Key West activist JT Thompson in the 1990s was looking for a way to unite the people of Key West, something simple enough to be understood with a quick glance. He came up with “One Human Family” and started giving out free bumper stickers on the first day of the new millennium.
On Oct. 17, 2000, the Key West City Commission unanimously adopted “One Human Family” as Key West’s philosophy. The resolution urged the island community to move beyond “the artificial limitations of racism, nationalism, sexism, classism, monotheism, prejudice, homophobia and every other illusion used to separate us from all being equal.” Key West was the first city ever to declare that all people are entitled to equal rights, dignity and respect.
Since then, OHF has been embraced by businesses, nonprofits, schools, churches and other groups across the country.
In 2015, President Obama said: “We must find a way to reconcile our ever-shrinking world with its ever-growing diversity. We must find a way to live together as one human family.”
In 2016, the Dalai Lama wrote: “We are all members of one human family. I think that this is very important, especially now that the world is becoming smaller and smaller.”
Local personalities have had plenty to say about the island’s official motto:
“I was honored to be the original sponsor to adopt ‘One Human Family’ as the official philosophy of Key West. It is a philosophy that I practice daily.” — Commissioner (and former mayor) Jimmy Weekley
“I strive to live my life contributing to the betterment of our One Human Family. This community attitude is the single most important factor that drew me to Key West.” — Mayor Teri Johnston
“One Human Family is an idea whose time has come. I try to make loving each other as equals the guiding principle in my life, and teach it to my children and grandchildren.” — Commissioner Clayton Lopez
“One Human Family says that we are all a part of each other. We try to not use ‘us vs. them’ and focus on ‘us,’ because there is no ‘them.’ I am proud to live in a city where unity and equality are practiced.” — Susan Kent
“One Human Family has given me a purpose to live my life with compassion and love for my fellow humans.” — C.W. Colt
“Millions of messages are aimed at the bad side of human nature: Fight your enemy, step on the back of the other guy. … How reassuring it is to know that there are millions of positive messages out there reminding everyone that we’re all one family.” — Matthew Helmerich
“One Human Family is ultimately a message that can unite people for world peace.” — 2004 Fantasy Fest Queen Ginger King
The city’s official motto was again the subject of a unanimous City Commission decision on Sept. 16, 2020, when lawmakers voted to name the portico and the bandstand in Bayview Park. The small portico was built in 1924 by the United Daughters of the Confederacy to honor Confederate soldiers. It was used for Ku Klux Klan induction ceremonies from the 1920s to the 1990s.
City Commissioner Sam Kaufman proposed naming the portico and bandstand together as the “One Human Family Pavilion.” Kaufman said, “Now the time is right. There is a higher consciousness in the country … and I see this as unifying rather than divisive. We must always remember our history to be vigilant against all forms of hate. This is a positive step.” The larger bandstand at the park was built in 1990, but never given a formal name.
City Commissioner Mary Lou Hoover said the pavilion could be “a new field trip for school kids, because we do have some dark parts of our history that cannot be ignored.” JT Thompson added “we are not erasing history in any way, but rather adding a positive statement about who we are today.” The One Human Family Pavilion is adjacent to Bayview Park’s military memorials that include a large statue dedicated to Black soldiers who fought for the Union in the Civil War as well as a memorial honoring Vietnam veterans.
In 20 years, One Human Family has distributed more than 3.4 million free stickers and 325,000 free wristbands globally. The OHF Foundation is a non-profit composed of unpaid volunteers. All donations are reinvested in stickers and wristbands. They’re available for free at the Key West Business Guild, 808 Duval St.
What: One Human Family Pavilion ribbon-cutting and naming ceremony
When: 5 p.m. Saturday, Oct. 17
Where: Bayview Park, Key West
Note: This is NOT a political event. Please leave political materials at home.
Free stickers and wristbands will be provided.