Since 2001, Native Doctor, Wendy V. Coram Vialet, N.D. returned home to the U. S. Virgin Islands after medical school to help using her appreciation and education of nature’s healing abilities. Respectful of the wisdom passed down from grandparents, traditional culture bearers and natural healers, Dr. Coram Vialet is also knowledgeable of the need to educate the community on cautions in order to prevent accidental toxic reactions.
Born and raised on the island of St. Thomas, she attended local public and private schools then continued to obtain her Bachelor degrees from the University of the Virgin Islands and Syracuse University in the Biological Sciences. In 1996, she learned about Naturopathic Medicine, realizing her life path as a healing facilitator. She graduated in June of 2000 with a Doctorate in Naturopathic Medicine and in March of 2001, she became certified in Naturopathic Midwifery.
“I returned home to assist the people of the Virgin Islands in achieving a better quality of life through optimal health and wellness measures,” she said.
Listen to more about Dr. Coram Vialet:
Since there was no legislation for naturopathy in the Virgin Islands, at the time when she returned, Dr. Coram Vialet served as a Naturopathic Medicine pioneer and was instrumental in passing legislation (V. I. Code: TITLE TWENTY-SEVEN Professions and Occupations Chapter 4. Naturopathic Physician Licensing) to license naturopathic physicians in the territory.
According to her LinkedIn profile, Dr. Coram Vialet is currently the Associate Director of the Institute for Leadership and Organizational Effectiveness at the University of the Virgin Islands. Prior to running for political office in 2014, Dr. Coram Vialet was also employed as the Director for the University’s Center for the Study of Spirituality and Professionalism. She has been most endorsed by her LinkedIn networking community in the areas of leadership, teaching, higher education, public speaking, research and community outreach.
While serving in her roles at the University, Dr. Coram Vialet also provides office hours at her practice in two locations on island. As stated on her Facebook about page, Corvia Natural Healthcare Services is, “an established family health and wellness office serving the V.I. community blending scientific medical expertise and traditional healthcare approaches.”
In addition to her professional studies, Dr. Coram Vialet also enjoys performance arts. She learned her favorite quote, “Nothing is so complicated, that it cannot be simplified by hard work,” during her years as a student in the Rising Stars Steel Orchestra. Also enjoying pageantry, she held the title of the first Miss University of the Virgin Islands in 1988.
Empress PJ Crosby, poet, playwright, director, is transforming Virgin Islands youth, through the arts at Pistarckle Theatre each summer on St. Thomas. Born in London, England and raised in Long Island, NY Empress PJ Crosby has been working with the youth since she was a youth and is an active outreach teacher of spoken word and poetry.
Over the years, Empress PJ has repeatedly travelled with her programs to St. Thomas where she teaches children during the summers at the Pistackle Theatre. Since 2012, she has returned annually to teach her leadership program. Funded by a grant from the V.I. Department of Labor, “Stopping Crime Starts at the Roots!!” her youth playwright camp is now in its fourth year.
PJ has also taught at Kidscope Inc., which serves child victims of abuse, neglect and sexual molestation on St. Thomas. She says that what strongly influenced her interest and drive for working with youth was active involvement with organizations such as the Student Government, Campus Women’s Collective and the Honor Society during her college years.
Released on January 22, 2011, A Journey With Empress PJ is her debut solo CD. As an active freestyler, writer, poet, public speaker and mentor, while on island, she also continues to use her talents while performing at The Rock Collective’s The Rock Lounge or mentoring youth in the Virgin Islands and abroad.
Organized by the University of the Virgin Islands Cooperative Extension Service (UVICES) office, in collaboration with other agencies, the UVICES held the Agricultural Enrichment Summer Camp (AESC), officially merging two types of agriculture related youth organizations (Future Farmers of America and 4-H) for the first time in the territory. The camp took place at the UVICES office on the University’s St. Thomas campus and was lead by their staff as well as junior counselors from various high school FFA organizations.
Earlier in the year, the FFA Hunger Drive and School-based Farmers Market held their collaborative activities in support of encouraging youth in agriculture while promoting general community agricultural awareness. The summer program was yet another experience for youth to engage together around the theme of agriculture education.
“This experience ‘kinda like’ opened my eyes. It gave me an opportunity to really not only look into just agriculture itself, but myself,” said Jonisha Aubain, AESC camp Junior Counselor and Charlotte Amalie High School FFA organization Treasurer.
