Church's haka group invited to Martin Luther King celebration

By Yvonne Tahana

File photo / NZ Herald
File photo / NZ Herald

Destiny Church's haka group has been invited to perform at the Washington DC 50th anniversary commemorations of Dr Martin Luther King Jr's seismic I have a Dream speech.

Bernice King, daughter of the civil rights leader wrote to Bishop Brian Tamaki and his wife Hannah last week to ask if Destiny would take "Maori dancers" to perform on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial.

It was from there On August 28 1963 the African American churchman delivered one of the defining speeches of the 20th century to 250,000 on the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom.

The memorial became a pulpit where Dr King preached: "I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the colour of their skin but by the content of their character."

Destiny leader Bishop Brian Tamaki said the invitation came from the civil rights' leader's daughter Bernice King who Mr Tamaki met in Atlanta, with her mother Coretta Scott King ten years ago.

Ms King is the chief executive of The King Centre and attended the church's annual conference in 2005. She was "intrigued" and "mesmerised" by the haka, Bishop Tamaki said.

Every state in America has been invited to take part as well as international groups.

Destiny's 12 men will take part in the Let Freedom Ring closing commemoration on August 29 (our time) with a five minute performance. It was a profound privilege, he said.

"I've said to the boys 'You've got to produce goosebumps on goosbumps...when you do your haka, we have to leave a mark, an impression because it's the world stage. Many Americans don't even know New Zealand exists let alone there is such a thing called Maori. We're very aware of how big this opportunity is."

Language or culture would not be a barrier to Americans understanding what the haka was about.

"I'll give them one brief statement about what this haka means and that's all they need. It's not really about protocol...you just have to put that aside the technicalities...produce something they will feel...that crosses all boundaries, lines and ethnicities."

Asked about what that would mean for authenticity, Bishop Tamaki said:

"I think the results will speak for themselves.

"It's not about us trying to do the cultural correctness of it but to produce something that will spellbind, that will just captivate and move them.

"The haka is based around...basically the power of a speech to bring freedom and liberty to all humankind ...that men were born free and to live to their full potential."

- NZ Herald

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