Jan. 14, 2003 — An Emancipation Garden program, libation ceremonies, poetry readings, a special Hebrew Shabbat service honoring academic excellence and a public "speakout" advocating peace are just some of the activities planned for Martin Luther King Jr. Day on St. Thomas.
On Monday, the actual holiday, students from various schools in the St. Thomas-St. John district will take part in a program from 10 a.m. to noon in Emancipation Garden. The public is invited to attend the program, which will include "recitations, musical selections and other tributes in honor of Dr. Martin Luther King," according to a release from the district school superintendent's office.
Some of the observances held in honor of the late civil rights leader have become traditions over the course of 15 years, said Rabbi Arthur Starr, leader of the Hebrew Congregation of St. Thomas.
That's about how long the synagogue has recognized groups of students from local public and private schools whose lives, they say, exemplify the principals advanced by Dr. King. During an Erev Shabbat service on Jan. 16 at 6:30 p.m., eight students, nominated by their principals and guidance counselors, will be formally recognized. The students are: Luanda Casimir of St. Thomas' Seventh Day Adventist School; Adrian Hamilton from Wesleyan Academy; Marsha Howe, a student at Sts. Peter and Paul School; Minal Sampat of All Saints Cathedral School; David Ramnarine of the Ivanna Eudora Kean High School; Rebecca Smock from Antilles School; and Michael Toussaint of the Charlotte Amalie High School.
Attorney Karen Hastie Williams, the daughter of former Governor William Hastie, will be the featured speaker at that event.
In spite of the fact that Dr. King was a prominent Baptist minister, Rabbi Starr said it was very appropriate for the Hebrew congregation to honor him.
"Martin Luther King is an icon, a hero, a symbol to people of all faiths and people of no faiths. What he stood for came out of his own personal, religious convictions as a devout Christian, no question about that, but what he said resonates in my heart and in my ears. To this day I can't read the 'I Have a Dream' speech without crying," the rabbi said.
Dr. King also advocated world peace and was well known for his opposition to the war in Vietnam. Over at Ital Ase Botanicals & Wedding Services, proprietor Mariel Blake said her King holiday theme called for a prayer and peace rally. "We wanted to focus on peace and the fact that his life was really talking about finding nonviolent ways to understand one another and get along with one another," she said Monday. "More so than ever, now seems like a really good time that we should be focusing on peace and ways we can live together despite our differences."
On Jan. 19, Ital Ase is hosting its prayer and peace rally, starting with an African-inspired libation ceremony and poetry reading. "We'd also like to have several people from the community come up and speak on the subject of peace. We've invited the Rock Lounge folks to come and present some pieces. We have other artists and elders we've invited to come and speak on the subject. And we also invited anyone who is present, if they are feeling the spirit and if they feel the need to say something, then this is a forum for us to speak," she said.
Blake said she would especially encourage adults in their 20s and 30s to express their ideas, describing them as the generation poised to lead the Virgin Islands as time goes by.
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