Due to financial restraints, their regular 4-H summer camp has not been offered in the past two years. UVICES staff decided instead of waiting hopeful for renewal of funding, it was time to find a way to create another program for youth. The success of the program can be attributed through local partnerships with the Departments of Labor, Human Services, and the Virgin Islands University Center for Excellence in Developmental Disabilities.
“From the perspective of our partners, they were hoping to connect these young adults, from their unit especially, with job opportunities,” said Dr. Louis E. Petersen, Jr. Ph.D., UVICES Assistant Director of Agriculture & Natural Resources. “The success in this case is that we were able to make a partnership, a connection, with the Mahogany Run Golf Course who indeed accepted to have one of our youngsters, after coming to the program, work with them.”
The camp finished as of their closing program on Friday, August 7, 2015. The parents and general community were able to see for themselves what the youth gained at the camp closing ceremony which showcased presentations by the students that reflected their summer experiences while working directly with a diversity of agriculture professionals, including crop and livestock producers, landscapers, agricultural instructors, inspectors, enforcement officers, etc. during the six week program which began on June 29, 2015.
Ashlely “Ashanti” George, Albion “Chico” George and Dr. Petersen as well as other UVICES staff lead the youth camp during the six weeks. Photos were captured of all activities, guest speakers and field trips and can be found on the UVICES facebook page. An exploration of career topics in agriculture included:
- Veterinary medicine
- Livestock and poultry science
Irrigation and water usage activities and field trips included:
- Ivanna Eudora Kean High School aquaponic farm
- two local landscaping & plant nurseries
- tool safety & usage demonstrations
- Introduction to 4-H & FFA Organizations
- UVI Marine Science Center boat trips
- US Customs and Border Protection canine inspection demonstration
- plant propagation exercises
- local farms
- plant Identification exercises
- seedling production
- irrigation system assembly
Dr. Petersen reflects on the experience and shared that the six-week summer program successfully increased knowledge and created awareness of career and work opportunities in the field of agricultural science both for the youth and their parents. The second objective was also successful in equipping the participants with job preparation skills through classroom presentations, practical exercises, and field activities. One camper has gained employment at a position at the Mahogany Run Golf Course, a junior counselor is now employed at St. Thomas Adventure Tours with other potential job placements still in negotiation at other locations. As networking continues throughout the year, other students are expected to be connected to local businesses or organizations.
UVICES staff will stay connected to students throughout the year and will include them in other activities including the 31st Caribbean Agro-Economics Symposium happening on St. Croix from Monday, August 10. At the conference, FFA and 4-H students will present collaboratively on what we have been doing regarding the aspects of production, promotion through social media, and the actual market site. They also will share their success in the indoor systems they have used used a model for the issue of climate change mitigation.
The community can assist through volunteering their time and mentorship support, sharing the news of the activities as well as simply being present at various public activities to congratulate and further encourage the youth.
“We’ve had no 4-H program for two years, the public has been calling and we just responded to that need. So we like to pride ourselves, as we said, to responding to the changing needs,” he continued.
“That is exactly what we have been doing for the six weeks. We also like to pride ourselves on responding to the changing needs of the community,” said Petersen, as they have shown in providing a successful and effective youth camp.
With a new location, The Rock Lounge, a monthly poetry and open mic creative expression event on St. Thomas, had about 40 people in attendance on Friday, June 12, 2015 at the recently opened E’s Garden Teahouse and Things. Found just beyond the easternmost point of Charlotte Amalie’s backstreet, at the bottom of Bunker Hill, the teahouse ads color and a new energy to the area of Garden Street and The Rock Lounge enhanced it even more.
No matter where it’s located, the same can be said for the experience according to Jahweh David, the event co-host.
“The Rock Lounge is an exciting space and place in each and everyone of us that is always ready to be nurtured, where our creativity can be cultivated, and community can be supported,” she added.
In addition to poetry, all types of creative expression is featured and the audience ranges from creatively energetic school children to teachers and senators. What’s special about the event, based on the audiences that attend, is the openness of the crowd and how that helps to promote and motivate those who never even considered writing, much less sharing their feelings and experiences in public. The hosts always encourage the crowd to show support for everyone that steps up to the mic, no matter the message or the method of expression.
