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St. Johnians Turn Out to Celebrate King's Life

Jan. 17, 2005 –– The St. John community came together Monday in Cruz Bay Park to remember the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. in celebration of his birthday.
"It was a dream of Martin's that everyone come together regardless of race, ethnicity or ideology," the Rev. Charles Crespo said, as he led dozens of people gathered for the St. John Interfaith Coalition-sponsored event in singing "We Shall Overcome."
A community buffet luncheon in the park followed the program.
The day started out with a program at Guy Benjamin School in Coral Bay. A motorcade from Coral Bay to Cruz Bay followed.
The Cruz Bay program focused on readings of King's speeches followed by reflections on his words by community members. Several people tied their reflections to situations on St. John.
St. John businesswoman Lorelei Monsanto spoke about the changes happening across the island.
"Growth is happening if we like it or not," she said.
She called on businesses that are part of that growth to hire local residents, and she urged those looking for jobs to prepare themselves for those jobs.
Sen. Craig Barshinger called the growth "almost dizzy" and said St. John in 25 years will be far different from St. John today.
He spoke of the common ground shared by St. John residents.
"All of us are the same," he said.
A reading by a group of Julius E. Sprauve School ninth graders discussed what would happen if early Virgin Islands residents didn't have a dream. They spoke about the slaves that revolted on St. John in 1733, those who fomented the 1848 rebellion on St. Croix that led to emancipation and the late Sen. Julius E. Sprauve, who made land affordable to the "St. John masses," among others.
"We must continue to dream," they said in unison.
Erica McDonald, administrator at Myrah Keating Smith Community Health Center, noted that King lived in one of the most challenging and controversial times in the nation's history. She urged those in the audience to follow his example and not take the easy way out.
"Will you be silent in the face of someone else's injustice regardless of color?" she said.
Art Frederick, superintendent at V.I. National Park, said that he is working to improve relations between the park and the St. John community.
"We have a lot of conflict in the community," he said.
He also announced that Ralph David Abernathy III, son of the civil rights leader, will be on St. John for the park's annual Folklife Festival. It will be held Feb. 22 through 24.
The program also included several musical numbers including a rousing rendition of "Down by the Riverside" by Spencer and the Spencerettes. Spencer is Spencer Stapleton, who owns Spencer's Car Rental in Cruz Bay.

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