Open Forum: Senator Jackson Honors Legacy of Martin Luther King Jr.

Black American civil rights leader Martin Luther King Jr. addresses crowds during the March on Washington at the Lincoln Memorial, Washington, D.C., where he gave his “I Have A Dream” speech.

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“We in the territory have the proud distinction of being in the forefront of formally recognizing his birthday,” Sen. Jackson, chair of the Committee on Culture and Planning, said. “It is an honor we must not take lightly, as the relevance of his message then continues to ring true today. Thanks to all of the organizations and individuals in our community who join in helping us remember his personal sacrifice as well as that of countless others made in promoting human rights and justice.”

In February of 1970, the Virgin Islands made history by becoming the first government under the United States flag to celebrate the birthday of Dr. King with the 8th Legislature’s passage of Bill No. 4293. In the bill, which was signed into law by Gov. Melvin Evans, senators recognized the slain civil rights leader as a symbol of freedom and faith.

The bill states: “The life, works and philosophy of Dr. King brings to Americans and Virgin Islanders the hope and dream that what he stood for will one day become a reality. All Virgin Islanders and particularly our youth may take comfort and gain encouragement from the life of this great apostle of nonviolence who sought through constructive measures justice and liberty for all mankind. We Virgin Islanders have long prided ourselves in having attained the liberty, justice and brotherhood for which Martin Luther King gave his life. Therefore, let us annually, on January 15, commemorate Dr. King and examine our hearts to determine that we are honoring the dream and fulfilling the vision of brotherhood, justice and individual liberty that gave true purpose to the life and works of Martin Luther King.”

It was not until thirteen years later, in 1983, that Dr. Martin Luther King Day became a national holiday. Born on Jan. 15, 1929, Dr. King was at the forefront of the Montgomery, Alabama, bus boycott and several peaceful demonstrations in the 1950s and 1960s to protest the unfair treatment of African Americans. His leadership and that of others is credited with advancing the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and Voting Rights Act of 1965, which were passed under a climate of public broadcasts of nonviolent protesters being attacked with fire hoses and dogs.

Dr. King is most known for his famous “I Have a Dream” speech delivered to an audience of over 250,000 persons at the Capitol Mall in Washington, D.C. He won the Nobel Peace Prize in 1964, and was assassinated four years later.

“We give thanks for the life and contributions of such a man,” Jackson said. “May his words and actions continue to inspire us to make significant changes to improve our territory for the benefit of all of us.”

Senator Myron D. Jackson, member of the 33rd Virgin Islands Legislature