Hawaii that includes stints on more than a dozen boards and commissions, including the Hawaii Civil Rights Commission, Honolulu County Committee on the Status of Women, ACLU of Hawaii and Hawaii Friends of Civil Rights.
“The history of the last 50 years for civil rights in Hawaii could not be accurately recorded if it did not include the significant contributions of Faye Kennedy,” said Alphonso Braggs, president of the Hawaii branch of the NAACP and a member of the national board of directors for America’s oldest civil rights organization.
“She is part and parcel the reason we have a Martin Luther King holiday,” Braggs said. “When it came to samesex marriage, when it came to immigration laws and advocacy, whether it has been women’s rights … there has not been anything too small (for Kennedy) to make Hawaii, and thereby America, a better place for all.”
Kennedy called the award “very significant and very heartwarming.”
“It’s a great honor,” she said. “I’ve always been multicultural and multiethnic, and basically my work has been done with women and different groups who have been disenfranchised. So when I get recognized by the African-American community, it shows that my peers respect me and appreciate the work that
Kennedy was born in Kansas City, Mo., one of five sisters, and worked as a social worker for the New York state Division of Parole in the 1960s and 1970s.
She wrote a thriller called “Goodbye, Diane,” modeled along the lines of the infamous 1973 “Goodbar” murder of a New York schoolteacher.
In 1978 Kennedy moved to Oahu and began pushing for a statewide Martin Luther King Jr. Day, which became reality in 1988 and will be marked Monday.
She said a book is being written about her and two of her late sisters: Joy Kennedy-Banks, a model and songwriter who wrote the book “The Neurotic Woman’s Guide to Non-Fulfillment,” and Florynce Kennedy, a New York civil rights attorney who wrote an autobiography titled “Color Me Flo: My Hard Life and Good Times.”
“We were three sisters who were famous because we all wrote books,” Faye Kennedy said. “The New York Post called us ‘the other Kennedys,’ or ‘the black Bronte sisters.’”
In 1977 The New York Times profiled the sisters and interviewed them at Joy’s home in Orange, N.J., which the sisters called “the Kennedy compound.”
Despite a body of work that spans decades, Kennedy promised that her acceptance speech today will be brief.
“I will be speaking extemporaneously, for the most part, and try not to take myself seriously,” she said.
Other awards that will be presented today include scholarships and the NAACP Community Partnership Award to Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority Inc., Lambda Chi Omega Chapter; and a special community service award to the late Ronald Williams-Lopez, who published the Hawaii Black Business Journal and launched the magazines Afro-Hawaii, Afro-Filipino Hawaii, Latin Hawaii and Mahogany.
The Hawaii branch of the NAACP is scheduled to hold its 15th annual Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Awards Gala and dinner at 6 p.m.
The cost is $75.
She pushed for a statewide holiday recognizing Martin Luther King Jr.