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Virgin Islanders Connect with Ghana at Emancipation Commemoration

Aug. 15, 2006 – A group of Virgin Islands residents recently attended Ghana's 2006 Emancipation Commemoration activities with a goal of reestablishing ties.
"The connection dates back to slavery," Mark Barnaby said Tuesday.
The V.I. group included Barnaby, who is Sen. Ronald Russell's chief of staff; Myron Jackson, who heads the Planning and Natural Resources State Historic Preservation Office; Carlyle Corbin, government representative for external affairs; Mary Moorhead and Dwayne Howell of the St. Croix emancipation organization Yesterday, Today and Tomorrow; Shelly Moorhead of the African-Caribbean Reparations and Resettlement Alliance; former Health Commissioner Dr. Mavis Matthews; and business owner Maurice Donovan.
The highlight for several people came with visits to the forts that served as the departure point for Africans being taken from their homeland as slaves.
"The most heart-wrenching moment was seeing the gate of no return," Barnaby said.
He said 200,000 people from Ghana, which was then called the Gold Coast, left Africa as slaves.
"Only 100,000 survived the journey," Moorhead added.
He too said he found it moving to see the gate of no return.
Barnaby said that Denmark, which owned the Virgin Islands until 1917, kept good records on the transport of slaves from Africa to its colony in the Caribbean.
He said the people of Ghana are interested in learning what happened to those who landed in the Virgin Islands, just as the Virgin Islanders are interested in learning about their ancestors from Ghana.
"Nothing beats getting into history and discovering your family," he said.
Moorhead said discussions are under way to allocate 40,000 acres of land in Ghana as a reparation settlement. He said that the land could be used to grow food for the Virgin Islands.
While in Ghana, the delegation presented gifts symbolic of the connection between West Africa and the Caribbean.
According to a press release issued by Government House, Jackson presented Ghana President John Kuffnor with a mortar and pestle inscribed to the people of the Ghana from the people of the Virgin Islands, madras fabric, a warri board, an inscribed mahogany clock, gold cufflinks and a commemorative blue china plate of Fort Christian.
He also presented gifts to J.O. Obetsebi-Lamptey, Ghana's minister for tourism and diasporean relations, as well as to other kings and chiefs of Ghana's various ethnic groups.
The visit included receptions and visits to numerous places in Ghana. One stop included the Akwamu region, which Jackson said was important because the Akwamus were the ethnic group that led the 1733 slave rebellion on St. John.
The group presented a photo of Fortsberg, the site where the rebellion began, to Obetsebi-Lamptey.
The delegation visited the Keta province, home to Fort Prinzenstein, where captured Africans were kept until they were transported on ships to the Caribbean. The area's youths performed a reenactment of the movement of the captives from the fort to the ships.
While in Keta, the delegation viewed the Atorkor Slave Market site.
The group participated in a wreath laying ceremony at the W.E.B. Dubois Center in the capital city of Accra.
Corbin, in an address, spoke about the close connection and family ties between the people of Ghana and those in the Virgin Islands.
In Osu township, they viewed a healing ceremony held for those Virgin Islanders whose roots are in Osu. It was held at the Osu Mantse Palace.
Jackson said his trip was funded by the Planning and Natural Resources Department, with some of the others receiving funding from their organizations or paying for the trip themselves.

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