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MARTIN LUTHER KING, Jr: ‘In Jamaica I feel like a human being’

The Rev Dr Martin Luther King delivering the sermon at a valedictory service at the University of the West Indies in June 1965. Others on platform (from left) are the Rev John Hoad, the Rev Florice Russell and the Rev P.R. Hazell.

Reverend Dr Martin Luther King Jr had a vision of a society in which race was not an issue in how people were treated or in how they were allowed to live their lives.

The efforts of Dr King and those like him have, in fact, changed the world, for the better, in noticeable ways. His vision has made the world a more equal place, if not an equal one, and it has helped to ensure that minorities have a voice.

Reverend Dr Martin Luther King Jr, visited Jamaica in June 1965 to deliver the sermon at the University of the West Indies’ valedictory service. Dr King’s speech was entitled, “Facing the Challenge of a New Age.”

He spoke about the passing of an old colonial order, the need for a worldwide brotherhood, the need to fight any kind of injustice with love and the need for us to strive to be the best we can be at whatever we chose to do in our lives.

Following the service, Dr King attended a dinner at Kings House hosted by then Governor-General Sir Clifford Campbell and Lady Campbell. The next day, at a packed civic reception at the National Arena, Dr King was given the Keys to the City of Kingston after delivering another stirring 40-plus-minute address.

He began by saying that he had never felt more at home anywhere else in the world adding, ‘In Jamaica I feel like a human being.’ He said he was proud to be among his ‘brothers and sisters on this wonderful island.’

Following that address, Dr. King attended a reception at the home of the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) director and then visited the grave of National Hero Marcus Garvey to lay a wreath out of respect for a man he said gave negroes in the United States a sense of dignity, a ‘sense of personhood, a sense of manhood, a sense of somebodiness.’

Dr King saw the freedom he was fighting for in the United States in action in Jamaica, a politically independent majority black country. He was so comfortable in Jamaica that he returned in 1967 where he completed the manuscript which became his most important book: Where Do We Go From Here.

He chose Jamaica, not only because it provided an opportunity to reflect without distractions, but because his spirit and vision were inspired by ‘this independent black country’.

This interlude of reflection came at a critical point in the struggle, both in terms of the direction of the civil rights movement and in his own thinking and vision which had broadened from civil rights in the United States to human rights for mankind.

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