“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.
Secret Seductive Symphony
Against my better judgement, I allow myself one last ‘peek’
…at the latest temptation. 🙂
Charming distractions, wake my senses, as I tiptoe out of bed.
Entering the near corner around the hall, darkness hides my not-so-shy smile.
On this Easter Sunday, I’m reminded
The Most High has a master plan… and a sly sense of humor
Maybe I’ll save a piece for later 😉
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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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 Islands Cooperative 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 in the classroom, what they did was to start an agricultural club at the school. They gradually got support from various sources, including from Cyril Emanuel King, the Governor at the time. King came to visit with them and expressed his love and encouragement for what they were doing. According to Dr. Petersen, when Governor King came, “the following day we got all the tools that we needed that we didn’t have.”
Reminiscing, Dr. Petersen shared that, “In the summer time, Governor King employed us through the youth commission, which was the ultimate encouragement. Petersen reports that when they were finished with school, they left and studied. In between his studies, Petersen came home to seek employment. For a semester, he worked for Extension Service. “That’s where my love, my familiarity with the role of the Extension Service office became apparent,” he explained. When he returned home from school, he continued to work at the Extension Service office.
In 1992, after first being a UVICES student worker and then Agent, Dr. Petersen was promoted to the position of UVICES District Supervisor. Three years later he became the U.S. V. I. Assistant Commissioner of Agriculture, then returned to UVICES as the District Supervisor, only to be promoted to U.S. V. I. Commissioner of Agriculture in 2007.
During the last eight years in his most reputable role as U.S. V. I. Commissioner of Agriculture, he said that he experienced “an extremely challenging but fulfilling eight years.” He reiterated, “There was no plan that was laid out for us when we started so we weren’t sure what to follow. Having gone through the full circle of thinking it through, sitting with staff, sitting with farmers devising a plan and then putting that plan in to action and seeing many parts of the plan be fulfilled,” Dr. Petersen explained how he lead the team that chalked up another great accomplishment for the Territory.
Expounding upon the same topic, Dr. Petersen said, “We are a territory that has been overlooked so many times by the National agency of agriculture and the USDA. Because of that we often times have not been considered or included in programs.” He added that two of those examples are the Specialty Crop Block Grant Program, which was made law in 2004, and the Farmers Market Promotion Program grant which was authorized in 1976.
He continued, “We took two of those eight years fighting a battle back and forth with correspondences, teleconferences and everything else before we were finally given the status of being eligible. That I feel was a great accomplishment because in my recollection we’ve never before challenged the U.S. Department of Agriculture to include us in programs that we were not eligible for. Subsequently, funding from that program was used in many areas including the fruit orchard establishment project which is now territory-wide.”
On the Farmers Market Promotion Program grant, Dr. Petersen shared, “We fought five years out of the eight years for the second one and only in 2012 did we become eligible. It was a great accomplishment and milestone in our history. Because of those two victories the territory is now eligible for more funding for agricultural development.”
“The two primary local agencies in the territory that work on behalf of and in support of farmers are indeed the (V.I.) Department of Agriculture and the UVI land grant program, meaning the Extension Service and Experiment Station, so we have always worked together,” shared Dr. Petersen. “I cannot think of one initiative in which we didn’t collaborate.”
He went on to say, “At the (V.I.) Department of Agriculture, our mandate was very broad whether it was outreach and policy establishment however with the Extension Service program our mandate is informal education to the farming clientele.”
Commissioner Designee Carlos Robles, shared the same sentiment in the way the two agencies work hand-in-glove together. He expressed how long he has been learning from Dr. Petersen’s example from as far back as their school days attending Charlotte Amalie High when he first learned about the agriculture club that Petersen had played a major role in starting. In terms of how he sees the offices working together he made it clear that UVICES always plays a mandatory role in the success of the (V.I.) Department of Agriculture’s goals. “Informing farmers on how to work more efficiently and effectively is where we will be leaning on UVICES,” he added.
When asked how he feels about returning to UVICES, Dr. Petersen proudly stated, “I find myself continuing in many respect what we began and working for the same goal and the same clientele, but from another perspective.”
