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Cultural Connections: St. Croix Friends of Denmark Society Embarks on Festival Exchange Journey

Francine Lang, president of the St. Croix Friends of Denmark Society, delivers opening remarks on Monday at the Botanical Gardens. (Submitted photo)

In a momentous event that unfolded this past Monday, the St. Croix Friends of Denmark Society initiated its Festival Exchange endeavor, marking a significant milestone in cultural diplomacy and historical exploration. Live-streamed on the 175th Emancipation Commemoration Committee’s Facebook page, the event brought together community leaders, distinguished guests, and eager participants from across the Virgin Islands.

“Welcome to the start of this journey—I hope you can continue with us,” exclaimed Francine Lang, president of the St. Croix Friends of Denmark Society and the event’s host, as she welcomed attendees with enthusiasm and anticipation. With her words setting the tone for the morning, the hybrid event buzzed with excitement and great interest in what was to unfold.

Among the notable speakers was Carol Burke, a seven-generation Crucian and chairwoman of the 175th Commemoration Committee, who joined virtually to share her firsthand experiences of visiting the Danish embassy. “We were well received by the embassy and left feeling rejuvenated and hopeful,” Burke recounted, reflecting on the warmth and hospitality extended by Danish representatives. She highlighted Gov. Albert Bryan Jr.’s commitment to reestablishing connections with Denmark, underscoring the significance of shared values and historical ties.

A pivotal aspect of the discussions revolved around potential collaborations in the realm of energy, as Burke shared notes from Nick Christopher Damgaard Jensen, counselor of Energy and Climate, during a visit with the Danish Embassy, highlighting Denmark’s expertise in wind power. “Denmark is number one in wind power energy,” Burke noted, igniting a spark of possibility for addressing the Virgin Islands’ energy challenges. Teri Helenese, director of State-Federal Relations and Washington representative for the government of the U.S. Virgin Islands, and Kyle Fleming, director of the Virgin Islands Energy Office, attendees of a recent meeting with embassy officials, echoed this sentiment, expressing optimism about the prospects for collaboration.

But beyond energy, the event was a testament to the power of cultural exchange and historical exploration. Burke, in her presentation titled “Building Bridges,” emphasized the importance of forging connections between the Virgin Islands and Denmark. “Our goal is to build bridges that span across cultures and generations,” Burke affirmed, underscoring the significance of unity and cooperation.

The event also featured a captivating presentation by Jorgen Oxholm, a descendant of Peter Lotharius Oxholm and member of the Danish West Indian Society Board, whose rich heritage is deeply intertwined with the history of St. Croix. Jorgen Oxholm shared fascinating insights into his ancestor’s life, tracing Peter L. Oxholm’s journey from his role in mapping the islands in 1777 to his involvement in the sugarcane industry and his complex legacy as a slave trader.

Reflecting on Peter L. Oxholm’s life and legacy, Jorgen Oxholm remarked, “His story is a tapestry of triumphs and challenges—a reminder of the complexities of our shared history.” Indeed, Peter L. Oxholm’s narrative serves as a poignant reminder of the enduring connections between St. Croix and Denmark, spanning generations and continents.

As the event drew to a close, attendees departed with a renewed sense of purpose and possibility, eagerly anticipating the Danish West Indian Festival scheduled for March 2025 on St. Croix. With the seeds of collaboration sown and bridges of understanding built, the St. Croix Friends of Denmark Society and the 175th Emancipation Commemoration Committee embark on a shared journey of cultural exchange and exploration, guided by the spirit of unity and shared heritage.

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