Jan. 19, 2004 – Nyisha Lewis, 10, understands very well Martin Luther King Jr.'s message about equality. "I go to school with other children not the same color as me," the black fifth grader at Pine Peace School said.
Nyisha and about a hundred other children and adults gathered Monday in Cruz Bay Park to honor King as the nation celebrated his birthday.
The event, sponsored by the St. John Interfaith Martin Luther King Jr. Day Committee, included a community luncheon in the park, music, skits by Pine Peace students, presentations by other students, prayers and remarks by several members of the community.
V.I. National Park Superintendent Art Frederick served earlier in his National Park Service career as assistant superintendent at the Martin Luther King Jr. National Historic Site in Atlanta, King's birthplace. "My barber was a fellow who grew up with Martin Luther King," he said, noting that his barber also cut King's hair.
Frederick said he learned that King was an ordinary man who stepped up when confronted with civil rights issues. "He didn't have to come to the aid of Rosa Parks. He could have said it was not my problem," Frederick said, ticking off a list of events in which King made a difference.
Frederick urged the children in the Cruz Bay Park audience to do the same. He asked them to spend the next two weeks being kind in the St. John community. And when those two weeks are up, he said, they should continue. "Don't sit aside and say it's someone else's problem," he said.
While many of the children listened intently, others were more interested in eating cupcakes, drinking sodas and putting shoes on chairs so no one else would take their seats while they wandered about.
St. John resident Kim Lyons spoke about the vast changes that have come to the island since she was a child. When she was growing up, everyone knew nearly every one else she said, but today, her neighbor might hail from Kansas or be a tourist on vacation.
Speaking on King's call for people to love their enemies, Lyons said she interpreted that as meaning to love all humanity. Taking it a step further, she said that when encountering a tourist driving on the wrong side of the road, a grouchy ticket taker on the ferry or someone who cuts in front of you getting on the barge, show them some love. "At the very least we can try," she said.
Sen. Shawn-Michael Malone spoke about the lack of community outcry over the fact that 42 persons were killed in the Virgin Islands last year. He urged everyone to take King's words to heart.
Others acknowledged the entire country still has a way to go. "We're still striving for peace," St. John resident Jane Wing said.
Share your reaction to this news with other Source readers. Please include headline, your name, and the city and state/country or island where you reside.
Publisher's note : Like the St. John Source now? Find out how you can love us twice as much — and show your support for the islands' free and independent news voice … click here.