After Two Hurricanes, Two Whirlwind Journeys for St. Croix Attorney

Genevieve Whitaker
Genevieve Whitaker

Despite the destruction brought by Hurricanes Irma and Maria, one St. Croix resident is having the experience of a lifetime. After returning from Chicago at the invitation of former President Barack Obama, attorney Genevieve Whitaker said she is ready to pursue some high ideals.

Whitaker was one of 1,000 people chosen to attend the first leadership summit of the Obama Foundation held Oct. 31 and Nov. 1. According to information on the foundation’s website the summit engaged artists, inventors, entrepreneurs and journalists to join “an experiment in citizenship for the 21st Century.”

Whitaker described her experience at the summit a few days after returning to St. Croix and a relocated home near Catherine’s Rest.

“I lived in Whim but the roof is gone now, so now i live in the east,” she said.

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But for those two days in Chicago, the St. Croix attorney was one of 1,000 attendees chosen from among 20,000 applicants. And as that experience ends, another meeting of equal importance awaits Whitaker in Switzerland a few days from now.

The St. Croix resident said she hopes for a chance to share some of the concepts discussed in Chicago with fellow Virgin Islanders and to promote a renewed interest in the practice of informed citizenship.

At the Chicago summit, delegates heard plans to create the Obama Presidential Center with a library, a museum and a leadership academy.

“The group was there to assist the foundation in establishing their framework for how they will be moving forward,” she said.

They also heard about a series of Obama summit training sessions planned for Spring 2018, where some of the ideas first aired in Chicago will be shared with youth from across the United States.

Genevieve Whitaker speaks at the UVI campus in 2012. (Genevieve Whitaker photo from the Stetson University website)
Genevieve Whitaker speaks at the UVI campus in 2012. (Genevieve Whitaker photo from the Stetson University website)

Among the youth representatives attending the recent summit, was one who shared his story of running afoul of the law and being incarcerated. From there the young man formed an organization to work with other youth of color on Chicago’s South Side.

Whitaker said civics – the study of political and practical aspects of citizenship – formed the foundation of her studies in law school. That interest in civics also informs her work with the Virgin Islands Youth Advocacy Coalition, she said.

She hopes that work with the coalition and advocacy of modern civics will continue for the next four years, when the United Nations high commission on human rights conducts its periodic review. At that time a delegation from the Virgin Islands may be among other groups representing other nations taking part in that review.

The U.N. is currently observing the International Decade for People of African Descent. A conclave of 55 delegates from North America, Europe and Asia is scheduled to take place Nov. 23 and 24 in Geneva as part of the groundwork leading up to the periodic review.

That leaves the St. Croix representative to the Obama summit preparing to pack her bags again, to represent the youth advocacy coalition as part of a fellowship that began last year.

Genevieve Whitaker is the deputy supervisor for the Election System of the Virgin Islands.

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