Local musical and poetry performer Akingtafari, shared his thoughts about the over a decade of memories created as a member of the group that organizes the event.
“Being one of the original members of The Rock Collective has enabled me to use my creativity to be satisfying to my soul,” he stated.
The tea shop also prepares food, has drinks and is currently an art gallery space. Owner Judith Edwin had long envisioned a place where she could sell teas and things, hang art as well as other ideas before contacting Rock Collective members about having their event at the location.
Held only every second Friday monthly, the organizers have found a way to keep it very simple and easy for anyone to feel comfortable. Using only text messages, their Facebook page posts and word-of-mouth grassroots advertising, their normal location at The Frenchtown Deli usually only has standing room only by the end of the night.
The next event will be held on Friday, July 10, 2015 again at the Teahouse. To get notified monthly by mobile text as a Rock Lounge event reminder, send a text message with your name to 340-642-5851 asking to join the reminder list.
GrassrootsVI News – Savan’s Caretakers Returning Home to Organize
By DaraMonifah Cooper
Off-island ‘Savanero’, Iffat Walker walked through areas of Savan taking photos, video, talking to anyone and recruiting support both within and from around the community as part of the initial research stages for a clean-up and revitalization initiative set to initially kick-off in July. Her passion for her Virgin Islands’ neighborhood, and all of the family that still lives there, keeps her coming home regularly to visit and help build.
In addition to the research work done within the neighborhood itself, she also met with agencies and individuals who agreed to partner with the initiative in general support of re-building the community’s self-pride. After the first community meeting and a few initial networking meetings, including those with the Enterprise Zone Commission at the VI Economic Development Authority Director, Nadine Marchena Kean, and the University of the Virgin Islands Cooperative Extension Service’s (UVICES) District Supervisor, Dr. Louis E. Petersen, Jr., Iffat is further encouraged to continue with her research and outreach efforts.
Knowing that it takes a village, Iffat sought out the assistance of others who are already known for having similar or related missions. “It’s not my intention to reinvent the wheel. People here have already been doing this work and I’m just trying to help them work together better,” she stated. As one of the suggestions from young men in the neighborhood interested in having a community garden, Iffat also met with Albion “Chico” George of the UVICES office who is known for his work with starting up various community and school gardens.
Also seeking youth insight and support, she reached out to the Sankofa Saturdays Youth Cultural Education Initiative and was able to appear on their radio show as well as have footage taken and donated by their youth media team.
With challenges ranging from individual to organizational, she noted that there are a range of potential support systems needed and Iffat is determined to do whatever she can to use her community organizational, networking, professional and personal skills to rally others to give it another try collaboratively.
“Some have given up hope or were basically discouraged to continue due to a number of challenges, so we’re seeking that information as well as intend to be creative with forming solutions to those previous and current challenges,” she continued.
As one of the managing administrators for Community Action Now, Inc., a Georgia based organization; this is more than just another project for Iffat. She has a personal vested interest in the Savan area. “Many of the people walking around in Savan are my family,” she noted, also mentioning the need to change the negative impression some have of the area. “With Savan being the neighborhood in basically the center of Charlotte Amalie town, it would benefit the entire community to have it restored to better reflect its original reputation. The historical significance of Savan spans decades of stories with it being the first organized neighborhood for local businesses and activity,” she added.
Iffat noted that many Virgin Islanders are interested in returning home both to visit and to live, but like her, they are doing what they can from off island to help restore it first. With regular initiatives like the Department of Tourism’s territory-wide clean ups and all other organizations and individuals who regularly make their contributions on island or online, the air of hope and determination are building. With the assistance of those both on and off island, the Savan area and the Virgin Islands is prepped to becoming a cleaner, safer and more productive environment for residents and visitors alike.
For more information on this initiative, contact Iffat Walker at firstname.lastname@example.org or check out the Proud to Be A Savanero Facebook group page and the main organization’s website based in Georgia. Photos are available here.
On Saturday, April 25, 2015, parents, facilitators and young boys at the Family Resource Center Youth Intervention Program celebrated the closing ceremony of their Boys Rites of Passage program. The gathering allowed parents to see the various character building experiences and growth their children achieved during their months together as participants of the program. The free program is funded by the Department of Human Services, and starts in January and September annually.
