Dear Editor,

This is an open letter to residents about the beauty of St. Thomas.

Architecturally marvelous! The Danish archways are jaw dropping. Every snapshot is full of vigorous colors, phenomenal landscapes, and hidden treasures of wildlife amongst the trees. Through my creatively-sensitive goggles, I see this beautiful land scarred with ghostlike recollections of slavery. The conscious vacationers will notice. Others still choose to be blind to all the bloodshed that still feeds the social root system of this country.

Fresh off the plane, I immediately noticed the air. I don’t want to use the word “cleaner” because it might not be so, but it definitely put me in the mindset that the air was just “better.”

It was energizing. I have officially given up cigarettes, and this is documentation to prove that there could be one experience that shapes your life or gives you insight as to where it should be. And I want to live. I want to breathe. I want to sail. I want to dance! I want my sons to run their fingers through my beard and call me “old man.” Life is so amazing and precious. The stones we possess and attest value to, hold nothing of value to the air we breathe and the lungs that cycle it throughout our existence. I want to expand my energy as far as I can. Who can I touch? Who can I breathe life into? I want to inspire the person next to me everywhere I go. Everywhere I sit. Everywhere I get coffee.

Good morning! Afternoon! Good night! All greetings … all endearing gestures of recognition. Undeniably the most significant lesson learned for me. No matter the time of day … no matter the weather ... or which way the wind blows … we all deserve to be greeted … adored … put on a pedestal … acknowledged as royalty … bowed to. The people on the island have this “understanding” of themselves as a whole that is inspirational to a city slicker like me. It was all too common to see handshakes pulled into hugs, head nods of respect and genuine smiles. Gas stations and shops that look like they would be teeming with the lowly, the addicts, the pushers, gave off a feeling of responsibility to love. MORNING MORNING! Shame on those who don’t participate in the blessing of speaking to the next … your brother … your sister.

As I tap the keys and scan through my amazing recent experience and tap into my senses, I feel my being becoming one with the wind, the ocean, the trees, the wildlife as the people of St. Thomas have mastered. I have been freed as if I personally rang that Liberty Bell (which was really overshadowed by the hamburger stand that stood across the street)

I have been shackled in my mind. I have been chained to the responsibilities of others. I have been confined to ideology, and I have been held against my will from my own cultural understanding. Now is freedom. Now my pursuit becomes unstoppable. Now my strength is renewed.

— Leon Fletcher Sr. resides in Atlanta and recently visited St. Thomas.