Come Home to St. Croix is a very “inclusive celebration” that was started 13 years ago in 2011 by the Landmarks Society of St. Croix. On Sunday afternoon, in the heat of the day, folks found their way to the celebration on the grounds of the Whim Plantation Museum.
“Coming home is for those of us who live here and for those whose hearts have found a home on St. Croix,” Landmarks Society of St. Croix Executive Director Sonia Jacobs Dow greeted the attendees, her staff, the trustees, and volunteers.
Dow commended the core volunteers “who work three days when staff is here two days, or four days when staff is here three.” Joan Keenan, Carol Wakefield, Winifred Hardy, and Gerry Doward were recognized to the applause of the crowd.
Connecting to Emancipation is the exhibit on display in the museum store and contributed by Mary Roebuck, May Cornwall, Annette Scott, Alvin Milligan, Daisy LaFond, Shelly Duwese, Rukia Andrews, and Betsy Rezende. The exhibit shares the biographies of people who were emancipated.
Landmark Society Vice-chairperson Duane Howell led the group in the pouring of the libation. Each person was given a cup with water.
“We are still celebrating and commemorating the Emancipation of July 3, 1848. Our exhibits highlight many of those unknown people who tilled the ground and did whatever they had to do to survive and keep their family unit together. So in 1850, we see the family unit together in the records,” Howell told the crowd.
“That’s the unique thing that we have on St. Croix. While the purpose was about money, it benefitted us to know who we have come from – not by DNA, not by saying I’m of African descent, but our records can tell us who those people are and our long history. And that’s what is unique about St. Croix,” Howell explained.
The crowd was told there are many, many stories you will be able to see…and maybe find some connection to the stories, as well.
“Today we gather to honor the people that we don’t know. We honor the people that we learned about in this process and we honor our most recent people. So, when we honor, we honor not where we come from geographically, ethnically, or culturally. It’s about where we come from internally,” Howell continued, touching his heart.
Water is about purity, Howell said. “We are in a pure, sacred space. As you move toward the exhibit, it has become a sacred space because it’s telling the story of so many people.”
“We ask that when you enter the space, you treat it as a sacred space, and you honor each and every person who has been highlighted in this space.”
Howell said, “In the hopes of civility, in the hopes of peace, in the hopes of compassion, we honor the many people we have in our hearts, whether we know them or we don’t know them. Whether they’re people of recent memory or of far memory.”
Howell went on to instruct the attendees in the act of pouring the libation. “Simply pour your water so that we can signify that we’re in a pure and sacred space. You can call out the names of people. You can pour all of the water at once or pour a little at a time. However these people inspire you today,”
The group began the pouring of libation and the drummer, Ezra Thomas, was on cue with the beating of the drum.
“We know that somebody had to be there so that we could be here,” Howell said. We honor our co-creators [Rukia, Annette, Betsy, May, Alvin, Shelly, Gerry, Carol, and Joan], part of creating our sacred space.
Dow gave special recognition to Josephine B. Hector, “who is a walking history book and has been there for every one of us.” Dow recognized her staff and drummer, tradition bearer Ezra Thomas. She spoke of the drum as the first instrument and called it the heart.
Winifred Hardy introduced the exhibit, “Connecting to Emancipation.”
“No matter how simple your life is, no matter what your profession is, or where you live, you’re being present at a time that is crucial to your community, makes you important.”
“What we want to share with you is these are people you’ve never heard of but are important to the individuals who are doing the exhibit.”
They’re organized with Slavery: free before emancipation; [a slave requested of the police court how much he was valued at so he could purchase his freedom]; Free Coloreds: generally mixed Africans and Europeans; Free Blacks: slaves manumitted by purchase or by gift; Emancipation: Freedom or serfdom.
“We found quotes from people who were there: ‘Oh, we know that slavery is wrong, but it is necessary for us to have it to work the king’s plantation.’ There are quotes that you will read and stop and think…
“We as African Americans, African Caribbeans, did not write our own history. We have to read into what others wrote about us. Each of the exhibitors will share why they created the exhibit and what they gained from it,” Hardy said.
Dow explained that there are more than 26,000 people who were enslaved in the Virgin Islands, with 16,000 on St. Croix and the other 10,000 on St. Thomas and St. John. The intention over the next three to five years is to bring more of those people to life, she said.
“There’s an opportunity for anyone attending the workshop on Saturday, July 5, at 10 a.m., to create a panel for this exhibit. We intend for this to grow and hopefully represent every estate on St.Croix, St. Thomas, and St.John,” Dow said.
St. Croix Landmarks Society 75 Years Preserving History & Culture
Wednesday, August 2 – Culture & History Workshops
Crucian Foodways: 11:45 a.m. – Red Grout Demonstration
Cookhouse Serving – Saltfish & Provisions – $10
Thursday, August 3
Research Library and Museum Open 10 a.m. to 3 p.m.
Cookhouse Serving Lunch available in the Cookhouse
Saturday, August 5 – Old Time Family Day
Culture & History Workshops 10 a.m. – Connecting to Emancipation Research
11 a.m. – Old Time Games
Crucian Foodways: 11:45 a.m. – Red Grout Demonstration
1 p.m. – Johnny Cakes Demonstration
Cookhouse Serving: Boiled Fish & Fungi – $10
Come Home to St. Croix Hours – Estate Whim Museum
Wednesday, Thursday and Saturday, 10 a.m. to 3 p.m.
Admission (includes Workshops):
$10 – Age 10 to Adult
$7 – Children Aged 6-12