• In 2000, Key West artist J.T. Thompson created the "One Human Family" initiative that is spreading around the world. (Photo by Rob O'Neal, Florida Keys News Bureau)


  • By: Carol Shaughnessy
  • June 22, 2016

More than 15 years ago, Key West adopted an official philosophy that told the world what life in the island city was all about: compassion, acceptance and respect for people of all kinds. Today, the message that we believe all people are members of “One Human Family” resonates around the world.

JT One Human Family

Artist JT Thompson developed the “One Human Family” philosophy that expresses Key West’s openhearted attitude of acceptance. (All photos by Rob O’Neal)

Like many big things that come out of Key West, the “One Human Family” movement began in a typically openhearted, grassroots way.

For decades, the island city had been renowned for its residents’ welcoming and accepting attitude toward all people — white, black, gay, straight, rich, poor, young, old, and probably even green with purple spots.

Actually, that attitude has been part of our heritage since the island’s earliest founding. After all, early settlers ranged from Navy sailors to Bahamian fishermen to Cuban cigar-makers — and on an island that didn’t even measure two miles by four miles, they pretty well had to accept each other and get along.

As each new group discovered Key West (among them artists, hippies, the gay community, and visitors from all over the world), they were enveloped into the fold just like previous groups had been.

Strong as it was, that attitude of inclusiveness remained pretty much unstated. That is, until one day in 2000, when local artist and graphic designer J.T. Thompson used his imagination and talent to state it.

One Human Family proclamation

JT displays the proclamation adopting “One Human Family” as the official motto of Key West.

His action seemed simple: he designed a bumper sticker reading “All people are equal members of our ONE HUMAN FAMILY.”

When he started printing them and giving them away, they were snapped up by friends, visitors to Key West and total strangers who spotted them and were captivated by the message they expressed.

In October 2000, the Key West City Commission unanimously adopted “One Human Family” as the island’s official philosophy.

The commission’s proclamation read, in part, “Key West is an enlightened island community that is passionate about all living together as caring, sharing neighbors … We want to share our unique perspective and simple (but true) words of hope, “ONE HUMAN FAMILY,” with our global neighbors, so others can find inspiration to grow beyond the artificial limitations of racism, nationalism, sexism, classism, monotheism, prejudice, homophobia (and every other illusion used to try to separate us from all being equal) …”

Not long after that Monroe County — which encompasses the entire Florida Keys — adopted and embraced the philosophy as well.

Almost as quickly as a YouTube video goes viral, the “One Human Family” message spread around the globe.

Bumper stickers were and are available free to anyone who wants them, with their printing and distribution funded by donations from supporters.

One Human Family rally Key West

JT celebrates the success of the “One Human Family” movement at a rally in Key West.

In 2010, Key West celebrated the 10th anniversary of the city’s proclamation with a harborfront rally supporting equality and inclusiveness.

At that rally, J.T. Thompson announced an awe-inspiring fact: more than 1.25 million “One Human Family” stickers had been distributed in the past 10 years — even to places as far away as New Zealand, Tibet, Scotland and Nigeria.

“Like fingers on a hand, we’re all part of each other as ‘One Human Family’,” he said as supporters cheered and waved rainbow flags. “It’s a worldwide movement … a quiet revolution.”

Today, more than two million stickers have been distributed.

And while this blog was originally posted in 2010, after recent events that brought unspeakable pain and divisiveness, it seems right to dwell on the “One Human Family” message again.

May the quiet revolution that began in Key West continue to grow … until it truly does change the world.

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