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Thursday, May 30, 2024
HomeNewsLocal newsNational Park Service Holds Listening Sessions to Capture Diverse Voices

National Park Service Holds Listening Sessions to Capture Diverse Voices

William A. White, Ph.D. listens to members of the St. Croix community. (Source photo by Diana Dias)

To preserve the history of St. Croix, the National Park Service hosted two preliminary listening sessions on Monday and Wednesday to listen to diverse voices. The first listening session was held at Chant in Frederiksted and then at the Company House Hotel in Christiansted.

To achieve this agenda, NPS has partnered with the University of California Berkley, assistant professor William A. White, Ph.D., and Ayanna Omilade Flewellen, Ph.D., assistant professor at Stanford University, to launch listening sessions. Both are capturing an ethnographic overview and engaging residents of St. Croix.

“The way the National Preservation Act is written they have a duty to administer the sites that are within the boundaries. That includes buildings, archaeology sites and significant landscapes. What we are trying to do is to record people or elders and how they feel about these historic properties so that they can be added to the narrative,” said White.

“We are hoping that as a starting ground we can then lay a foundation additional so that work can take place. Where we do a walking tour and site visits with specific community members to get more in-depth and an understanding of their relationship to these spaces,” Flewellen added.

During the listening session, attendees broke out into groups to have documented, meaningful dialogue.

The goals of these listening sessions are to:

  • Foster dialogue and collaboration between the community and the National Park Service.
  • Identify historical events, cultural practices, and values associated with the lands managed by the National Park Service on St. Croix.
  • Address current challenges and explore opportunities for partnership and innovation.
  • Develop a shared vision for the future of the relationship between the community and the National Park Service.
  • Ensure that the voices of all community members, including underrepresented groups, are heard and valued.

In February, the National Park Service held a meeting to inform the public on their permitting processes. In the meeting there were some tensions with the local community on the laws that have been in place but are now being more strictly enforced.

“As we are new coming into this space, Dr. White and I have been working on St. Croix since 2016. We know that there are contingent relationships between community members. Various communities Crucian, Indigenous, Tainos, we know that there are various relationships here on St. Croix and we hope to add to those voices and documents. We are excited because this rendition is the avenue in communication with the community,” Flewellen said.

Ayanna Omilda Flewellen, Ph.D., listens to members of the St. Croix community. (Source photo by Diana Dias)

This listening session is an introductory realm and will continue in July for a few weeks.

“We have always been committed to community engaged work and historical preservation, specifically trying to include Black youth and Black people of the historic sites. This is just another opportunity to continue doing that,” said White.

White said they are hoping to have elders give tours and interpret tours for them and for younger generations, who can hopefully come along and hear elders tell them about these historical sites in their own words.

The timeline to complete this process is by the summer of 2025.

For more information on this initiative, please contact Ayana Omilade Flewellen at ayanaf@stanford.edu or call 305-609-8900.

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