The red, black and green Pan-African flag was raised on the grounds of the Earle B. Ottley Legislature Building on Monday as senators and community members honored African Liberation Week with a ceremony that included dancing, poems, and remarks from scholars and activists.
Sen. Myron D. Jackson, who hosted the observance, said its purpose was “to recognize our freedom and our struggles for our rights to be free men and women.”
V.I. African Liberation Week grew out of African Liberation Day, which came from the 1958 Conference of Independent African States held in Accra, Ghana. May 25 was designated African Liberation Day at an international conference of African leaders in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia in 1963.
The Virgin Islands Legislature’s adoption of Bill No. 18-0147 in 1989 designated the third week in May as African Liberation Week in honor of Africans brought to the Virgin Islands by force, taken away from their homelands, families and cultures.
The theme of this year’s observance was “Women and Youth on the Front Lines.”
Following a libation ceremony and the raising of the Pan-African flag at the Legislature Monday, students from Addelita Cancryn Junior High School and Ulla Muller Elementary School performed as drummers and Bamboula dancers. Community culture bearers shared words of wisdom and positivity but added that the community must continue with urgency the work of those that came before.
"We can celebrate our culture when we have eliminated and eradicated colonialism,” said K. Leba Ola-Niyi, of the Pan African Support Group.
Colonialism and slavery eradicated the humanity and history of the African diaspora, he said, and self-determination and strong African consciousness is needed to restore them.
Others offering remarks included Chenzira Davis-Kahina, chair of UVI’s Virgin Islands Caribbean Cultural Center; Anna Francis, advisor for the Environmental Rangers; and Jackson.
Poems were read by Sen. Tregenza A. Roach and Jahweh David.
Members of the Legislative Youth Advisory Council, Yohance Henley and AnuMaat Davis-Kahina also took part in Monday’s ceremony.
A day, a week, even a year, is not sufficient to fight the “psycho-academic warfare” that young men in the territory face in the struggle between choosing the pursuit of education and a lucrative life of crime, according to Henley, a recent graduate of the University of the Virgin Islands, addressing the challenges young men and women face.
The V.I.’s African heritage should be celebrated every day, he proposed.
“Culture is not something that happens once a month but it’s something you live daily,” she said.
Jackson said cultural education under the auspices of individuals such as Mavis Brady, Ruth Moolenaar and others were abundant in the past, and it is crucial that their work be continued.
“It is important to make sure that our children understand our environment and the fruits of their land,” he said.
Senators in attendance at the observance of African Liberation were Jackson, Roach, Marvin A. Blyden, Jean A. Forde, Novelle E. Francis, Clifford F. Graham, Justin Harrigan Sr., and Terrence “Positive” Nelson.
A schedule of other events taking place in observance of African Liberation Week can be found at http://www.daramonifah.com/2016/05/01/vi-african-liberation-day-2016-schedule/.