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V.I. Voices Speak Up Loud And Clear

Feb. 14, 2009 — The breezy air was filled with music, poetry and stories Friday at the Sidney Lee Theater at Island Center on St. Croix, for "An Evening With Virgin Islands Voices," a literary and spoken word celebration.
Seventeen acts took the stage for brief sets.
Author and poet Richard Schrader gave a keynote address, telling how he first became inspired to write poetry and what it has meant for him. Schrader has written 20 books capturing the rich culture of the Virgin Islands, and is the recipient of numerous honors including the Virgin Islands Humanities Council’s 1994 "Humanist Award" in recognition of his tireless efforts in preserving the tradition of St. Croix.
He read excerpts from several poems, including a new one on the election of Barack Obama as president. "My grandchildren keep asking me when am I writing an Obama election poem" he said. "Usually I don't write on a topic, but wait until the inspiration arrives," he said. But in this case, inspiration came quickly and he obliged his grandchildren and the audience on Friday.
St. Croix conscious reggae vocalist Mada Nile sang "Like to See" off her first album, On My Way, in her rich and soulful voice. "I would like to see more love and unity," she sang. "Don't want no more war / don't want no more blood running in the streets / I would love to see the hungry get food to eat / I would love to see the homeless off the streets…"
Other acts included Eugene "Doc" Petersen, who sang a mellifluous medley of "Bajan Girl" and other traditional folk Calypso songs from the '30s, '40s and '50s, The Poetic Expressions Club, a group of a dozen young St. Croix students, showcased an original group performance piece about the many musical forms that are alive and well on the island, and Oceana James and Sayeeda Carter performed a two-person one-act play.
King Derby played a couple traditional quelbe tunes with his young banjo and ukulele students. Frederick Williams big Eulalie Rivera Elementary string ensemble played a tune, and several artists read their own original poetry on topic ranging from motherhood in the Virgin Islands to Michelle and Barack Obama.
Story-tellers Janice Tutein and Asta Williams, singer Wayne "Bully" Petersen and local band Stanley Jacobs with the 10 Sleepless Knights also performed.
About 150 spectators enjoyed the show, which was an extension of the Humanities Council's successful "Virgin Islands Voices: A Literary and Spoken Word Festival," held last October on St. Thomas. Due to popular demand following the festival, the Council decided to replicate the spoken word portion of the event on St. Croix. It is part of the goals of the We the People initiative, a series supported by the National Endowment for the Humanities which highlights self-expression, migration and assimilation, according to the V.I. Humanities Council.
The Virgin Islands Humanities Council is a non-profit organization funded primarily by the National Endowment for the Humanities. The mission of the Council is to promote lifelong learning and cultural awareness through the humanities. For more information, please call the Virgin Islands Humanities Council at 776-4044.
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