Jan. 18, 2005 – It was a celebration of community coming together. The atmosphere was festive as a group of over 300 school children, labor leaders and supporters united at a march and rally to honor the memory of slain civil rights leader Martin Luther King, Jr.
The event marked the 11th annual rally organized by the Central Labor Council. The marchers gathered at the United Shopping Plaza in Sion Farm. School children, many dressed in colors representing their school and over 12 other groups, including sororities, fraternities, civic groups, ROTC and school band drummers wound their way down Centerline Road, past the Sunny Isles shopping to the Islands Center for Performing Arts where a short rally would take place.
One group of students wore plastic tops hats, maybe left over from a New Year's Eve celebration, with happy birthday stickers place around the crown. Monday was the federal holiday that marked the 75th anniversary of King's birth. King was born on Jan 15, 1929. Many of the marchers held signs proclaiming peace and love on posters of the man many called the King of Peace. One of the smallest marchers, three and one-half year old Akeem Richardson skipped and marched the entire route. Many marchers wore CLC designed T-shirts to commemorate the day, with the image of King on the front and the words "Injustice Anywhere is Injustice Everywhere" emblazoned on the back.
At the rally Sen. Terrence "Positive" Nelson made brief remarks to the crowd. Nelson has been a strong supporter of the labor unions and formed his own labor union, Our Virgin Islands Labor Union. Nelson, a member of the majority, chairs the Labor Committee in the Senate. "It is important that you live the dream," Nelson told the crowd. "Respect each other. All levels of workers are important. Bring the dream alive."
Luis "Tito" Morales, United Steelworkers Union president, called for Gov. Charles W. Turnbull to address the needs of workers in the Virgin Islands. On his list of demands for the governor were decent wages for teachers, pay-negotiated union wages, establish a wage board and increase the minimum wage. Morales also urged the governor to "treat all islands fairly. This Virgin Islands cannot prosper if St. Croix is not economically sound," said Morales.
Morales also challenged Cecil Benjamin, commissioner of labor, to "get the workers back to work at Hovensa." Over 50 employees were laid off early in December when a subcontractors' contract was terminated. (See "Workers Protest Termination at Hovensa").
Participating in the march and rally were students from the Eulalie Rivera Professional Development School, Elena Christian Junior High, Pearl B. Larsen Elementary, Juanita Gardine Elementary, the St. Croix Christian Academy, St. Mary's School, St. Joseph's Schoool and the St. Croix Central High School Junior ROTC. Other groups included Hispanos Unidos, Alpha Kappa Alpha, Alpha Phi Alpha and Omega Psi Phi.
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