Jan. 16, 2006 – With the sun shining brightly overhead, speakers at Monday's Martin Luther King Jr. Day observance talked about the figurative dark cloud that seems to hang over St. John.
"Since we met last year on this day, our beautiful island has seen many changes," St. John resident Kim Lyons told the 100 or so people gathered for the event in Cruz Bay Park.
She and others ticked off the list of specific incidents that include an alleged rape, arson and murder as well as a host of other problems like escalating land costs, lack of affordable housing, an inadequate public education system, and traffic.
St. John resident Theodora Moorehead said that St. John now has two different societies and mourned the loss of the old St. John.
"We didn't have money and weren't concerned about the accumulation of things," she said.
Moorehead, alluding to the enormous prices for St. John real estate, said land is heritage, not a commodity to be sold.
"Now our property goes to the highest bidder," she said.
St. John Administrator Julien Harley noted that although the island had been through tough times, the struggle had caused the residents to come together.
The Rev. Charles Crespo of Our Lady of Mt. Carmel Catholic Church spoke about the plight of the island's Hispanics. He said many, who have lived on St. John only for a few years, pay very high rents to live in tiny rooms added on to houses. He said they often had no plumbing.
The day's program, organized by St. John's Interfaith Coalition, focused on the theme of One Person Making a Difference. The speeches and readings done by adults and school children reflected many of King's messages and honored the late civil rights icon Rosa Parks, both individuals who made a difference.
In a skit written by St. John resident Clarence Cutherbertson, participants reenacted Parks' historic refusal to give up her seat to a white man on a bus in Montgomery, Ala.
Her resistance sparked a 13-month boycott of the city's transportation system, which led to a change in the law that forced blacks to ride at the back of the bus and give up their seats to white people.
"Just imagine if you got on the five o'clock ferry and the captain told you had to give up your seat," St. John resident Alecia M. Wells said.
As residents waited in the park for the event to begin, several chatted about the day's importance.
St. John resident Patrice Harley said that if King was not honored on his birthday, his good deeds would just fade away.
"Young people need to be told over and over," St. John resident Sis Frank said.
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