April 7, 2005 – Speaker after speaker Thursday at Pier 69 in Frederiksted praised Gov. Cyril Emmanuel King on what would have been his 84th birthday. King died of cancer in 1978 just shy of completing his first term.
The afternoon culminated with a rare public appearance by former Gov. Juan F. Luis who said if it had not been for King, he would never have been in political office. He said he only had one goal when he took over as governor and that was to continue King's policies.
The event, attended by about 40 people, was not billed just as commemoration to King, but also to mark the resurgence of the Independent Citizens Movement Party.
King started the party right after the 1966 elections. According to one of the speakers, Sen. Liston Davis, King started the party to destroy the old political machine that awarded the few at great cost to the many.
Senate President Lorraine Berry, a Democrat, delivered a speech praising King, but not specifically praising the party. She recounted a story of how when she was president of the PTA, King took time to come to one of her meetings.
Terrence "Positive" Nelson presented even a more telling portrait of King. He said King used to often take a shortcut through Water Gut and would sometimes stop and talk to Nelson and other youngsters. Nelson said the interest in their lives by the governor profoundly affected them.
All the speakers emphasized King's simplicity. They talked about how he liked to take walks around town, just hang out with residents and how he never thought about having a body guard.
Berry added that she never sees the need for a bodyguard, either. She said, "I don't do anything to hurt anyone. Why would anyone do anything to hurt me?"
Luis' speech drew applause both for its praise of King and for its political points. Although he never mentioned Gov. Charles Turnbull by name, his remarks appeared to be aimed at Turnbull.
He said some leaders didn't know the power they had, and those that did know they had power did not know how to use it. He also said that a working relationship needed to be developed between the governor and the Delegate to Congress, and between the governor and the Senate.
Turnbull is at odds with Delegate Donna Christensen over the need for a chief financial officer for the Virgins Islands. He has also vetoed most of the bills passed by the Senate in the last year. Luis' recurring theme was, "We can't just be talkers, we have to be doers."
Former Sen. Almando "Rocky" Liburd also spoke. He lost his at-large seat to Sen. Craig Barshinger, who was in the audience. One of the speakers commented that Barshinger would have a fight on his hands next election. Sen. Louis Hill was also in the audience.
Another speaker was former Sen. Virdin Brown. He recounted the close friendship that King had with U.S. Sen. Hubert Humphrey.
Brown also made some conjectures about King. He said, "If he were alive today, he would not support the separatist movement or a CFO."
Brown ran in the first election in which the ICM was involved. It was 1968, and he did not win a seat. Brown won a seat in 1972. Two years later King became a senator.
Davis also pointed to the early influence that King had on him. Davis said he was just a radical speaking on the streets when King approached him about running as an ICM candidate.
Arthur Joseph, chairman of the party, ended the event by reading from the preamble to the ICM's platform. It starts, "We, the people of the Independent Citizens movement, have banded together to offer the voters of the Virgin Islands an alternative: a party dedicated to promoting the political, social and economic well-being of all our people."
Presenting messages via videos to the audience were ICM party members Sens. Nelson and Usie Richards.
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