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St. John Folklife Festival Will Celebrate Pan-African Leader

Feb. 5, 2008 — The 17th annual Folklife Festival, held by V.I. National Park, is on tap for 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Feb. 21 and 22 and 5:30 to 9:30 p.m. Feb. 23 at Annaberg Plantation.
"Come to experience and revel in our culture," said Park Ranger Denise Georges.
People who come for the Feb. 23 evening segment of the festival should bring a flashlight, she suggested. Those who visit during the day should wear a hat because Annaberg is hot and has little shade.
"Light snacks and drinks will be for sale," Georges said.
While the festival attracts numerous school groups, it also brings out residents and visitors to celebrate the territory's past. Georges, the festival's organizers, said it's an opportunity to taste local "foods and smells" and to enjoy the national park as a classroom.
The festival's theme this year is Celebrating Our Ancestors, and will honor Edward Wilmot Blyden, a native of the Virgin Islands who led the Pan-African movement. Blyden was born in 1832 and died in 1912. He spoke 22 languages and was a lawyer and author, Georges said.
"That was remarkable at that time in history," she said.
St. Thomas attorney Tregenza Roach will make a presentation on Blyden with a question-and-answer period to follow. Presentations on Blyden, as well as other performances and presentations, will be made throughout the day.
The festival also features a performance by the Philadelphia-based Kulu Mele African-American Dance Ensemble.
"They will be performing in authentic African costumes," Georges said.
The troupe's repertoire includes dances from Guinea, Ghana, Senegal, Nigeria, Brazil, Haiti, Cuba and African America.
University of the Virgin Islands Professor Robert Nichols will talk about the importance of the libation and the connection between West Africa and the Virgin Islands in cultural tradition.
Morgan State University professor Homer Fleetwood will discuss history and geography.
The roster of presenters also includes wood turner Avelino Samuel, joiner Almando Kennings, magnet maker Bridget Julius and traditional food maker Theresa Brown. Additionally, Golda Hermon and Olivia Christian will demonstrate baking dumb bread in a dutch oven.
Sponsors include the local government, Friends of the Park, the V.I. Council on the Arts, the V.I. Humanities Council, the St. John Community Foundation and Tradewinds newspaper.
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