Aug. 14, 2002 The Virgin Islands community is invited to celebrate and pay tribute to exemplary women at the International Black Women's Day celebration from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Saturday in Emancipation Garden on St. Thomas. The celebration will be combined with a Tribute to Marcus Garvey on the occasion of his birthday.
For several months, the Rastafari Community of the Virgin Islands, the Rastafarian Improvement Association and We Grow Food Inc. have been organizing the event, which they hope will become an annual gathering held on a different Caribbean island each year.
Initiated by the St. Kitts delegation of the Caribbean Rastafari Organization, the first International Women's Day celebration was planned for July 25, 2001, in conjunction with a seven-day International Rastafari Memorial Conference.
Several "queens" — women from throughout the territory who serve as positive models of strong black women — will be honored at the event. The women, most of whom have never been publicly recognized, will be rewarded for the sacrifices they have made to their families, the community, and the Black Nation, according to a release.
The St. Thomas honorees are Sister Nash, owner of Queen Bee ital restaurant; Queen Mother Oshana, a homemaker and mother of 14; Helen Rabsatt, a farmer who has sold her herbs and spices in the local market for decades; Marianne "Mama Francis" Francis, an acclaimed baker who uses no dairy products in her treats; and Empress Ashan, co-founder of Royal Passion restaurant.
The St. Croix queens to be honored are Donna "Asheba" Samuel, a pioneer in home school education; Valerie "Walla" Hendrickson, a founding member of UCAs Kitchen, an eatery and cultural center; and Lenore "Isumyah" Schrader, owner of Vegetarian Creation.
The St. John honoree is Felicia Caines, a farmer and basket weaver.
Although Samuel is being honored for home-school education, she wishes to be noted for her farming and her storytelling. In a telephone interview, she said she was "pleased and surprised to be honored — especially while I'm alive."
She spoke enthusiastically about her storytelling, featuring the traditional Anansi stories and recounting the history of Queen Mary and the Fireburn. To the delight of children from about age 5 up through "the elders," she tells stories at public and private schools, the Frederiksted Boys Club shelter and St. Croix's housing communities, concluding her presentations with arts and crafts activities to bring engage her listeners. She hopes to be able to get some storytelling sessions taped so that they can be preserved for the future.
Samuel sells her farm produce at the Farmers' Market and has craft products available as well. "Whatever I'm doing," she said, "I do it because I'm ordained to, not for myself."
Tribute to Marcus Garvey
The International Black Women's Day celebration will double as a tribute to Marcus Garvey, the black nationalist leader credited with creating the Back to Africa Movement. Garvey, founder of the Universal Negro Improvement Association and the Black Star Line, was born on Aug. 17, 1887 in Jamaica. He was revered by Rastafari when he prophesied, "Look to the east, from whence cometh a king," shortly before the coronation of Haile Selassie as emperor of Ethiopia.
In addition to his prominence as a nationalist, Garvey was a strong business strategist with organizational skills. Through the UNIA, he created a number of prosperous businesses, including the shipping line, a factory, a bakery, a dry cleaners, a grocery store, restaurants and a publishing house.
The day's activities will begin with tributes to Garvey. Food, drinks and arts and crafts items will be on sale. There will be poetry readings and speech presentations. Also planned are African dance entertainment and a speaker from Anguilla. Music will be provided by Y2K Sounds. The ceremony to honor the queens begins at 2 p.m.
For more information on the International Black Women's Day celebration and the Tribute to Marcus Garvey, or to become a sponsor, call 775-0543, 514-6032 or 772-2291.
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