Speakers at the bandstand at the Christiansted National Historic Site observing Transfer Day on Tuesday spoke about the future as much as the past.
Joel Tutein, superintendent of St. Croix National Parks, said the event which attracted over 100 people and was the first of its kind at the site in a couple of decades, was leading up to the 100 year celebration of Transfer Day only two years away.
Julie St. Martin of the Friends of St. Croix National Parks pointed out that the Friends had as a goal “integrating the people of St. Croix with the national parks.”
But the real stars of the event were not the dignitaries, but five students from St. Croix Educational Complex High School, students from Sayeeda Carter’s speech class. The students presented essays turning what they learned at the national parks into perspectives on Virgin Islands history.
Their essays were chosen by student peers as the best of 72 presented in Carter’s class last semester.
Carter said in an interview before the event that the students had all visited Christiansted National Historic Site and toured the fort. The students were then asked to write a piece from the point of view of a person living during the fort’s prominence.
“It was a way to make history a living thing for them,” Carter said.
The voices the students chose to tell the choices were varied – Shideya Parrila chose to tell the story of slave who commits suicide on Maroon Ridge instead of accepting a life of slavery; Narome Belus wrote about a slave who took part in a rebellion and was hanged; Tanya Rodrigus wrote in the form of a letter from Gov. Peter Von Scholten’s mistress Anna.
Brynn Lester wrote about a slave who confesses to stealing a necklace just for the opportunity of death.
The characters in Hannah Rantan’s and Torhera Durand’s stories also come to bad ends.
Leah Achille wrote about a Danish soldier marrying an enslaved African woman and him standing up for her honor.
David Goldstein, chief of interpretation at the National Park Service, said the event brought together “all the layers of culture that make Virgin Islands a great place.” He added that, coming up, the Park Service was going to present a local play on the connections between the Harlem Renaissance at the beginning of the 20th Century and the Virgin Islands.
One of the elements of culture mentioned by Goldstein was a performance by some other student stars – Valrica Bryson’s quadrille students from St. Mary’s and Elena Christian schools. They performed to music by Stanley and the Ten Sleepless Knights.
They were introduced by Carl Christiansen who also welcomed students from the Danske Studie Center. These 22 students from Denmark on a study tour sang the Danish national anthem.
The Danish students were ages 18 to 25 and had all finished high school. Some had been waiting for over a year for this trip. They arrived on St. Croix on Monday. In the upcoming days, before heading to St. Thomas, they have had scheduled a historic walk through Christiansted with Nina York and a trip to Buck Islands and Columbus Landing.
Tour guide Anj Thompson said at the event that she heard it was snowing in Denmark again although spring was on its way. She said all of the people on her tour were very excited about visiting St. Croix.
St. Croix students from Project Promise help set up for the event. Friends of St. Croix National Parks hosted the program.