For more information email firstname.lastname@example.org.
My website focuses on various parts of Virgin Islands culture and my efforts to encourage more pride in our people, our history and our way of life. Through interviews with local culture bearers, artists, educators and others who help to preserve our culture I hope to assist with increasing our Virgin Islands pride on a variety of levels.
In the middle of doing research for providing content by request to a school teacher on local Virgin Islanders, this week I’m focused on learning and sharing more about our agriculture leaders. I’m choosing these experts because of their ongoing leadership in the area of local agriculture. I think they each have valuable insight and also possibly some solutions from their experiences both on the government side of things as well as first hand as farmers.
My experts this week are the V.I. Commissioner of Agriculture who works alongside the Assistant Director of Agriculture for UVICES as well as one of the most well respected farmers and beekeepers here (who also is the President of the most successful farming organization on St. Thomas). Over the past two weeks, I’ve shared dialogue with each of them on a variety of topics.
The three experts that I’m considering interviewing are all noted locally as individuals who are highly respected and experienced in the area of agriculture in the Virgin Islands. Having just switched places after our last election, the Commissioner and District Supervisor have no real online source for finding out information about them in their positions. I’ve searched and either their websites have been deactivated or aren’t yet updated. The most that exists for each in terms on an online presence is their facebook pages which I’ve provided links to below.
I hope to provide a permanent location online for their profiles, giving them their flowers while they are still here with us in their prime. I will also be uploading to a SoundCloud.com account the 1-hour long audio interview I conducted on National Agriculture Day 2015. Until then, what follows is the basic information that I obtained from speaking with each of them and researching what little else there is thus far to find of them online.
1. Carlos Robles, VI Commissioner of Agriculture (present) | OFFICIAL FACEBOOK PAGE
- B.S. Agriculture Science – Florida A & M University
- M.S. Horticulture Science – University of Florida
- UVICES District Supervisor
- UVICES Extension Specialist – Horticulture
- UVICES Extension Agent – Horticulture
- UVICES Student Worker
In our local online media news source, Virgin Islands Governor Kenneth Mapp, “laid out his strategy for revamping the Department of Agriculture, which he has picked Carlos Robles to lead.” In that article (Article 2 hyper-linked above) Governor Mapp said, “…Robles, a Corporate Extension Service professor at the University of the Virgin Islands and local agriculture expert, is the man to make that happen.”
2. Dr. Louis E. Petersen, Jr., UVI Cooperative Extension Service Assistant Director of Agriculture and Natural Resources/District Supervisor (present) | OFFICIAL FACEBOOK PAGE
- PhD. Horticultural Plant Genetics (Plant Pathology minor)
- M.S. Horticulture & Agriculture – Oklahoma State University
- B.S. Plant & Soil Science – Tuskegee University
- VI Commissioner of Agriculture (2007-2014)
- UVICES District Supervisor (1999-2007)
- VI Assistant Commissioner of Agriculture (1995-1999)
- UVICES District Supervisor (1992-1995)
- UVICES Agent (1992-1995)
- UVICES Student Worker
3. Elridge “Sparks” Thomas, President of We Grow Food, Inc., Local farmers organization | OFFICIAL FACEBOOK PAGE
- Successful business owner
- Farmer of the Year (multiple years)
- UVICES Agriculture Education Client (multiple years)
Commonly duped as their #1 ‘friend-raiser,’ the proceeds from today’s University of the Virgin Islands Afternoon on the Green (AOTG) successfully raised thousands of dollars for student scholarships. Extremely successful in so many ways, the event brings out hundreds of people who, “Come for the food,” and “Stay for the fun,” as the event’s theme suggests.
Hundreds of people flocked to the University’s Herman E. Moore golf course where several tents were filled with people serving food, drinks, taking raffles, distributing food and drink tickets or sharing information about what their area provides at the University. Between the large numbers enjoying the food and drinks, live music, entertainment, youth activities and academic tent, the common phrase for the afternoon was that this year’s event was ‘the best ever.’
