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Charlotte Amalie
Thursday, May 30, 2024


Dec. 1, 2001 – World AIDS Day was observed Saturday from noon until after 8 p.m. in a way it has never been before at Emancipation Garden, with the emphasis on youth.
Students marched, sang, played steelpan, danced and read winning essays and poems. This is the first year young people have been so actively involved in the observance, and they gave a special meaning to the event.
Two years ago, a handful of people stood in the gazebo at the garden, holding candles and honoring those who had died from acquired immune deficiency syndrome, naming friends and loved ones – "I light my candle for John … for Samuel … for Marie …"
Last year, about 200 people took part in the observance, this time sponsored by the St. Thomas-St. John chapter of the American Red Cross and the Health Department. Yvonne Zinicola, Red Cross local chapter manager, said then, "I light my candle in hopes we increase by another tenfold next year."
Her hopes were in large part fulfilled Saturday, as about 500 people took part in the observance, again sponsored by the Red Cross and the Health Department, this time along with the Office of the Governor and several other agencies represented on the St. Thomas-St. John World AIDS Day Committee.
Committee members Dale Garee and Lee Vanterpool attributed this year's successful turnout to the youngsters. "We got the youth mobilized," Vanterpool said. "We went to the schools, and we went to the Hispanic community." Garee said. "Once you get the kids involved, they tell their parents, and it spreads."
Garee was especially pleased at the level of participation in this year's first-ever World AIDS Day essay and poetry contests, sponsored by the committee and the Education Department. The theme was "I Care … Do You? Youth and HIV for the 21st Century." He said more than 60 students entered the contest, which was started only in the last month.
Mothers, fathers, children and a smattering of tourists wandered amid the booths set up by local health organizations including the East End Medical Center HIP-HATS AIDS program. The Red Cross booth featured bright red ceramic ribbons and pendants, donated by Sharon Hughes of Nisky Arts, Crafts and Ceramics, which were briskly selling for $1.50 and $2.
Gov. Charles W. Turnbull made a proclamation on AIDS in the territory, then led a parade down Main Street and back to Emancipation Garden. There, the ceremonies concluded at 8 p.m. with a candlelight vigil led by Miss Universe 1998, Wendy Fitzwilliam, of Trinidad and Tobago. Fitzwilliam, an AIDS activist, also was the keynote speaker.
Delegate Donna Christian Christensen, who is a physician, and Dr. Cora Christian also addressed the crowd on the seriousness of AIDS in the territory.
Visitors were entertained throughout the day by a wide swath of local talent including the Charlotte Amalie High School Spanish-Afro-Antillean dance and poetry performers; Sonic Boom rapper Lee Gabriel; the V.I. Housing Authority Steel Orchestra; 2-E-Kwip, a couple of 1999 CAHS graduates who have become nationally known for their positive rap lyrics preaching nonviolence; a CAHS mime group; and the Hispanglish Youth Latin dancers.
Reciting from her first prize-winning poem, "The Silent Killer," CAHS 11th grader Sasha Berry told of a passionate fling with a "devastatingly handsome" fellow:
He told me he loved me, he promised me his soul
I had no idea the silent killer was lurking, waiting to take control …

One thing led to another with the heroine of the poem …
But where was he now, it's like he disappeared in a cave
My questions were answered as I was buried next to his grave.

Another CAHS 11th grader, Khadija de Lagarde, read from her prize-winning essay: "…AIDS is not something to be taken lightly. I would hate to lose one of my peers to AIDS, for it already hurts losing them any other way."
Both girls said they have no friends who have died of AIDS, but both are acutely aware of its presence and threat in the territory. "Education is the answer," all of the students taking part in the day's program agreed, which is what the day was all about.

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