June 24, 2005 – For decades, the West End town known as "Freedom City" has celebrated the July 3 anniversary of the Emancipation of 1848, commemorating the day when Moses "General Buddhoe" Gottlieb led a revolt of more than 8,000 enslaved people to demand their freedom from the Danish government.
Although the Danish government declared slavery illegal in 1792, it nevertheless assisted planters in acquiring slaves during a "transition" period before the slave trade was completely abolished in 1803.
However, St. Croix's enslaved people would remain indentured servants until July 3, 1848, when they organized an insurrection and threatened to burn down the towns.
Governor-General Peter von Scholten, roused from his bed in the wee hours of the morning by the news of the unrest, soon ordered the immediate emancipation of all "unfree."
Mary Moorhead, a member of the Emancipation Day committee, said events are a way to keep the community in touch with its V.I. culture.
Adhering to that mandate of keeping Caribbean culture alive, the committee has invited Paul Keens-Douglas to participate in this year's activities. Keens-Douglas, a Trinidad native, grew up in Grenada and has been writing and performing his own works since 1974.
He holds an Honors Degree in Sociology, diplomas in radio and television production and broadcasting, and has done postgraduate work at the University of the West Indies in Mona, Jamaica.
He's received many awards, including the Silver Hummingbird for Culture and the Zora Neale Hurston Award. For the past 20 years he has been a leading advocate of oral storytelling traditions. A self-published author, he has published seven volumes of work, twelve albums and three videos.
Another highly anticipated event during the Emancipation Day celebrations is the tea meeting — a social function, which would be extinct in the Virgin Islands, and maybe even in the Caribbean, if not for occasions such as these.
The tea meeting is an opportunity for ordinary people to demonstrate the valued Afro-Caribbean cultural tradition of speechmaking. During the meeting, which would traditionally last from early evening until dawn, speakers delivered eloquent discourses on pseudo-scholarly topics. During the event, a choir would also sing spiritual and nineteenth-century sentimental parlor songs and ballads.
Also part of the festivities, the traditional donkey races are great fun for the entire family. Whether it's cart races, traditional racing or competing in obstacle courses, the antics of the riders and steeds keep the audience in stitches. The activities will culminate in a spectacular fireworks show on July 4th.
Saturday, June 25; 6:30 p.m.
Emancipation debate Broadcast Live on TV-12
Panelists: Gerard Emanuel, Adelbert Bryan and Dr. Simon Jones-Hendrickson
Moderator: Mario Moorhead
Friday, July 1; 7 p.m.
Old Fashioned Tea Meeting at Buddhoe Park
Sponsored by the Department of Tourism
Saturday, July 2; 1 p.m.
Donkey Races at Paul E. Joseph Stadium
Sponsored by American Legion Post 85
Admission $5 for adults, $2 for children
Saturday, July 2; 5 p.m.–8 p.m.
Legislative Conference Room, Frederiksted
Sponsored by the Office of Senate President Lorraine L. Berry
Saturday, July 2; 6 p.m.–8 p.m.
Maafa Collective & Beyond Emancipation Drama
St. Croix Educational Complex
Sunday, July 3; 2 p.m.
Emancipation Day Program at Buddhoe Park
Special Guest Paul Keens-Douglas
Sunday, July 3; 8 p.m.
Paul Keens-Douglas Emancipation Show
Island Center for the Performing Arts
Admission $20 under cover; $15 bleachers
Monday, July 4
Buddhoe Classic Horse Races; 3 p.m.
Randall "Doc" James Race Track
Culture/Fireworks Excursion; 3 p.m.
Sponsored by Rotary West and the St. Croix community
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