St. Croix residents march in honor of 1848 Emancipation


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ST. CROIX - More than 100 residents shuffled in the weak light of dawn on Emancipation Day morning after the ceremonial blowing of the conch shell and beating of African drums that marked the beginning of the Fort-to-Fort Freedom Walk on Thursday.

The walk, now in its 13th year, is a 15-mile trek that began at Fort Christianvaern in Christiansted and traveled down Queen Mary highway to Fort Frederik in Frederiksted.

Organizers of the walk, described it as a re-enactment of what the slaves, who resided on St. Croix, embarked on July 3, 1848, as they rose up to destroy the bonds and shackles of chattel slavery years before Abraham Lincoln's Emancipation Proclamation.

Emancipation Day commemorates the day when enslaved Africans on St. Croix's West End rose up, demanded their freedom and won it, along with freedom for all slaves in the territory.

Freed slave and skilled craftsman Moses "General Buddhoe" led slaves on St. Croix's West End plantations to march on the town of Frederiksted and delivered an ultimatum, demanding their freedom by noon or they would burn the town down.

Residents on the walk Thursday came from all backgrounds and included people of all races and varying ages.

Before starting out, participants took turns shaking the chain and padlock on the big wooden gate at the fort, a symbol of starting the journey to break their own personal chains of bondage.

Sen. Terrence Nelson, who initially started the walk as a union event, said people could be oppressed by finances, relationships, friendships and other things in their life that prevent them from living free. He said the walk was to show them that they can dig deep inside of themselves and find the determination to overcome anything and live an emancipated life.

While most people stuck with the slow and steady walk along the route, some forged ahead of the pack and ran for portions of the route. A few teenagers took a more sporty way of travel, as they road on skateboards and in-line skates as the hike started out.

Scattered showers and overcast skies kept the participants cool, and reggae music kept them motivated as they traveled westward through the estates along the main road that runs down the middle of the island.

Most of the participants completed the walk in about five hours, and once they arrived at Fort Frederik, they again rallied against bondage and took turns shaking the chains on the gate of that fort, as well.

In Frederiksted, vendors were set up from around noon as the History, Culture and Traditions Organization planned activities and a program later in the day.

While the turnout was small, the ceremony included a few speeches, songs, dancing and steel pan presentations into the evening.

- Contact reporter Fiona Stokes at 714-9149 or email fstokes@dailynews.vi.

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