I am still rescuing books after Hurricane Irma. Incredible! At last I’m getting around to my store of books at the Old Family House, which had been unoccupied for more than 25 years. I did not expect to find many that were salvageable, nor had I realised just how many were stored there. However, despite the cracked, fallen-in ceiling and roof, the books were protected from wet and mould in an inner cupboard, and the termites and dust had only just started to attack the carton boxes in which some were packed. So luckily, not many were lost to termites and none to the storms. I was amazingly re-connected with many priceless treasures!
Among them are two of my father’s favourites from his small original family library: The Outline of History and The Complete Works of Shakespeare. At one time I had pilfered them away to help form the nucleus of the Post Primary School Library then housed in the Clairmond Davies building at Parham Town, East End. I must have returned them sometime later, for now here they are: healthy survivors of Irma and Maria.
An Ebony Cross
Then there is An Ebony Cross: Being a Black Christian in Britain Today (1989), by Io Smith. When Io left the West Indies for Britain in the 1950s, she travelled with people who were filled with enthusiasm at a new start to their lives. But the enthusiasm quickly wore thin. Io encountered more than her fair share of difficulties as she ran into conflict and prejudice as a black woman and a Christian leader. An Ebony Cross is a provocative book examining the reasons why black churches and white churches so often pursued a separate existence. It is described by the secretary of the British Council of Churches as “a worthwhile contribution to the difficult art of building bridges between those otherwise separated” and one “in which readers will find a spirituality to deepen life and a vision to expand horizons.” Io became one of Britain’s foremost black Christian leaders.
Transformed by Love (1989) written by Sister Margaret Magdalene (who spent a number of years working in Africa) also survived Irma. Sister Margaret’s intuition led her to explore her theory that the three Marys of the Gospels were one and the same person. The book calls us to love more passionately, to cry out our sorrow more acutely, and to integrate our brokenness more fully. It calls us to grow through love and to celebrate relationships, especially our relationship with the risen Jesus.
No national library
Several Virgin Islands and West Indian reference documents emerged intact, awaiting a secure national public library and national archives in which to deposit them for posterity. In fact, one of the documents, submitted as background in preparing the Public Library Ordinance, records the Library Committee’s proposal for the chief librarian to produce a Public Library Building and Development Plan for inclusion in the overall National Development programme. It concludes, “The Public Library, because of the functions it assumes, is already an embryonic National Library, and any proposal for the Public Library building programme must be envisaged as an integral component of the national programme. A progressive government, which realises the potential of developing an integrated network of libraries and other informational institutions — for example, the archives — should not hesitate to advance the essential backing.” That was over 45 years ago!
Are there any current active committees monitoring the work of the public library and the national archives? Does anyone care?
‘The best part’
But the best part of this “re-connections” story is that there is also a sizeable quantity of my newer publications all clean and intact, ready (by the assistance of the Ministry and Department of Education) to be distributed to the territory’s schools to help replenish their school libraries, many of which have lost so much.