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Charlotte Amalie
Wednesday, May 29, 2024


Jan. 21, 2002 – The words to "We Shall Overcome" best summed up St. John's Martin Luther King Day observance held Monday in Cruz Bay Park.
"We'll walk hand in hand … Black and white together," sang the several dozen people remaining as the program neared its end.
The audience, which early in the program hit about 75 people, came in all shades from black to white and in between, and many clasped hands as they sang the traditional civil rights song. "It was very inspiring. I felt his spirit here," St. John resident Rosie Koonce said, referring to the slain civil rights leader whose birthday is a national holiday.
The observances on St. John began with a small ceremony in Coral Bay, followed by a motorcade to Cruz Bay and then a march from the public tennis courts to Cruz Bay Park.
The rat-a-tat from the marching St. Thomas Seventh-day Adventist Church Drum Corps heralded the marchers' arrival at the park.
The park program featured readings by school children from several of King's speeches, followed by reflections on each particular speech and prayers by community members.
Robert O'Connor Jr., schmoozing after the program with Sen. Almando "Rocky" Liburd, said he attended the event because he supports the things King stood for. "We need to continue to follow in his footsteps," O'Connor said.
He was among several who said King's message of peace appears lost on St. John. "Love and consideration are being replaced by violence," he said.
Alecia Wells, reflecting on King's 1963 "Strength to Love" speech, said that outsiders come to St. John expecting to buy their way in, or seeking to change it into the place they left. "They best go back," she said.
Others spoke of the economic disparity among St. John residents. The Rev. Bruce Graham, pastor at the Seventh-day Adventist Church, said needy children go hungry and without medical care, while the more wealthy have both.
"The gap is widening," Liburd added.
The event was organized by clergy from various St. John churches. Several in addition to Graham had their say during the program.
The Rev. Philip Schulman, pastor of the St. John Unitarian Universalist Church, quoted King in his remarks: "We need to find a way to live together in peace and justice, or we will perish as fools."
The event ended with a community luncheon, held under showery skies in Cruz Bay Park.
"One of the most unifying acts of oneness is breaking bread together," explained Alan Smith, who served as master of ceremonies.

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