March 29, 2005 History will come alive – and be written – Thursday as Virgin Islanders observe Transfer Day.
Transfer Day, an official holiday observed in the territory on March 31, commemorates the 1917 transfer of ownership of the islands from Denmark to America.
Traditionally, the executive and legislative branches of government organize activities for Transfer Day, and this year is no different. However, for the first time in the history of the observance, the Legislature is sponsoring a panel discussion to reflect on where the territory has come in its quest for independence and more self-governance, and to highlight constitutional development.
The discussion, "From Danish Colonial Councils (1853) to the Revised Organic Act of 1954: A Century of Struggle for Constitutional Democracy," will take place from 4 to 7 p.m. at the Earle B. Ottley Legislative Hall on St. Thomas.
Senate President Lorraine L. Berry, who spearheaded the event, said Tuesday she felt the holiday was a fitting time for residents to reflect and discuss adopting a territorial constitution, especially now with all the talk of St. Croix seceding.
Berry said the Senate's consensus majority believes adopting the Revised Organic Act as the territory's constitution is the best route at this time.
"We've had four failed constitutional conventions," Berry said. "The Legislature is taking the lead to begin discussions on the issue."
Berry said she believes that by adopting the Revised Organic Act as the V.I. Constitution, the U.S. Congress would be sure to approve it. Once the document is approved by Congress, Berry said the local government would be able to amend it as necessary without Congressional approval.
Thursday's panelists, who will speak for 15 minutes on the subject, are: Gerard Emanuel, University of the Virgin Islands Professor; former senator Arnold "Morty" Golden; Rupert Ross, retired educator; attorney Judith Bourne; Dr. Paul Leary; Basil Ottley Jr.; and attorney Joanne Bozzuto.
James O'Bryan, St. Thomas and Water Island Administrator will give a 20-minute presentation entitled "Where Do We Go From Here?"
UVI professor Malik Sekou will serve as moderator for the event. Gov. Charles W. Turnbull and Delegate Donna Christensen will also give remarks. For a brief history of the constitutional conventions that have gone before, click here.
Here is a full calendar of Transfer Day Activities:
– Transfer Installation Exhibit, by St. John artist Janet Cook-Rutnik, 6 p.m., Fort Christian.
– Ole Time Community Breakfast, 6:30 to 9:30 a.m., Roosevelt Park.
– Official Ceremony, 10 to 11:30 a.m., Legislative Grounds.
– Opening of the Cultural Fair, noon to 4 p.m., Emancipation Garden.
– Friends of Denmark Luncheon, 1 to 3 p.m., Royal Caribbean's Jewel of the Sea. Cost $35. Homeland Security Clearance Required. Call 776-9357 for more information.
– Legislative Forum/Panel Discussion, 4 to 7 p.m., Earle B. Ottley Legislative Hall.
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