Dec. 30, 2005 Even though many senators were moved on Dec. 15 to jump up and boogie to hail an amendment naming the Trevor Nicholas "Nick" Friday tune V.I. as the territory's official song, Gov. Charles W. Turnbull was moved Thursday to veto the legislation.
Sen. Usie Richards, sponsor of the legislation, has taken issue with Turnbull's action. In a letter to Senate President Lorraine Berry, Turnbull said that while the recently deceased calypsonian Jam Band leader and vocalist should be honored, the territory already has an official song, The Virgin Islands March.
The march was composed in 1919 by Alton A. Adams Sr., whom Turnbull described as a "distinguished citizen, businessman, journalist, musician and the first black Naval bandmaster in American history."
Richards' amendment was unanimously passed in an emotional moment at the session, as senators lauded Friday. Richards' amendment superseded a bill of Berry's to which it was attached. Berry's legislation appropriated funds to erect a bronze bust of Friday in Educators Park. Richards removed that provision and replaced it with the amendment which "adopts the song V.I. from the 2004 Jam Band CD entitled We From De V.I. as the territorial song of the Virgin Islands.
"We can have the song V.I. to be one of our territorial or official or honorary songs, as is the case with some states," Turnbull wrote. "However, in sum, it is fitting and proper for The Virgin Islands March to remain the official territorial song."
The amended bill makes no mention of replacing the section of the V. I. Code, which declares the march as the territory's anthem.
"Friday and his musical group, Jam Band, brought a level of joy, excitement and energy to music lovers in the Virgin Islands, the rest of the Caribbean, and the Caribbean Diaspora that was unparalleled and unique," Turnbull wrote.
The governor's veto is not sitting well with Richards. He plans to introduce an override to Turnbull's veto at a Senate meeting next month, he said on Friday.
"First of all," Richards said, "I believe that the governor's action was influenced by members of the Legislature for him to veto this particular bill."
He said it was clear in the Senates action that there was no intent to replace the march anthem.
"I have reviewed Sec. 104, Chapter 7, Title 1, which clearly adopts the V.I. March, written by Alton Adams Sr., as our national anthem," Richards said. "Nowhere in the language of that section is it referred to as a song.' It clearly delineates it as an anthem. It is similar to us having the song God Bless America, as a song, especially since 9/11. It is not recognized as a U.S. anthem. I believe adopting it as one of our songs is redundant, as the bill submitted adopts it as a song.
Richards has been president of the V.I. Basketball Association for two decades. He said he is clear in his respect to have the V.I. March as the national anthem for two reasons.
"I know what it is to instill national pride," he said, "and we have instilled the V. I. March as our national anthem."
In addition, he said that at Fisk University, where he graduated in 1977, an honorary degree was issued to Adams for his contribution as a bandleader.
"There is no way that I, as a sponsor of the amendment, intended to replace the march with a song."
Richards had a few words for his colleagues "getting political mileage" out of Friday's passing.
"They should have given praises to Friday while he was alive," he said. "The majority of [those] individuals have never hired Jam Band for a political event, nor attended events where Jam Band was the sole entity."
He said he intends at the next session to have members consider an override of the veto.
On Friday, meanwhile, Berry said she agreed with Turnbull.
"To determine a song, we need more input from the people," she said. "Many musicians have songs other than the one proposed. We have many people who have influenced the community in different ways. We need their input."
As for the legislation, in which originally Berry had proposed a bronze bust of Friday for Educator's Park, she said she thought most people thought it was still in the bill.
"I still support having a bust of Friday in the park. He represents his generation," Berry said.
She has had legislation passed to erect a bust of the late Milo Francis, of Milo and the Kings, but she said it has been held up because the sculptor has been ill.
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