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Thursday, September 29, 2022


This is your Senator Lorraine L. Berry bringing you my Annual Emancipation Day Message to the people of the Virgin Islands!
Today marks the 151st anniversary of the abolition of chattel slavery in the then Danish West Indies. Along with the English- and French-speaking Caribbean, slavery was abolished by the end of 1848. Within France and Spain, a series of revolutions shook the elite who were opposed not only by Africans but by strong anti-slavery movements in their areas, as well as in the states and by abolitionists in neighboring French Islands.
Last year, in St. Croix, official commemorative activities took place that highlighted the sacrifices and leadership of Admiral Buddhoe, Martin King, and other nameless, faceless heroes whom history has bestowed the label-insurrectionists; aided and abetted by stateside Quakers and French Abolitionists. However, we know that the silent ones to whom no names are recorded made the insurrection possible and in fact turn the clock of history to a new time and period. Even more, last year's commemorative activities opened up a historic debate on the leadership and roles of Peter and Frederick Von Schoulten. Whatever motivated them, we know they did call for the emancipation of all unfree Africans. By doing this, they landed on the just side of history, and we shall continue to honor them.
We were informed that two important leaders, John Gottlieb, and Moses Roberts are accounted for in our historical records as the key organizers, but our traditional hero Moses Gottlieb places a primary role on Moses "Buddhoe" Gottlieb.
Be that as it may, these leaders were the trailblazers who made the vision of liberty the reality of freedom within the entire Danish colony. Nonetheless, as soon as chattel slavery was legally destroyed, onerous Labor Codes were initiated. It would take another thirty years and Fireburn of 1878 to complete the physical emancipation process.
Some in our midst can only talk about the past in order to remain buried in the past. They read history to find raw material for their politics of hate, confusion, and divisiveness. Fortunately, only a handful will do this. They seem not to understand that a people heal their scars when they confront the damages imposed on them, understand the causes of these damages, close these wounds, and then move on, determined not to allow these negative experiences to be imposed on them or on others.
There is another group among us who seek to disregard any references to history in order to avoid opening up sensitive discussions that are bound to generate controversy. They want us to focus only on today or the present period of existence. If we were to accept this posture, we would be overwhelmed with the magnitude of problems that exist and not understand how they arise. I support the middle road-study history as a tool for researching the good and bad factors that continue to exist among us.
We know that the traditional Virgin Islands family is in trouble. As time went on it reconstitute itself as an extended family model with a mixture of both African and European influences or a Caribbeanized version of both cultures. For the first five decades of the 20th Century, major inroads occurred in the creation of functional families.
However, starting in the 1960s, we began to witness a steady decline in the Virgin Islands family, as has occurred on the mainland. This decline has reached catastrophic proportions in the 1990s. I am informed by Human Services Social Scientists that a large percentage of our men forfeit their responsibilities without batting an eye; that well over $17 million in child support is owed to approximately 17,000 children. Domestic violence, sexual abuse, social neglect, and parental delinquency plague our society! Sadly, education and training have become stigmatized, among many youth, who boast good education is not "cool." All of the social reforms that our ancestors struggled for and all of the advances we made after July 3, 1848 are being undermined by the new negative attitudes of today.
To do something about this situation, I had initiated an essay contest throughout all schools asking students to examine how bad decisions early in life can have profound consequences down the road. But even more than the essay contest, I believe that education must be the priority. Beacon Schools, which came about through my initiative, must fill in the gap of excessive "spare time." Youth conferences, symposia, and mass education campaigns must be encouraged. There must be no limit to our will in preparing our children for the 21st Century and eradicating defects of the 20th.
When we speak of Emancipation, we should not relegate discourse only on July 3rd. We should bear in mind that mental emancipation is actually a long-term process and, as with any long-term process involving the mind, it is ongoing, it is ever-present . . . or should be! It bespeaks of an honest and sincere acknowledgment that all people – – black, white, red, yellow, all of us – – must work towards the goal of color blindness, wherein the color of skin, texture of hair and shape of facial features are totally irrelevant; that generalizations must be avoided at all costs in which people are slotted into categories; and that what really counts in this world is the content of our character and by – – and this is terribly important – – what each and every one of us do daily to make relationships among people, sweeter, kindlier. It is the Christian thing to do and must be done if we are to give more than lip service to creating an environment that makes waking up a pleasure – – in short, a far better quality of life. Basically Buddhoe struggled for these ideals and his work must not be in vain.
Have a wonderful July 3rd, Emancipation Day.

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