I would like to add my two cents to the local Black Lives Matter, black history conversation by proposing a name change of the H. Lavity Stoutt Community College to Stoutt Community College. Drop “H. Lavity” from the name. The reason I make this proposal is not to take anything from H. Lavity Stoutt, but to also honour the Stout family that donated the land on which the college sits. Full disclosure, I’m a descendant of the Stout family of Fat Hogs Bay, Long Look, East End. My great-great-grandfather was Thomas Stout. His second child, Angela Stout Tomar, was my great-grandmother.
The government acquired 69.85 acres of land from the extended Stout family on June 21, 1961 for $10,477.50. This land 59 years later is valued at over $10 million. The acquisition is documented on Deed 139 of 1961, and a copy can be acquired by anyone from Land Registry or the High Court Registry.
No declaration found
In my research, I found that there was no declaration of this acquisition. The Land Acquisition Ordinance (CAP. 222) of 1957 states in section 3(1), “If the Governor in Council considers that any land should be acquired for a public purpose he may, with the approval of the Legislative Council, cause a declaration to that effect to be made by the clerk of the Executive Council in the manner provided by this section, and the declaration shall be conclusive evidence that the land to which it relates is required for a public purpose.” The ordinance adds, “Every declaration shall be published in two ordinary issues of the Gazette.”
The Gazette during this period would have been the Antigua, Montserrat and Virgin Islands Gazette. I have spent hours combing through the paper in hopes of finding the declaration but did not find it because it was never published. I did, however, find two other acquisitions in Paraquita Bay, which took place around the same time: 183 acres from A.D. Watts on April 30, 1959; and 18 and 11 acres from the heirs of James Skelton on Aug. 8, 1961.
The purpose of the declaration is to allow “all persons interested, as soon as is reasonably practicable, either:
(i) to appear personally or by attorney or agent before the authorised officer to state the nature of their respective interests in the land and the amount and full particular of their claims to compensation in respect of those interest…; or
(ii) to render to the authorised officer a statement in writing, signed by them or by their attorneys or agents, setting forth the like matters.”
‘Unjust and immoral’
Because of this skirting of the law by the government of the day, many family members were not at the table and were not aware that their inheritance was being hijacked by the government. In a recent judgment, a judge referred to the missing family members as “myriad of named donees who are completely absent from the 1961 conveyance.” If this was to take place in white America against a black family, we would call it a racist act. Here, I’m not sure what to call it. Nonetheless, it’s unjust and immoral.
I believe the outrage and unrest that we see in the United States today is more about injustice than it is about black and white as is evident by the race of people marching and protesting in the US and all over the world.
Our leaders and lawmakers need to decide if we’re a democracy governed by the rule of law or not. It’s easy to pay lip service and point fingers at the injustice in America, but we live in a glass house and have our own injustice here. The ripple effects of the shady way in which the Stout family acquisition was carried out in 1961 are still being felt even to this day. The social fabric of our family was torn, and it is my hope that the government, in great part responsible, will begin the process of mending that fabric and making us whole.
Again, this proposal is not to take anything away from H. Lavity Stoutt. I understand, recognise and appreciate that he was a great leader, a superior orator and perhaps most importantly a visionary. However, my family has been on this land and owned it for at least five generations and that has got to mean something in the bigger scheme of things. To put it in perspective, Carter G. Woodson, the father of Black History Month, was born in 1875. Documents that I have from Land Registry show my family selling a portion of the eastern half of Paraquita Bay in 1877, which was the same year reconstruction ended and Jim Crow and the reign of terror commenced against blacks in the southern US.
The VI government has taken a great deal from our family, and I’m asking for them to give something back. It is the right, just and moral thing to do.
To me, changing the name of the college would be similar to changing the George Washington and Lincoln holiday in the US to Presidents Day. H. Lavity Stoutt, being a Stoutt, will still be recognised for his vision, but so will the Stout family of Fat Hogs Bay, Long Look and East End for their contribution. Are we in this together or not?