‘I Am David Hamilton Jackson’ Project Teaches V.I. Students Activism

A partnership between the Department of Planning and Natural Resources’ Libraries, Archives and Museums and the Education Department’s Cultural Education Division introduced almost 200 students to St. Croix-born David Hamilton Jackson’s activism during the 19th and 20th centuries.

Just one month later, an art project, complete with video and music, was created to demonstrate art for activism and the faces of social justice.

Monica Marin, Libraries, Archives and Museum’s territorial curator, and Stephanie Chalana Brown, director of the Cultural Education Division, directed the project that initially involved 175 students from St. Croix junior and high schools. The final product is original art from 50 students in the form of poetry, music, speeches, art and a sculpture.

Between Nov. 1 and Dec. 7, sessions were held for the students where they learned about the meaning of social justice so they could infuse their art with images and symbolism.

Brown and Marin are former educators and used their experience to inform students of well-known activists. Brown discussed the background of Queen Mary Thomas, one of the leading revolutionists in the 1878 uprising demanding freedom for all enslaved. And Frandelle Gerard from Crucian Heritage and Nature Tourism presented background and biographical information about Jackson. The students also learned about Danish rule, the transfer of power after the sale of the territory to the United States, U.S. Navy rule as well as current issues.

St. Croix Central High student’s portrait of David Hamilton Jackson. (Photo courtesy of Sayeeda Carter, painting by Trenyce Swanson)

After the education sessions, students were turned loose to create their own portraits, music, sketches, drawings and digital art using whichever media they desired. The subject of each project was to be about D. Hamilton Jackson, an advocate for a free press, labor leader, lawyer and judge. Nov. 1 is designated David Hamilton Jackson and Liberty Day.

The final video, highlighting individual projects, can be viewed at the Education Department’s website, as well as Rashawn Philip’s rap about colorism.

Philip, a 12th grader at St. Croix Educational Complex, told the Source he got involved in the project because he’s passionate about music and “jumped on it” because he had written about social injustice for a class speech.

“I focused on social injustice, colorism, because I could relate to it in my world,” he said.” People my age don’t hear enough about it, and I wanted them to hear about it from my shoes into their shoes.”

Brown and Marin said their agencies plan to partner with each other and other organizations in the future. Their division specialties can be used to interpret many subjects and teach about culture.