Dr Martin Luther King, Jr is a global icon and his life and work still mean a lot to people everywhere. As many of you know, Dr King visited Jamaica in 1965. The purpose of his visit was to deliver the valedictory address at The University of the West Indies, Mona. Below is an account from The Gleaner‘s Pieces of the Past series, by Dr Rebecca Tortello:
That Sunday evening at the UWI Mona campus, the 400 plus graduates donned their traditional caps and red gowns and filed not into the chapel where the valedictory services are traditionally held, but into Assembly Hall in order to accommodate the large audience generated by DrKing’s appearance. As Dr Anthony Allen remembers today, “it was a packed house and Dr King was very well received by all present, especially the students”.
Keith Gardener, then Director of Sports at the UWI, remembers feeling part of “a warm gathering that was not limited to students and UWI personnel.”
Dr King’s speech was entitled “Facing the Challenge of a New Age” and he spoke about the passing of an old colonial order, the need for a worldwide brotherhood given that we are all increasingly interdependent, the need to fight any kind of injustice with love and the need for us all to strive to be the best we can be at whatever we chose to do in our lives. When asked what they remembered about the sermon specifically, Allen, Gardner and Bryan each quoted the following segment:
“If it falls to our luck to be street-sweepers, sweep the streets like Raphael painted pictures, like Michaelangelo carved marble, like Shakespeare wrote poetry, and like Beethoven composed music. Sweep the streets so well that all the hosts of heaven and earth would have to pause and say ‘Here lived a great street sweeper.”
“The time is always right to do right,” Dr King exhorted, noting that “whenever a new nation comes into history, it brings with it new challenges and new responsibilities. The great challenge facing all of us today — is to somehow stand before the opportunities of the moment and face the challenges of the hour with creativity and with commitment and with determination.”
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, he delivered a stirring 40-minute address at a packed civic reception at the National Arena, after which he was given the Keys to the City of Kingston. The following day, he visited the grave of National Hero Marcus Garvey to lay a wreath out of respect for a man he said, gave Negroes in the US a sense of dignity,.. (Read more)
Here are some of the highlights of Dr King’s three-day visit, in photos: