REV. DR. Martin Luther King Jr. would have been 77 years old this week
had he lived. Since 1986, Americans have celebrated the anniversary of
his birth with a national holiday. I write to reflect on Dr. King's
legacy from a Jamaican point of view.
Dr. King visited Jamaica in 1965, making speaking appearances at UWI's
valedictory service and to an open audience at the National Stadium.
During his visit, he laid a wreath at the grave of Marcus Garvey. In
laying this wreath, Dr. King paid homage to Garvey's role in the
struggle for dignity in America.
When you consider the strains on his time at the height of the Civil
Rights Movement in 1965, you truly begin to appreciate Dr. King's visit
to Jamaica. For our part * and of this I am especially proud * Jamaica
left an indelible impression on Dr. King.
FELT AT HOME
So much so that Dr. King remarked that he had never felt more at home
anywhere else in the world. "In Jamaica", said Dr. King, "I feel like a
human being." (Rebecca Tortello's article on The Gleaner's website is a
useful resource for those interested in reading about King's visit to
All Jamaicans should be proud of the historical link between Dr. King
and Jamaica. More compellingly, however, Jamaicans in the United States
cannot divorce themselves from the debt of gratitude owed to Dr. King.
America's contemporary political and economic landscape that provides
the access to education, jobs and dignity in everyday interactions that
we enjoy are outgrowths of Dr. King's legacy. Failure to acknowledge
this would be to our great shame.
Jamaicans in the homeland owe a less direct debt of gratitude to Dr.
King, although one could use remittances to demonstrate a connection
between the economic opportunities now available to minorities in
America, a consequence of Dr. King's Civil Rights Movement * and
benefits extending to Jamaicans in the homeland.
Taking an even broader view, Jamaica's recognition of Dr. King's legacy
would be consistent with a people identifying with the universal appeal
of the fight against oppression.
But more basically, it is the faith that Dr. King placed in Jamaica as
land of great promise that should resonate in the homeland. In
reflecting on Dr. King's legacy, the call is for Jamaica to recommit to
the spirit that permitted him to look to Jamaica as a model for the
commitment and determination required to overcome the shackles of
Further, the call is to recommit to a standard of brotherhood that
permit Dr. King to still refer to us proudly as "his brothers and
sisters on this wonderful island".
At the height of his struggle, Dr. King gave a special nod to Jamaica.
As we pause to reflect on his life, it is only right that we seek to
conduct ourselves in a way that would honour his towering legacy.
For more info... http://www.jamaica-gleaner.com/pages.../story003.html