A church service, a march and official ceremonies marked the observance of the birthday of slain civil rights leader Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. on Monday. While for the first time in United States history all 50 states marked the national holiday, the territory can boast that it was the first to make the annual observance a holiday.
If King were alive, he would be 71 years old.
The official proceedings led by Gov. Charles Turnbull began early in the morning with a church service at the Wesley Methodist Church at Rothschild Francis "Market" Square followed by a march up Main Street to Emancipation Garden where a two-hour public ceremony was held under bright sunny skies.
Both the church service and the ceremony were marked by a number of
musical selections by the territory’s youth choirs.
At Emancipation Garden, the biggest crowd pleaser appeared to be a pantomime group, "God’s Chosen Vessels," of the Faith Christian Fellowship Church.
Another hit was the reading of Dr. King’s famous, "I Have a Dream speech," by Jhade Pilgrim, a student of the Addelita Cancryn Junior High School. She delivered the speech both at the church service and in the Emancipation Garden to the delight of the 200 or more people gathered to witness the ceremonies.
The diverse crowd included residents and visitors alike. Remarks on the King legacy were delivered by former Senate President Elmo Roebuck, political scientist Malik Sekou and Gov. Turnbull who presented the keynote address.
Roebuck said King’s message was one of hope that could only be expressed by someone who genuinely loved and cared for his fellow man.
"This was evident in his constant call for us to love those who hate us," Roebuck said. Therefore, "it is most fitting that the residents of the islands should pledge to re-ignite the dream of a day when all God’s children, black and white, Jews and Gentiles, Protestants and Catholics, born here and not born here, will be able to join hands and shout, free at last, free at last, thank God Almighty, we are free at last."
Turnbull recalled the attributes of Dr. King saying that the civil rights leader stood for what was right. "He preached non-violence and he fought injustice with his charisma and integrity."
Turnbull said were King alive today, the violence in the islands "would sadden him." There is a need to "talk to the young people and encourage them to stay away from drugs and violence…steer them in the right direction," the governor said. The message of Martin Luther King will always be one of unity and justice and caring for each other, the chief executive added.
Among the dignitaries in attendance: the sole representative of the Legislature, Sen. Lorraine Berry; special assistant to the governor James O’Bryan; Assistant Police Commissioner Bruce Hamlin; members of the governor’s Cabinet and executive staff; and St. Thomas Administrator Louis Hill. Retired educator Ida White served as mistress of ceremonies.
The 2000 celebration of Dr. King’s birthday in the Virgin Islands took on the theme, "Remember! Celebrate! Act! A Day On, Not A Day Off!"


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here