Dozens of people tossed flowers, wreaths and palm leaves into the ocean near the Crafts Alive Village on Sunday in solemn remembrance and hopeful celebration during the 13th annual African Remembrance Wreath Laying Ceremony.
The ceremony, which is hosted each year by the Afrikan Studies Klub, is a tribute to the ancestors of the Virgin Islands who lost their lives in the trans-Atlantic slave trade.
“Every year at the beginning of Black History Month, we come and we give thanks and we show gratitude to our ancestors,” said Art Christopher, who led the ceremony on Sunday afternoon. “Before we do anything of significance, we must first speak with our ancestors. We must get their permission. We must get their blessings.”
He began the ceremony with other members of the club, kneeling around a plant and chanting while they poured libations.
“In African culture and tradition, libations comes before any significant event,” Mr. Christopher explained. “We continue that tradition here. … You begin with God first, you give honour to the ancestors, and you give honour to elders.”
Gil Trott, a native of Bermuda who has lived in the Virgin Islands since 1973, began tossing wreaths into the sea 12 years ago, always at the beginning of February. Throughout the years, others joined his gesture.
Around 40 people took part on Sunday, mostly dressed in all-white attire.
Mr. Christopher welcomed prayers from Rastafarian, Muslim and Christian members of the crowd before proceeding.
Following the territorial song, there was a poetry reading by poet laureate and H. Lavity Stoutt Community College President Dr. Richard Georges.
“When we cast an eye into the past, we have to be wary that we don’t cast both; that we keep one eye in the present and we are able to find the connections in what is often a cyclical trauma,” he said prior to his reading.
‘Your blood speaks’
Premier Andrew Fahie spoke next, reminding attendees that history is written and carried “in the blood.”
“Your blood speaks. Your ancestors’ blood is speaking. Listen to it,” he said. “And don’t only listen, but act. This is your call to action.”
The ceremony also hosted dances, songs, a skit and speeches by Culture Director Dr. Katherine Smith and Deputy Premier Dr. Natalio “Sowande” Wheatley.
At the end of the ceremony, the attendees took flowers and wreaths to the water, tossing them in and sharing hugs with one another.