Leslyn Tonge, of the University’s Provost office worked on the grounds from the day before the event. “I think that the event was really a successful one. It seemed like there were a lot of people still coming in when I left which was before the end,” she said.
As a member of the committee, her primary responsibility is organizing the academic tent because of her job at the office of the Provost, which always handles managing the academic tent. “I like the fact that the students came out and showcased what their different organizations and clubs are about. It (AOTG) is primarily for students, so putting myself in the place of a potential donor, I’d like to see what the students can do.”
“It was also a tool for recruitment so every aspect that was on display was part of the grander scheme of recruiting with the ability to see the different programs that we offer,” she added. “We had the psychology club, Greek organizations, student government, multi-cultural East Indian association and other student associations.”
Ms. Tonge, with the assistance of youth from the Sankofa Saturdays Youth Cultural Education Initiative, was able to prepare the area for the event. The students took a break from their weekly radio show, on the campus radio station, walked across campus and helped set up the tables and chairs under the academic tent. “I can’t wait until tomorrow,” shared Majestik, one of the youth co-hosts, as they all nodded with excitement, reminiscing all of the previous AOTG activities they participated in from the years before.
Just as in the previous years, other numerous children had continuous fun in the bounce house, rolling down the hill in huge transparent soccer balls, playing Frisbee, getting their faces painted and more. Simultaneously, not far from the children, their parents were able to enjoy the open social environment sitting on the bleachers, standing and talking or dancing to the live bands perform on the stage under the entertainment tent.
Even though there were so many entries, all of the donated food was purchased hours before the event ended, so the grill line stretched tens of people long.
“We don’t mind waiting, because the music is good, our children are safe in the youth activity area and we’re enjoying ourselves just talking and catching up with friends.”
Among the winning entries, is WUVI student radio station’s faculty advisor Dr. Alex Randall whose Shepherd’s Pie won one of the prizes for getting the most votes. This year’s blue ribbon will be added to the others at the WUVI studio as this isn’t the first time the station was awarded for obtaining the most votes. Each year, as soon as the dish is registered, the entry number to text in votes is blasted out to the community using the radio airwaves as they air the event live. This is accompanied by a word to mouth campaign throughout the afternoon as well as via instagram, facebook and other WUVIAM1090 social media accounts.
The UVI Mocojumbies lead the parade with the Addelita Cancryn Jr. High School Drumline Marching Band and a Vintage Voltswagen and Mustangs following behind. On the entertainment stage, the E. Benjamin Oliver Steel Owls Steelpan Orchestra opened up the fair followed by the Flip Switch band, Bertha C. Bochulte Middle School’s Flambo Combo band with their dancers and the Mungo Niles Cultural Dancers. Cool Sessions Brass ended the event long after closing hours as the crowd continued to dance to their music.
The lead organizer for Afternoon on the Green, Liza J. Margolis shared that there is always a need for more help with organizing the event. As the Senior Coordinator of Donor Relations and Special Events, she is mainly responsible for managing the organization of the event every year. For more information she can be contacted at 340-693-1053 or email email@example.com.
THOMAS, UNITED VIRGIN ISLANDS — During Women’s History Month, the first Virgin Islands Literary Festival and Book Fair (VILitFest) highlighting literacy, local authors, and world literature at schools and the Golden Grove Correctional Facility, will take place from March 26 to 29. Local and regional award-winning authors, editors and publishers to be featured, include Virgin Islander Tiphanie Yanique, Jamaica Kincaid and Malaika Adero.
“Embracing Literacy for Life,” this year’s theme will be experienced all around the isle of St. Croix before, during and after the fair, especially on Thursday, March 26, in The Great Hall on the Albert A. Sheen campus of the University of the Virgin Islands. The Festival’s opening will provide an opportunity for festival-goers to meet with organizers, sponsors, scholars and the vast list of authors.
Featured writers will visit the local prison and schools to discuss their work and the importance of literacy. School children are also invited to attend various events in order to participate in workshops and interact directly with the authors, according to Stephanie Nugent-Hanlon, VILitFest webmaster, journalist and writer by trade and education.
