Hawaii Marks 50 Years of Statehood

Hawaii is marking its entry as the 50th state with a new postage stamp, planning for the islands' future economic development and protests.

State leaders called Friday's events a statehood "commemoration" rather than a "celebration" out of respect to Native Hawaiians and their unresolved claims since the 1893 overthrow of the Hawaiian kingdom.

In Hawaii, the events in remembrance its 1959 admission into the union are light on flag-waving and parades, instead emphasizing preparations for the future. Panel discussions will focus on tourism, alternative energy and Hawaiian rights. Elsewhere, it was being marked as a cause for celebration with one of the more elaborate displays taking place Friday afternoon in New York City's Times Square where dancers dressed in traditional Hawaiian costumes were teaching people how to Hula dance.

The official statehood celebration highlighted Hawaii as a model for diversity while attempting to dispel misconceptions of the islands as an exotic location separate from the rest of the country, The Associated Press reports.

In Washington, President Obama signed a proclamation marking the milestone. The proclamation read, in part, "The aloha spirit of Hawai'i offers hope and opportunity for all Americans."

In Iraq, several Hawai'i-affiliated military units hosted lu'au events in observance of the anniversary.

While Hawai'i's initial acceptance into the union in 1959, and later the 25th anniversary of statehood in 1984, were marked with patriotic pageantry and celebration, yesterday's official anniversary observances were decidedly low-key, an acknowledgement of the differing opinions regarding statehood that have evolved with the rise of the Hawaiian sovereignty movement and allegations that statehood was achieved in violation of United Nations provisions in force in 1959 for non-self-governing territories.

In fact, the most passionate observance of Statehood Day came from Hawaiian activists, reports Honolulu Advertiser.

When Hawaii became America's 50th state in 1959, the area surrounding the palace — the heart of the Hawaiian monarchy — exploded in a celebration of cannon fire, marching bands and a parade. Half a century later, about 1,000 demonstrators who would rather see Hawaii's independence restored are expected to rally outside the Hawaii Convention Center on Friday, where a more subdued commemoration will take place.

"We want to show how U.S. imperialism has spread across the Pacific and across the world," said Lynette Cruz, an organizer of the Hawaiian Independence Action Alliance. "It'll be fun , " informs USA Today.

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