July 21, 2005 – While the community has been shaken recently by a high homicide rate and reports of drug-trafficking, many officials claim to have found hope Thursday, when former acting U.S. Attorney Anthony J. Jenkins was sworn in as the U.S. Attorney for the V.I.
"Our community has some desperate needs," said Michael Thurland, a representative of Delegate Donna Christensen. "There have been violent crimes which have left police searching for answers. There has been the smuggling in of illegal aliens, drugs and weapons fueling an underground economy we can't destroy. We feel that Anthony Jenkins can help with all of this. He has the strength, the faith and the alliances that the delegate feels are essential to help solve these problems."
Thurland's statements were similar to many during the ceremony, as Jenkins received the highest praise from colleagues, friends and family.
"When crime occurs anywhere, a great fracture occurs in the community," said David M. Nissman, former U.S. attorney. "The person who accepts a job like this must be a healer with perseverance because they have to rebuild the entire institution impacted by crime."
"I can't think of anyone more deserving of this honor," Nissman added. "Tony is a man of God and holds this duty close to his heart. He is about service over self, and I believe that this will carry over into everything that he does."
Nissman, who introduced Jenkins during the swearing-in ceremony, reminisced about their long friendship and noted that officials from many government agencies in Washington, D.C., had come to offer support. Nissman said he believed this was a sign of a coalition between the V.I. and the federal government a partnership that will be nurtured by Jenkins in his new post.
As a surprise, Nissman welcomed Jenkins into the Association of Former U.S. Attorneys in the V.I. a new club Nissman recently put together in honor of his friend.
Jenkins became a little teary-eyed as U.S. District Judge Curtis V. Gomez administered the oath, surrounded by Jenkins' wife and two sisters. At the end of the proceedings, Jenkins drew laughs from the crowd as he asked if it was permissible to hug Gomez an action he performed with great joy.
"I want to thank the people of the V.I. for welcoming me with open arms. because this is the first time I've ever had a deep pride in my community, my people of African descent," Jenkins said.
Jenkins, a product of a segregated society in Ocilla, Ga., related his troubles growing up in the South and began to cry as he remembered the message of his mother, Elaine Jenkins, as they struggled with racism.
"I have bad stories of growing up, times where I felt less than a human being because of the color of my skin, times where I realized that I was carrying the burden of prejudice," Jenkins said. "People ask me how I can still love humanity coming from that kind of past . It's because I had a mother who told me that I must judge a human being by what is in his or her heart."
Jenkins said that people in his past didn't always do that for him. When working in the cotton fields of Ocilla as a boy, Jenkins was subject to something called a "niggerhook," a hook-and-dipper device set up next to water fountains for blacks to drink from on hot days. "I was 10 years old when I realized that my innocence was lost. I had no choice in being born black, but I was in a society where I was given a false sense of inferiority," Jenkins said.
He added that this was a struggle he had to face his entire life and was often overwhelmed by the problem.
"When people first heard that I was going to the Virgin Islands, they said the people are probably hoping that Tony Jenkins is going to save them. But I said, no Im going to the V.I. hoping those people would save me because I was running from my life problems," Jenkins said. "There was so much pressure sometimes greater than I thought I could bear, but I dont struggle anymore because I have taken my problems and laid them at God's feet," Jenkins said.
Jenkins added that the V.I. community had given him the security and place that he needed, and in return, he would serve the territory with all his might.
"Pray for me," Jenkins said in closing.
The swearing-in ceremony took place Thursday morning at the Ron de Lugo Federal Building and U.S. Courthouse on St. Thomas.
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