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Residents and Visitors Celebrate Martin Luther King, Share Memories

Jan. 15, 2007 — About 100 members of the diverse St. John community came together Monday in Cruz Bay Park to remember the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. on his 78th birthday.
"We shall overcome," they sang as the annual program came to a close. The event drew both residents and visitors.
Boston resident Paula Rayman, who was staying at Maho Bay Camps, said she and her family were looking for a Martin Luther King Day event to attend.
"He was a spiritual inspiration for all of us," she said. "May his dream live on."
St. John resident Rita Peltier said she attends the event every year.
"I think what Martin Luther King did was great," she said.
The event included musical performances, readings of King's words by school children and a community luncheon in the park. Rudolph "Pimpi" Thomas got a rousing round of applause for his rendition of King's "I Have a Dream" speech.
"Free at last, free at last!" he proclaimed. "Thank God almighty we are free at last!"
St. Thomas resident Millicent Carpenter spoke about events that shaped her later involvement in the Congress of Racial Equality (CORE).
As a black child growing up in Providence, R.I., she didn't encounter prejudice until she reached the fourth grade, Carpenter said. She and her friends had to walk past a mostly white Catholic school, where the students took delight in yelling the N-word at her.
"My mother said, 'Don't worry, Mel, we're going to pray for them,'" Carpenter said.
Her father, however, had different ideas — he taught her how to fight with her fists. The next time the white kids gave her a problem, Carpenter said, she belted them.
"I had a good fight that day," she said. "I felt like Joe Louis."
Later, while on vacation at Martha's Vineyard from her nursing job in Boston, she first met King. She said that friends caught an abundance of fish, so she went up and down the street inviting people to a dinner.
"In one house were Martin Luther King and his wife, Coretta," Carpenter said. "They came and we had a wonderful time."
Back in Boston, she got involved with CORE. As the group worked on education issues, Carpenter called King. The legendary civil rights leader was on hand when the group pulled 10,000 children out of school to protest poor education conditions, Carpenter said.
St. John resident Alan Smith said he was heartened to see that the opportunities for people to walk hand in hand are increasing, but noted there is still work to be done.
"There is but one race, the human race," he said.
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