The Caribbean Dance Company will perform a dance interpretation of Marvin Williams’ “Heirs,” the UVI Steel Band Ensemble will entertain, and “The Skin,” a film written and produced by Howard Allen, will have its debut.
St. Thomas-born fiction writer and winner of the 2014 Flaherty-Dunnan First Novel Prize for her novel “Land of Love and Drowning,” Tiphanie Yanique, will share about her award-winning book. Described as “a love letter to the Virgin Islands, both the land and spirit of the place,” in the Los Angeles Review of Books it chronicles the saga of a St. Thomas family through three generations from 1916 to 1970.
Currently a professor at the University of the Virgin Islands, editor, university lecturer, communications consultant and small business owner, Jamaican-born Gillian Royes, is also one of the featured presenters.
“A veteran of the book publishing industry for 30 plus years,” said Malaika Adero, introducing herself as an independent publishing consultant, editor and writer who will also be featured and participating in one of the panels. In a phone interview, she expressed her perspective of the importance of storytelling to all forms of presentation in various genres. According to Adero, her cultural events magazine, HomeSliceMagazine.com is, “a space for me to share with you the new and provocative ideas, art and culture I hear about — sometimes in advance—from my role as an artist, cultural worker and in the book publishing industry.”
On the Saturday evening, a ‘Book Bacchanal’ featuring cultural performances, book signings and a Poetry Slam will be held. Author and biographer of legendary Crucian writer and activist Hubert Harrison, Jeffrey Perry will deliver the keynote address as well as make a presentation.
On Sunday, March 29, led by National Park Superintendent Joel Tutein, participants will be treated to a literary island tour beginning in the Christiansted Historic District and ending at the Frederiksted Fort.
The event is being hosted by the University of the Virgin Islands College of Liberal Arts and Social Sciences. Sponsors include the VI Department of Tourism, Innovative Companies and The Caribbean Writer. For more information, visit the official website or its Spanish version.
As pain, time, and growth pass us by
there is only the sky
There is only the wind…
one with the dust
to the point of being
breaking me down
yet so comforting,
While seemingly separating us
keepin’ us constantly connected…
churning around and within
I feel the ocean
open from sweatin’
through my pores
I smell the earth
as I kneel, before rising
after I roll over
once my eyes have opened
sun light peeking in through my window
it is morning
we are mourning
the old we
as the new us
welcomes a new day
only holy water will quench
this thirst that our bodies have longed for
ashes still falling from our wings
down still heavy with old habits
found under the tougher exterior
let us make pens of our feathers
so that we may write from our heat
of our pain and comforts
purple ink staining our lips and finger tips
as the conch shell is blown
Bird of royalty
remember from whence you came
as you rise above
all that those lower than yourself
don’t have the height to see
rise above the morose mentality
they don’t have the wisdom to let die
those who fear of your rising
and pull them up
so that we may all
those of us desiring
finally be set free
like a sankofa bird
in the sky
as we were meant to do
remember to keep moving forward
as you never forget to check back
on who and what was before you
BEcome the example you WISH you had
© DaraMonifah 02/28/2015
And so it begins… the merging of the Sankofa and the Phoenix. Not new, just reborn. Axe’
One of the most common questions we’ve received since unveiling Untold International is about the significance of our logo. I’m pretty proud of it, and I’m not sorry to say that there is quite a bit of meaning behind it. Brady designed it himself, and the image you see is the first image he sketched out–but a lot of thought went into it.
The logo combines the Ghanaian adinkra symbol of the sankofa bird with the phoenix of Greek mythology, fusing the two together in an alliance of growth and rebirth.
The two adinkra symbols for “Sankofa”
Adinkra symbols are visual representations of aphorisms, proverbs, or traditional wisdom, encapsulated in these easily recognizable icons. They were created by the Akan of West Africa (before it was known as West Africa) to “[support] the transmission of a complex and nuanced body of practice and belief” in a pre-literate, oral…
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