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Charlotte Amalie
Thursday, May 30, 2024


Jan. 21, 2002 – The words of "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 this traditional civil rights song.
"It was very inspiring. I felt his spirit here," said St. John resident Rosie Koonce.
The Martin Luther King observance began with a small ceremony in Coral Bay. A motorcade to Cruz Bay and a march from the public tennis courts to Cruz Bay Park followed.
The rat-a-tat from the marching St. Thomas Seventh-day Adventist Church Drum Corps heralded their arrival at the park.
The observance featured readings by school children from several of King's speeches followed by reflections and prayers on that particular speech by community members.
Robert O'Connor Jr., schmoozing after the program with Sen. Almando "Rocky" Liburd, said the he attended the event because he supported the things King stood for.
"We need to continue to follow in his footsteps," O'Connor said. O'Connor and others bemoaned the fact that King's message of peace is lost in St. John.
"Love and consideration are being replaced by violence," O'Connor said. Alecia Wells, reflecting on King's 1963 "Strength to Love" speech, said that people 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 about the disparity among St. John's residents. The Rev. Bruce Graham, who shepherds the flock at the Seventh-day Adventist Church, said children go hungry and without medical care, while the more wealthy have both.
"The gap is widening," Liburd added.
The event was organized by pastors from most of the island's churches. Several had their say during the program.
The Rev. Philip Schulman, pastor at 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," he said.
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," said Alan Smith, who served as master of ceremonies.

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