Learning emotional and spiritual self management Tai Chi with Calvin Dallas students start the day off doing Tai Chi and Chi Gung to balance and center themselves with self discipline and focusing techniques outdoors facilitated by Calvin Dallas. Dallas is one of the four adult instructors at the Boys Rites of Passage Program on St. Thomas, VI under the Family Resource Center.
Photo Caption: Calvin Dallas bringing it in with the boys after a Tai Chi morning session
Teaching self pride and respect through cultural literacy, Dr. Celia Victor uses methods like The Virtues Project along with modern and basic history instilling a sense of accomplishment and possibilities in the young men.
Addelita Cancryn Jr. High School Art Teacher Leba OlaNiyi teaches ecological arts and crafts to the boys along with African drumming. The facilitators at FYCIP understand that listening first, then sharing non academic methods of training encourage the boys to express themselves creatively and also become more considerate problem solvers.
Students display their vision boards with their mentors
Reginald Cyntje, a musician and educator from the Virgin Islands, uses artivism to help support those who he interacts with, listens to his music or reads his blogs. As a multi-media and nu media journalist in training, I too choose to use artivism and social media to share the pride we have in home here in the United Virgin Islands.
Historically from a background where the griot tells the story, which then becomes the history and fabric of a place, many artists use their genres to continue in the tradition simply out of the pure love for doing so.
Trombonist, educator and activist, Reginald Cyntje, shares his angle of being a Virgin Islander and what experiences helped him become who he is and continue feeling the pride in his cultural heritage and love of music, children and Virgin Islands history and culture that moves him to share his story with the world through his music.
Sharing experiences he’s had with people who’ve come to love the VI that weren’t initially from here, he often travels to the Virgin Islands, sometimes bringing along with him other musicians who are amazed by the natural beauty of the environment and everyday warmth of Virgin Islands people.
He tries to return home often and meets with young music students, giving them hours of lessons in his parents’ home. He feels that his mentoring of the youth helps them become better prepared for their potential futures as professionals in music and or in school.
Through an initiative that he initiated called the V. I. Movement for Change, Reginald has used visits to schools and his writings to find ways of impressing upon students and other people that they can use their skills and strengths to uplift the community at whatever level that they are at.
Taking his cues from successes in history and the wisdom of elders, his latest album entitled, Spiritual Awakening, shares some of the steps in the process of tackling problems. Wherever he resides, he encourages communities to use collective work and responsibility and cooperative economics to help solve their challenges.
Healing… educating… local musician Reginald Cyntje hopes to continually share with others a little of what the Virgin Islands essence perpetuates. A spiritual awakening unlike any other, he uses music, education, outreach and artivism to promote and welcome you to his home.
Author’s Note: When I was contacted by a fellow Virgin Islander about being one of the main local faces or supports for Pay it Forward USVI, my main concern was how much I would be overwhelmed with putting into it. Random acts of kindness are so regular in my experience that to now be responsible for documenting and sharing when they happen, immediately felt like a full time job. Similarly, when Reginald contacted my about being part of the V.I. Movement for Change, I had to explain my concerns of into being able to be a dependable contributor. As he reminded me, in reality, so many of us already naturally do these things daily without thinking twice about who we’ve helped or what we sacrifice. There can never be too much of us doing it and we continue to encourage by any means possible the random acts of kindness that continues to spread what Virgin Islanders and together our Virgin Islands are naturally about.
“Most people come only with the intention of purchasing local produce, but there’s so much more to experience than just the food, ” shared JahStarr Ras Koniyah, former secretary for the We Grow Food, Inc Bordeaux farmers organization prior to his untimely transition.
He would brag that, driving into the Western most part of the island, “the difference in the air,” is the first thing that changes as the city life is left behind replaced with the surrounding green hills and vegetation. The peaceful environment lays right in the middle of a small quiet neighborhood in the Bordeaux area also known as Fortuna.
Here children run freely and the one main road is only a connecting line allows locals and visitors to get into and out of the area. A large portion of the hillside is farm land and home to the island’s oldest Rastafarian community. Horses, cows and other animals can be seen in the area and on every other Sunday music heard coming from the bi-weekly Farmers’ market.
Here is where you’ll find many of those known as the caretakers of the land as from sunrise to sunset there is always a hand in the soil preparing for the next rains or reaping. Young and old assist in the work and also in the enjoyment of celebration when it’s time. Along with technology that has made it’s way into this community, you will also see random children running around the market playing games made of everyday items like basketball with cardboard water boxes or baseball with sticks and stones. Even a simple game of tag transforms groups of youth into flashes of color and happy sound as they run by.
