I’m DaraMonifah Cooper, a 35-year-old freelance ‘NuMedia’ Journalist and self-proclaimed “Culture-Techie” from the U.S. Virgin Islands. I have lived in the Virgin Islands much of my life, with some short term rendezvous in a few other locations: Florida, Oklahoma, Chicago, Belize, a few other places up the U.S. East coast, down our Caribbean archipelago and other spots in between where I’ve either lived or visited.
I grew up in the faculty east housing of the University of the Virgin Islands (UVI) St. Thomas campus right across the gate from the Michael J. Kirwan Terrace Projects with my parents, Drs. Vincent and Fenella Cooper, both still professors at UVI. Being a “University brat” afforded me endless opportunities in travel with my father and ongoing networking with many of his colleagues.
I attended various public and private schools on St. Thomas from Kindergarten through the 8th grade, including Michael J. Kirwan Elementary, All Saints and Addelita Cancryn Jr. High and Charlotte Amalie High and skipped 12th grade when I was 17 to start my college life in UVI’s early admission program. In 2000, with my first son D’Ajahni, I took leave from school, moved to Lawton, Oklahoma and got married in Wichita Falls, Texas. Doing self-taught freelance graphic design, photography and website design, among other things, I quickly grew bored of only working from home and home-schooling so started teaching in the Lawton Public Schools. Then, in 2002, I moved to Chicago, endured both the harsh winter and blazing summer heat within only a few months and wisely prepared to return home… I’ve been back here ever since, with a few travels here and there.
Later that same year, I gave birth to my one and only daughter Majestik, opened up business again as a freelancer adding event planning, management and community organizing/advocacy to my portfolio. During these years, I started developing a love for philanthropy, extensive community service and mentorship… none of which paid the bills. I always preferred to do things for others in the community who didn’t have the money to pay me, but found comfort and pride in being able to assist with just causes including volunteering as a Family Resource Center V.I. Victim Advocate, event planner, promotions and multi-media Public Relations. I longed for a way to do the work I genuinely loved while not having to depend on charging those individuals and organizations who I preferred to assist. Then on my birthday in 2004, I saw a flyer for a graphic artist position at UVI Cooperative Extension Service office and the result of my immediately applying changed my life. I was hired shortly thereafter to work with Carlos Robles and Dr. Louis E. Petersen, Jr.
My calling had found me a place where the staff is responsible for helping the community based on their needs in a variety of areas using flexible and nontraditional methods. The possibilities seemed unlimited. My returning home and attending school also took a new fervour as I now had more of a passion for learning and using journalism. Under the tutelage of Dr. Noel Gordon, Alex Randall and others, obtained my B.A. in Communications with specializations in Layout and Design as well as a double minor in music and art.
As a student worker, my joining the family-staff at UVICES, has been one of the most rewarding and educational experiences I’ve ever been blessed with. Ince I graduated, I was then hired in the permanent position of Extension Agent in the areas of Communications, 4-H Youth Development and Agriculture & Natural Resources, a position created to allow my multiple talents to be used. Being in this position has opened my eyes to passions that I previously hadn’t really focused in on, which includes using all of my creative skill sets in addition to teaching.
While teaching farmers, students, youth, elders and other community members through computer and technology classes, which I generally have the freedom to design myself, I am currently working on my Masters degree in New Media Journalism at Full Sail University. I’m also the Programming Manager at WUVI, the UVI Student Radio Station, as well as the Founding Director of my non-profit, the Sankofa Saturdays Youth Cultural Education Initiative.
My Saturday program came out of my desire to immediately pass on my skill sets and mind set. I decided to voluntarily teach youth in the community all of my skills instead of me running around the territory trying to cover the PR and documentation for all of the grassroots, culture, arts and history events and activities myself (as KWANZAA365). My ongoing drive for continuing the Saturday program also arose from my need to supplement the cultural, historical and spiritual education for my children and their peers.
Once I’m successfully completed my Masters program at Fullsail, I intend to assist UVICES even more in the area of PR while I continue Passing on the Torch to the Sankofa Saturdays youth at WUVI in teaching them all I know so that they can assist with raising our community’s self-pride as well as preserving the culture and traditions in the Virgin Islands and abroad.
I sit on the sidelines watch the players, the umpires and the audiences
and I just sit
knowing it isn’t my place to speak until moved to do so…
I sit until the spirit moves me to say ‘PEACEGreetings’ to all who make contact with my mind’s eye
isn’t there enough judgement being passed today?
encouragement often comes without spoken words
and sometimes the most powerful phrase is the shortest
I learn how to learn daily
and learn how to live moment to moment
and with each new relationship made or lost I learn to accept it as a blessing
privileged to be on the fence in between on the side of no one, but everyone
I remain of balanced perspective left brained and right simultaneously
allowing insights and perspectives to be malleable without force
gentle winds blow mood tides to change direction willingly
so closed into this, yet so open…
some say but time and experience will tell
pains are necessary for growth
they don’t have to hurt to be felt
how will you define me.?
whichever way is necessary for your journey
I am hapi to be of assistance as a vessel for all
humbly I await your request
ask of me and I shall provide
feed me and I will be replenished
to continue feeding others
along with myself