V.I. Transfer Centennial Commission Hosts Public Forum on St. John

Senator Myron D. Jackson speaks to those present at the public forum held last Thursday, October 6. Photos courtesy of Kevin Jackson, Executive Director of the V.I. Transfer Centennial Commission. [hr gap=”1″]

How do we see ourselves and our status in the future as Virgin Islanders? This is one of the important issues the VI Transfer Centennial Commission presented to the St. John community at a public forum held on Thursday, October 6 in the St. John Legislature Building.

The meeting was held to present the commission’s timetable and goals and get input from the community as the Territory commemorates the transfer from Danish to American rule in 1917.

VITCC Vice Chair Gerville Larsen said the commission is still accepting proposals from nonprofit organizations, religious groups, sports teams and other groups that are interested in hosting centennial events although he did emphasize that funding is limited.

A committee is reviewing proposals that focus on encouraging community engagement, stimulating economic development, promote V.I. culture and heritage, and increase youth engagement.

Pictured left to right: Vice Chair, Gerville Larsen, Chairperson Pamela C. Richards and Commission Member Shelley Moorhead look out on members of the audience as the forum’s agenda items are discussed.
Pictured left to right: Vice Chair, Gerville Larsen, Chairperson Pamela C. Richards and Commission Member Shelley Moorhead look out on members of the audience as the forum’s agenda items are discussed.

“I urge the community to contact the commission if you have an idea or event that you want to be on the official calendar,” said Official Ceremonies member Sonia Jacobs Dow.

In addition to reflecting upon the past, the commission hopes proposed events will foster dialogue about the V.I.’s vision for our future allowing varying voices to be heard.

For information on how to download and submit a proposal request form, click here.

Throughout the meeting Chairperson Pamela C. Richards emphasized that the commission has been “challenged to commemorate the centennial” by the Legislature. She explained that they have taken the time to break down the commemoration into sections:

  • January – April 2017: Events Leading Up to Transfer Day
  • April – August 2017: Virgin Islands Under American Rule
  • September – December 2017: A Look Toward the Future: Continued Progress to Equal Citizenship and Self Determination

The commission is hoping to find community members who wish to share family documents, stories, photos, etc. from the past 100 years.  They may choose to produce their own small publications or they can share their information on the website. Dr. Lois Hassell-Habtes and Chairperson Richards both mentioned a coffee table book to be produced for the centennial commemoration. “This is a major portion of what we are doing,” noted Richards.

Kevin Jackson directed the audience to a section on the VI Transfer Centennial Commission website, http://www.vitransfercentennial.org/, called “VI History/Your History.” It is a submission form online where anyone can share their stories and upload photos. To access the form, click here.

When  St. John business owner Lorelei Monsanto asked for details on events held on St. John,  VITCC Chairperson Pamela C. Richards directed Monsanto to the calendar of events on the VITCC website.

To view the calendar of events, click here.

One resident raised the issue of the nature and interpretation of the Treaty of the Danish West Indies. Commission member Shelley Moorhead acknowledged the importance of the treaty, but explained that the VITCC public forum that evening was not the proper outlet to discuss the treaty.

Robert O’ Connor Jr., a commission member, and Alecia Wells discussed the historic property on Fortsberg, the site of the 1733 rebellion by enslaved Africans, and proposed that its significance be acknowledged as part the Centennial celebration.  

Two freelance reporters from Denmark who attended the forum said they were grateful to have been included in the discussion.

The St. Thomas public forum was held on October 12 and the next forum is scheduled on October 20 in St. Croix.

For more information, be sure to follow the VI Transfer Centennial on Facebook.