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HomeNewsLocal newsV.I.’s Role in MLK Holiday Part of St. John King Day Address

V.I.’s Role in MLK Holiday Part of St. John King Day Address

The guest speaker at Monday’s Martin Luther King’s Day event on St. John spoke about the ways that Virgin Islanders stood up for civil rights and justice in the 1940s, 50s, and 60s.

Had King — a prominent U.S. civil rights leader — lived to see his birthday on Jan 15, 2024, he would have been 95 years old. But he died from a sniper’s bullet in Memphis in 1968 at age 39.

Through the efforts of King’s widow and many supporters, his birthday became a national holiday in 1986.

The remarks of keynote speaker Glen “Kwabena” Davis were part of a public ceremony filled with music and song, and a recitation of King’s life and accomplishments. Local pastors and the Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority – Sigma Theta Omega Chapter served as the event organizers.

Glen “Kwabena” Davis urged the audience to take action, adding MLK said, “No one is really alive until they know what they‘ll die for.” (Source photo by Amy H. Roberts)

Ronald Lee from Our Lady of Mt. Carmel Church served as the announcer.

Pan player and event co-host Ronald Lee Jr, sent the audience into a state of quiet bliss with his music. (Source photo by Amy H. Roberts)

Despite the gloomy skies, residents and visitors packed themselves into seats beneath a tent in Franklin Powell Park. Umbrellas sprang up among those standing against some passing showers.

Members of the audience gather Monday rain morning in Cruz Bay for the annual MLK event cosponsored by AKA. (Source photo by Amy H. Roberts)

“As we celebrate Martin Luther King Jr., it was the Virgin Islands who was the very first under the U.S. flag to initiate (sic) hard tasks and make Martin Luther King’s legacy placed into a holiday,” said Davis. It was a step, he said, that was taken years before President Ronald Regan signed legislation in 1983 calling for a national observance of the January holiday.

Father Anthony Abraham delivers the invocation in the rain, calling it a blessing from God. (Source photo by Amy H. Roberts)

Sorority chapter vice president Julice Holder recited the story of King’s life and contributions. She also mentioned Monday’s meaning for her organization.

“Let us answer Dr.King’s call to serve,” Holder urged the audience. (Source photo by Amy H. Roberts)

“Today is our 116th year from the day that AKA was founded back in 1908, and we stand as a pillar of service,” Holder said as part of her speech and again as the event came to an end.

Acts of service promoting justice and helping the poor and disadvantaged are encouraged as part of the day’s observance.

“You too can find something to do to be of service. You can clean up a public space, mentor a young person, volunteer somewhere, help those that are in need of shelter,” Holder told the crowd.

But the keynote speaker on Monday called on the crowd to replace a day of volunteer service with a long-term commitment to advocacy. “This is why Martin Luther King said, ‘The silence of the good people is more dangerous than the brutality of the bad people,’” Davis said.

Calliope Woods, 3, told her mother, Veronica that she learned in school that MLK wanted “people to be kind to each other, and he didn’t care about the color of their skin.” (Source photo by Amy H. Roberts)

He also admonished those with children and grandchildren to make them aware of King’s legacy and encourage them to work for justice and equality.

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