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Charlotte Amalie
Monday, May 20, 2024


Feb. 17, 2002 – The presence of the late Wilfred Barry was felt on the campus at the University of the Virgin Islands Friday evening as friends, colleagues and family shared memories of his life and work.
"Remembering Wilfred Barry, a true soldier," a program presented by the African Diaspora Youth Development Foundation, honored Barry as a Black History Month hero. A plaque and framed photograph were presented to St. Thomas campus Chancellor Roy A. Watlington, to be placed on a wall of the UVI library's Caribbean Room among other local heroes honored earlier.
Master of ceremonies Nab Eddie Bobo, president of the Diaspora group, quoted Barry as saying, "The greatest thing anybody can do is to honor our own." Consequently, Nab Eddie Bobo was pleased to present the evening. At times a UVI student, Barry wrote poems and "proems –- too long to be poems" -– for "The Street Speaker" periodical.
The program led off with the reading of poems by their young creators: Calvin and Cameron Phillips, Abrahaman Muhammad, and Barry's daughter Simone, one of his four children. Simone Barry, who has been writing for "The Street Speaker" since she was 6 or 7, read her poem about her father, "To Be Remembered," and moved herself and audience to tears.
Interspersing introductions with his own recollections, Nab Eddie Bobo presented keynote speaker Conrad Hoover, long a colleague of Barry's in law enforcement. Their association, close in the years when both men were in the U.S. Marshals Service, goes back to Hoover's rookie Public Safety days, patrolling Main Street on the night shift.
Hoover related that his first knowledge of Barry solved the mystery of "jumbies" on the rooftops of downtown St. Thomas: Barry, wise to the ways of his adversaries, dressed in plainclothes and climbed over store rooftops all night to surprise would-be burglars before they gained access to their targets.
Black History Day – Week – Month
Barry used to tell people that Black History Month started as a Day, and later expanded to a Week before it became a Month. It's important to have the celebration, Nab Eddie Bobo quoted Barry, "so that one day Black History Month will be obsolete" because the Black history will finally become a true part of generic "history."
There was a large black city in South America long before Columbus, said Hoover; while it's in Van Sertima's writings, it is not yet part of textbook history. [Ed. note: Ivan Van Sertima. "African Presence in Early America" and "They Came Before Columbus" among his books.]
Barry always had stories to tell, said Hoover, about Bass Reeves, Nat Love, Bill Pickett, Frederick Douglass, Cherokee Bill, all African Americans -– cowboys, outlaws, lawmen and, in the case of Douglass, the first black U.S. Marshal.
Concern for the young people
But Barry's passion and concern throughout his long law-enforcement career was for the young people. He constantly worried about the paths they were choosing. He often spoke and wrote about this for "The Street Speaker," said Nab Eddie Bobo. One of Barry's poems — "Never Me, I Said" — was printed in the evening's program: a heartfelt cry over the sad, fatal path his own brother Samuel had taken.
Nab Eddie Bobo said "Young people were always uppermost in his mind" and that Barry often spoke of planning to turn to teaching when he retired from the Marshals Service. Sadly, he died unexpectedly at age 46, long before retirement.
The appreciative audience of some 50 persons ranged from Barry's uncle Elmo L. Rabsatt Sr. to a tireless prekindergartener who patrolled the auditorium up and down the steps all evening. A large number of family members and young people were present -– which would have pleased Barry, as he emphasized throughout life the importance of family and youth.

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