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Aug. 30, 2001 – Some 2,000 youths and adults from across the nation attending the national Weed and Seed conference in Philadelphia that ended Thursday got to see what the program is all about in the Virgin Islands — and it's about a lot.
Members of St. Croix's Grove Place Weed and Seed Banjo/Calypso Players performed on Sunday at a luncheon, immediately following an address by U.S. Attorney General John Ashcroft.
On Wednesday morning, the Eulalie Rivera Elementary School Steppers performed at a plenary session. Also within the V.I. delegation were three teen-agers who are certified master scuba divers from the Bovoni Weed and Seed dive program on St. Thomas. All told, about a dozen youngsters from St. Croix and another dozen from St. Thomas took part in the conference.
The Bovoni dive program is the only one of its kind in the nation. David L. Atkinson, acting U.S. attorney for the Virgin Islands, noted that the program was recently featured in Insights, a national magazine published by the Weed and Seed executive office.
Atkinson said that due to the huge success of the U.S. Justice Department initiative across the nation, President Bush's budget for 2002 calls for a $25 million increase in funding for the Weedf and Seed program. According to a release, from Atkinson's office, the increase is expected to be approved in Congress, where the program has broad bipartisan support.
Weed and Seed is a strategy (as opposed to a grant program) within the Justice Department's Office of Justice Programs that incorporates community-based initiatives. It is a multi-agency approach to law enforcement, crime prevention and community revitalization that aims to reduce, control and prevent violent crime, drug abuse and gang activity in targeted high-crime neighborhoods across the nation.
According to its web site, Operation Weed and Seed, as it was first named in 1990, became a key component in the previous Bush administration's anti-crime efforts and helped shape the national debate about how to prevent and control crime. The initiative "wins back our inner cities by weeding out gang leaders, drug dealers and career criminals and seeding communities with expanded employment, education and social services," then-President George Bush said.
A community-oriented policing component bridges the weeding and seeding strategies, according to promotional material. The program began with three sites in 1991; today it has nearly 300.
The V.I. Weed and Seed groups were started two years ago under the leadership of former U.S. Attorney James Hurd, who resigned in January. The Boys and Girls Club of the Bovoni Weed and Seed won a prestigious Environmental Quality Award earlier this year from the national Environmental Protection Agency for its island cleanup projects.
Among those attending Sunday's opening session of the conference at the Philadelphia Marriott Hotel was Delegate Donna Christian Christensen. The conference theme was "A Decade of Weed and Seed … Leave No Neighborhood Behind."
The conference — for Weed and Seed staff as well as youth delegates — included daylong "Learning Labs" on such topics as conflict resolution, empowering communities through technology, the mobile community-outreach police station concept, and drug demand reduction. There were bus and trolley tours to the sites of the six Philadelphia Weed and Seed projects.
The members of the Eulalie Rivera Steppers who made the trip are Neheh Barry, Kimesha Bloodman, Christine Chooran, Shamela Flemming, Rashema George, Shana Gilbert, Iyanna Jones, Nneka Richards, Shawndell Simon, Shenelle Warden and Jamilah Williams.
The Banjo/Calypso Players who took part are Juan Becerril, Demaris Belardo, Crystal Belgrave, Ray Christian, Sasha Greene, Kathleen Guadalupe, Laquida Iles, Jahmeelah Matthews, Jahnailah Morris, Tanisha Poleon, Nailah Richards, Alenna Rivera and John Williams.

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