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Charlotte Amalie
Monday, July 15, 2024
HomeCommentaryOpen Forum: Don't Erase History with Whistling Cay Land Swap

Open Forum: Don’t Erase History with Whistling Cay Land Swap

Whistling Cay, as seen from the north shore of St. John, is within V.I. National Park waters but is owned by the Territory. (Photo by Amy H. Roberts)
Whistling Cay, as seen from the north shore of St. John, is within V.I. National Park waters but is owned by the territory. The V.I. government has introduced a proposal to swap the cay with the National Park Service for a parcel of land on St. John in order to build a kindergarten to grade 12 school. Senators have postponed a vote on the land swap to gather more information. (Photo by Amy H. Roberts)

“In this year of celebration of emancipation, it feels wrong to be giving away one of the symbols of the struggle for freedom to a federal government which has shown little sensitivity to that topic in the narrative of the Virgin Islands National Park.”

The above is from an editorial written by David Silverman and published online as an open letter to Gov. Albert Bryan Jr.

Why does it feel wrong to give up Whistling Cay? To me it seems inappropriate because I have recently learned that Whistling Cay is a strong symbol of the hateful strength and length of the arms of slavery. To swap such a powerful symbol would negate current efforts of bringing such truths to light and correcting history.

There seems to me a horrible irony that the people of St. John are expected to bow again to an authoritative and self-serving government when there are better alternatives. And the end process of such a swap will be another erasure of the historical violence that people of the Virgin Islands have endured. Worse, it will artificially sugarcoat a history of rebellion that Virgin Islanders should be rightfully proud of.

People need to realize that some of the very first seeds of emancipation were planted very early right here in our territory. For a brief history lesson that everyone should learn please click on this link to Wikipedia: 1733 slave insurrection on St. John.

St. John is one of the first birthplaces of freedom through rebellion and sacrifice. This should be uncovered and promoted, not sugarcoated, rewritten, or worse, erased.

Senators, please respect the lessons of history. Please respect the voices of St. John’s people. It is your duty as leaders. This is history in the making. What side will you be on when the truth is put to paper?

There are alternatives to the Whistling Cay land swap. The school can be built without sacrificing a powerful symbol and sanitizing a history that is finally being told honestly.

— Kathy Vargo is a resident of Round Bay on St. John.

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