Events today on St. Croix to mark transfer of V.I. from Denmark to U.S.
Published: March 23, 2013
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The annual ceremony and activities commemorating the transfer of the Virgin Islands from Denmark to the United States will take place from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. today at the Estate Whim Museum in Frederiksted.
The ceremony is free and open to the public.
The Estate Whim Museum will display exhibits by students from St. Croix elementary and high schools. The exhibits - "Daily Life on St. Croix 1880-1917," "Midwives of St. Croix," "The Bough Family: A Virgin Islands Cultural Blend" and "My Granny House" - illuminate various aspects of Virgin Islands history in the period just before and after the transfer.
On March 31, 1917, the Danish government sold St. Thomas, St. Croix and St. John to the United States for $25 million. The theme of this year's commemoration is "Recalling Our Future, Forging Our Future to 2017."
Transfer Day activities typically are scheduled for March 31, but this year they were planned for today because the date coincides with Easter, according to Sonia Jacobs Dow, executive director of the St. Croix Landmarks Society.
The United States extended an offer of citizenship to Danish citizens, but for 10 years native West Indians were not offered the same cultural embrace.
This "limbo period," as well as the lack of engagement of native Virgin Islanders in the sale of their homeland, are why Transfer Day, although a traditional holiday, is not necessarily marked by jubilant celebration, according to Dow.
Dow said it still is important to preserve and pass on these facts about Virgin Islands history to young people.
"At that time, there were a number of people facing an uncertain future, not knowing what it would mean to go from being a colony of Denmark to a colony of another country," Dow said. "As historians, we try to tell what happened without attaching emotion to it. Our role is to help people understand the past so that they can plan the future."
This year, the St. Croix Landmark Society sought to involve more school-age children in the commemorative activities because "some day we will really need to pass the torch of understanding our history and planning our future," Dow said.
Musical performances by the Claude O. Markoe Elementary School Steel Pan Orchestra, the Santa Cruz Brass Band, the St. Croix Central High School Junior ROTC and the Pearl B. Larsen Elementary School Masqueraders will accompany open house activities.
The Rosendal Folkedansere, a folk dance company from the northern Jutland region of Denmark, also will perform.
The ceremony's speakers will include Delegate to Congress Donna Christensen; Denmark's Consul General Peter Taksøe-Jensen; Senate President Shawn-Michael Malone; Gov. John deJongh Jr.; and Basil Ottley, field officer for the Virgin Islands for the U.S. Department of Interior.
Sen. Myron Jackson will give the keynote address.
His speech will link the historical period before the transfer of the Virgin Islands with the cultural and social issues of today, he said. In particular, Jackson said he plans to focus on what he called a loss of a sense of identity among Virgin Islands youth.
Too many native young people do not involve themselves in careers, such as marine biology or conservation, or offer themselves as leaders in the territory once achieving an education, Jackson said.
"Many of our young people do not even know who they are," he said. "There are children right here who cannot even name the capitals of the Caribbean region."
Jackson said he hopes to inspire discussion and educate residents in preparation for the centennial celebration.
"This provides us an opportunity to have an educational discourse so that, when the centennial celebration comes in 2017, and we will invite the whole world to see what we are about, we will have a better informed populace," he said.
The commemoration is sponsored by the Office of the Governor, the St. Croix Landmarks Society and the St. Croix Friends of Denmark Society.
- Contact Amanda Norris at 714-9104 or email email@example.com.