June 23, 2007 — Emancipation Day has the highest significance of all the holidays celebrated in the Virgin Islands, said President Mary L. Moorhead of the History, Culture and Tradition Foundation, which is sponsoring two weeks of activities leading up to the day's 159th annual celebration.
"Our entire history could have taken on an entirely different direction if not for the uprising in 1848," she said. However, Moorhead said, the general community does not treat emancipation with the respect it deserves, and that comes from lack of knowledge. She hopes the activities and reenactments scheduled will emphasize and illustrate the day's importance in V.I. history.
The Emancipation Day celebration will seek to reenact what is said to have been the turning point in the history of the Danish West Indies: the slave rebellion of 1848. That revolt was lead by Moses "Gen. Buddhoe" Gottlieb.
Buddhoe was an enslaved African who could travel from plantation to plantation. He was a master sugar boiler and was hired out to virtually every sugar plantation on St. Croix. Buddhoe could read and write and was knowledgeable in world affairs. He used his skill and knowledge to organize enslaved Africans in demanding their freedom.
Prompted by the takeover of Fort Frederik, the military stronghold in St. Croix, and threats by the enslaved Africans to "burn down the town of Frederiksted," Gov. General Peter Von Scholten reluctantly made the proclamation "from this day onward all unfree in the Danish West Indies are free."
The events of July 3, 1848, ushered in a new era between the black working class and the Danish crown. The proclamation freed not only the blacks in Frederiksted, which was the capital of the Danish West Indies, but also the nearly 3,000 enslaved Africans throughout the entire Danish West Indies, including St. Thomas and St. John.
Here is the schedule for the Emancipation Day activities:
Saturday, June 30
Emancipation donkey races hosted by the Gentlemen of Jones
Paul Joseph Stadium, Frederiksted
Saturday, June 30
Emancipation caruso sponsored by the St. Croix Landmarks Society
Whim Plantation Museum
Featuring V.I. performing artists and cultural bearers King Derby, Bully and the Musical Kafooners, Donna "Asheeba" Samuel, Gail Brady Watson Chiang and Per Ankh Neteru Ankhsamble.
Sunday, July 1
4 p.m. to 7 p.m.
Emancipation photo exhibit hosted by the V.I. Council of the Arts
Fort Frederik Museum
Featuring a visual exhibit of the 2006 celebration of Ghana's emancipation, special entertainment and refreshments.
Monday, July 2
Emancipation tea meeting hosted by the V.I. Department of Tourism
Custom Square, Frederiksted
A presentation of living history dedicated to Eulalie Rivera, author of Growing Up On St. Croix and one of St. Croix's most respected elders and cultural tradition bearers.
Tuesday, July 3
Emancipation reenactment program featuring Caribbean Dance Company historian Mario Moorhead; One Voice Production, choreographed and synthesized by Caribbean Dance Company; Guardians of Culture Moko Jumbies; Nana Mary Apeadu-Lewis; Per Ankh Neteru Ankhsamble; Dembaya Arts Conservatory; Eddie Russell and the Quelbe Latin Jazz Ensemble; Cedelle Christopher; Okolo Tegremantine Arts Theatre of St. Kitts; the VI Arts Ensemble; Bomba Allick; Lorna Freeman and Doctor Eugene Petersen.
Cultural performances featuring Caribbean artists celebrating V.I. emancipation: Tony Richards and the V.I. Gifted and Talented Youth Summer Intensive Performers; Nuestas Raices Bomba Dancers and Drummers of Loiza; and many other performers.
The 38th Anniversary of UCA's commemoration of the historic July 3 holiday hosted by the United Caribbean Association. Program will feature community presentations, cultural storytelling, spoken word, dance and conscious music. Call UCA at 772-5063 for more information or to participate.
8 p.m. to midnight
Emancipation Day street quadrille dance music by Native Rhythm Band with caller Curtis Williams.
All activities on July 3 will take place in Customs Square, UCA Headquarters and adjoining Buddhoe Park in Frederiksted.
For more information call the History, Culture and Tradition Foundation at 277-7485, the Caribbean Dance Company at 778-8824, UCA at 772-5063 or Whim Museum and St. Croix Landmarks Society at 772-0598.
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