The official U.S. Virgin Islands madras fabric was unveiled Saturday morning at a ceremony at the Frederick Dorsch Cultural Center in Frederiksted after years of development.
It was a moment worth waiting for. There had been the initial idea, the discussions, agreement on the colors, the workmanship, a legislative act by the V.I. Senate decreeing the pattern and, finally, the actual woven cotton fabric representing V.I. pride and love.
The gathering at the Dorsch Center was a moment for those present and those who will read about it to recognize the ancestors who came before and provided the positive energy that went into the hearts and minds of those responsible for the very existence of the USVI madras fabric.
Several years ago, Bradley Christian, president of the St. Croix Heritage Dancers, the cultural dance group of the Virgin Islands, was talking with Mary Dema of the Christiansted Community Alliance about other Caribbean islands having their own madras fabric and he spoke about his idea of a V.I. madras fabric.
It was at one of the Limpricht Park events and textile designer Debbie Sun was vending. The three got together and met many times over a period of three years. They applied for and received a grant from the Virgin Islands Council on the Arts to produce the V.I. madras fabric.
Sen. Myron Jackson, whose personal history includes lifelong efforts to preserve V.I. history, proposed the bill to the Senate Committee on Culture, Historic Preservation and Aging. There were discussions, sharing of Virgin Islands history, historical references, and support from community members on all three islands and the assistance of Vivian Ebbesen Fludd of Ebbe’s fabric store in Christiansted.
The Senate approved the measure Dec. 30, 2020, and Gov. Albert Bryan Jr. signed it into law as Act 8424 on Jan. 21.
Saturday in Frederiksted, VICA Director Tasida H. Kelch welcomed the audience. Bradley Christian thanked the many who were responsible for keeping his dream alive while he was alive.
Sen. Kurt Vialet, Mae Louise Williams and St. Croix Administrator Sammuel Sanes each spoke on behalf of Senate President Donna Frett-Gregory, Delegate to Congress Stacey Plaskett, and Bryan.
Commissioner Jean-Pierre Oriol from the Department of Planning and Natural Resources, read Act 8424. Fludd, of Ebbe’s Fabric store, gave the audience a history of the madras fabric. VICA Chairman Jose Raul Carillo spoke about the council and encouraged the community to apply to the council for the upcoming grant period.
The colors of the V.I. madras represent the U.S. Virgin Islands: Turquoise for the Caribbean Sea that embodies the natural beauty of the islands; Blue for the deep seas that allowed ease of transport and made the deep harbors of St. Thomas; Pink for the color of the conch shell, a symbol of the call to freedom; Yellow for the Ginger Thomas, the national flower of the Virgin Islands; Green for the vast fields of natural resources, White in acknowledgement of the original attire of the Virgin Islanders who wore the fabric of the white flour sacks; and Red representing love and strength and appears in all the flags that have flown across the Virgin Islands.
The official V.I. madras is or soon will be available at the following locations:
St. Thomas: The Fabric Store, L & C Milliner, Fabric in Motion.
St. Croix: Divi Divi Fabrics, Ebbe’s Fabric Store, Clara’s