Fourteen members of the territory were honored on St. Croix during the 34th Legislature’s Perma Plaque Ceremony for services rendered to the community.
Musicians, teachers, storytellers, athletes, farmers, and clergymen were among those honored on Monday by senators.
“I think it’s important that you know that your work has not gone unnoticed,” said Senate President Donna Frett-Gregory.
Frett-Gregory noted that the ceremony was anticipated to occur during the 33rd Legislature under the leadership of Senate Vice President Novelle Francis. However, COVID-19 thwarted the event.
“We intended to do it sooner, but life has a very interesting way of dictating when things happen. And the best time is the right time, and that’s now,” said Frett-Gregory.
More than 30 individuals were present at the Frits E. Lawaetz Conference Room to receive or give support to honorees in what Francis called the “test run,” as this has been the largest in-person audience since the start of the pandemic.
“It’s wonderful to see people sitting in the gallery of the Legislature,” said Senate President Legislative Director Jamila Russell.
“We are here today to pay tribute to those individuals that have really contributed significantly to the people of the Virgin Islands. And we are attempting today to make sure that they are recognized, and they’re given their flowers, while they can still smell the flowers,” said Francis.
Honorees shared anecdotes and smiles as they received their plaques and expressed thanks to the community for recognizing them.
“I really love what it is I do,” said Alwyn “Daddy Jones” Baptiste Jr., who accepted a plaque for himself and one on behalf of his father, Alwyn “Big Al” Baptiste. “Everything I do, I do in his honor.”
Baptiste Sr. was the leader of the World Famous Xpress Band, while his son followed in his musical footsteps.
St. Croix’s 2019 State Teacher of the Year, Kerra Samuel, was also honored for her work. She has taught for over 20 years in the territory at the Pearl B. Larsen Elementary School.
“Our children mean the most to me,” said Samuel. She said she strives to make students productive members of the community.
On behalf of his grandfather, Issac Gateward James, Gustaav James accepted a plaque recognizing his grandfather’s contributions to the development of the Senepol cattle breed. James said that his grandfather would have been 129 on Monday and shared a brief story about his grandfather not being able to be educated past the age of 12 in the Danish West Indies because he was Black, but added that he was given the opportunity to continue his studies in Denmark.
“My grandfather is very fortunate that he was able to travel to Denmark at the age of 12 to receive additional education that was not available to young children here on the island. As such, he was able to work with the other honorees to develop the Senepol cattle breed on St. Croix,” said James.
Stanley and the Ten Sleepless Knights were also among the honorees and received yet another award by the Virgin Islands Legislature on behalf of their 50th anniversary.
On Wednesday, a Perma Plaque Ceremony will be held at the Earle B. Ottley Legislative Hall on St. Thomas to honor individuals in the St. Thomas-St. John district.
The following are the resolutions that were made for the St. Croix honorees:
Resolution No. 1851 – honoring and commending Ms. Kerra Samuel, 2019 State Teacher of the Year from the district of St. Croix, Virgin Islands, for her dedication and service to the people of the Virgin Islands.
Resolution No. 1854 – honoring and commending Alwyn “Big Al” Baptiste, Sr., for his outstanding contributions to the music industry and to the Virgin Islands community.
Resolution No. 1855 – honoring and commending Alwyn “Daddy Jones” Baptiste Jr. for his outstanding contributions to the music industry and to the Virgin Islands community.
Resolution No. 1856 – honoring and commending Janice Pemberton Tutein for her tireless years of educating our youth and her work as a storyteller and culture bearer, which exemplifies dedicated service to the Virgin Islands community.
Resolution No. 1857 – honoring and commending Thelma Ruby Sharder Youngblood for her outstanding service and contributions to the Lutheran Church of the Virgin Islands and the Virgin Islands community.
Resolution No. 1865 – honoring and commending Valrica Miranda Maria Bryson for her contributions to the Virgin Islands school system and her mentorship of Virgin Islands youth.
Resolution No. 1869 – honoring and commending Wallace D. Williams for his years of extensive work and service as a librarian and his accomplishments as an Olympic athlete representing the U.S. Virgin Islands in multiple competitions.
Resolution No. 1870 – honoring and commending Janet Valencia Prince-Soto for her contributions to the St. Croix community through her years of educating and mentoring others in the field of cosmetology and her entrepreneurship in cosmetology.
Resolution No. 1871 – honoring and commending Charles Lambert Alvarez Christian for his dedication and accomplishments in the field of martial arts and his service to the Virgin Islands community.
Resolution No. 1872 – commemorating the development of the Senepol cattle breed on St. Croix, Virgin Islands by Bromley Nelthropp, and recognizing the contributions to the development of the breed made by George Elliott, Frits Lawaetz, Hans Lawaetz, Issac Gateward James, Oscar Henry, Olivia Hines Henry, and the University of the Virgin Islands Cooperative Extension Service.
Resolution No. 1873 – honoring and commending the late Rev. Vincent Hoover Adams Gordon Sr., D.D. posthumously for his outstanding contributions to the Virgin Islands community.
Resolution No. 1876 – honoring and commending Stanley and the Ten Sleepless Knights on their 50th anniversary of the band and the band’s contribution to the preservation of Virgin Islands culture, musical and dance heritage.
Resolution No. 1882 – honoring and commending Hillary “Baga” Rezende for his many contributions to steel pan music and his dedicated service to the people of the Virgin Islands.
Resolution No. 1884 – honoring and commending Holland L. Redfield II posthumously for his expansive contributions to the island of St. Croix and the entire Virgin Islands community as a whole, through his roles in various areas of service in the territory and awarding him the Virgin Islands Medal of Honor for Public Service posthumously.
Sens. Donna Frett-Gregory, Novelle Francis Jr., Steven Payne, Javan James Sr., Genevieve Whitaker, Samuel Carrion, Dwayne DeGraff, Kenneth Gittens, Alma Francis-Heyliger, and Kurt Vialet were present.