Here is where local families are found singing, dancing before, during and after they sell or trade their produce with each other and visitors that may appear. Decades of memories and traditions color the stalls high-lit with red, yellow and green as well as African symbols, sayings and faces.
A relaxing trip to the Bordeaux Farmers’ Market on a bi-weekly basis tends to leave smiles on the faces of many and lighter souls return to their homes after sunset every other Sunday from the hills of Bordeaux, on St. Thomas, U.S. Virgin Islands. “A long ride for long life,” as We Grow Food, Inc. co-host Empress Shaca, proudly shares during their weekly radio show.
A number of entertaining cultural activities helped to close off another highly educational Virgin Islands History Month this March. Dr. Chenzira Davis Kahina, Director of the University of the Virgin Islands (UVI) V.I. Caribbean Cultural Center (VICCC), supported them all with her presence and participation.
In 2005, a legislative bill supporting the teaching of V.I. history in the classroom was approved. This month the community was able to learn more about their local history outside of the classroom.
On St. Thomas, where the Hubert Harrison play was premiered, to St. Croix where the UVI Virgin Islands Literary Festival and Book Fair hosted multiple international authors, publishers, playwrights and others. Three notable Virgin Islanders were highlighted throughout the month for their contributions to V.I., Caribbean and world history on a whole inclusive of Dr. Yosef ben Jochannon, Delta Jackson Dorch and Hubert Harrison.
Whether she’s sharing a testimony on the senate floor (video ) to supporting the enactment of bills about important Virgin Islanders (legislative bill honoring Virgin Islander Dr. Yosef ben Yochannan), or her brief appearances at local events (video: Dr. Chenzira Davis Kahina speaks at honoring for Delta Dorch), Dr. Kahina’s work takes her not only throughout the Virgin Islands, Caribbean and U.S., but to other parts of the world as she proudly shares and garners support for the VICCC. Reflecting on the importance of V. I. History month Dr. Kahina stated, “Virgin Islands History is a cornerstone component that strengthens and maintains the culture, heritage and traditions of the people of the Virgin Islands and wider Caribbean.”
In an email, Dr. Kahina wrote, “As the global community respectfully observes the United Nations designated International Decade for People of African Descent (IDPAD) January 2015 to December 2024, and our local community prepares to commemorate and ‘celebrate’ the centennial anniversary of Transfer Day on March 31st, 1917 from the Danish West Indies to the Virgin Islands of the United States of America, the culture and cultural identity of the Virgin Islands remains influx and intrinsically linked to Virgin Islands history and narratives that are featured annually in March during V.I. History Month observances, commemorations and celebrations.”
“V.I. History is evolving as the achievements and contributions of outstanding Virgin Islanders continues to be exposed, researched, published and shared widely. It is time for V.I. culture, history, heritage and educational resources to be respectfully integrated into global socio-cultural institutions.”
Jeffrey Perry, author of Hubert Harrison’s Biography and the “Hubert H. Harrison Papers,” shared his perspective of the significance in V.I. History when sharing his findings as a distinguished keynote presenter at the V.I Literary Festival and Book Fair. “Hubert Harrison is the only person in United States history to play leading roles in the largest class radical movement and the largest race radical movement of his era. As a radical activist he was extraordinary.”
“He (Harrison) was the foremost black organizer, agitator and theoretician in the socialist party around 1912. According to Perry, “Hubert Harrison introduced Marcus Garvey with his first Harlem crowd.”
The Fruit of V.I. Agriculture in Good Hands with Dr. Louis E. Petersen, Jr. and Commissioner Carlos Robles – Part One | Petersen’s story
By DaraMonifah Cooper
Dr. Louis E. Petersen, Jr. is a born and raised U.S. Virgin Islands leader whose life-long passion for agriculture has led to an exemplary career which has helped him to blaze a trail of successes that promise to be continued in his latest role at the University of the Virgin IslandsCooperative Extension Service (UVICES).
As described by Dr. Petersen, the story that led him on the path to agriculture began in 1975 during the longest teachers strike in the history of the Virgin Islands. He was a student at the Charlotte Amalie High School and along with other students, didn’t agree with staying at home. Although there were no teachers…
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