Community members looked back in history on Nov. 30 in Long Look while celebrating the conclusion of Culture and Tourism Month, which entailed a full month celebrating music, history, art, cuisine and literature.
Culture Director Dr. Katherine Smith noted that the opening ceremony on Nov. 1 took place in Kingstown, a home to many Africans liberated from slavery before emancipation in 1834. The closing ceremony took place in the heart of Long Look, which is another such historic site.
“This is the fourth annual Culture and Tourism Month, and every year it seems to us it grows broader and garners more participation throughout the community,” she said.
The evening’s speakers included Bernadine Louis, Valerie Lettsome and Perline ScatliffeLeonard, who revisited the history of the free people of Nottingham Estate, who were freed by Quakers Samuel and Mary Nottingham in the 1770s.
The Nottinghams also ensured that the formerly enslaved people and their descendants would get the plantation in perpetuity.
Ms. Louis, who is the Seven Eight Heritage Society deputy chair and Virgin Islands Studies Institute director, opened the ceremony at The Stickett by describing the “enjoyable, exciting, informative and educational” month of activities that were offered. She added that she was glad to see the finale hosted in Long Look given its historical significance as one of the first free black villages in the entire Western Hemisphere.
“Within this programme, the history of this community will come out — particularly the fact that the families of this community are descendants from about four women of the original 25 Nottingham free people,” she said.
Ms. Scatliffe-Leonard read aloud the original document proclaiming their freedom, which was penned by the Nottinghams, as well as a follow-up letter that sought to firmly establish their rights.
Performers from Adagio Dance School and Joyce Samuel Primary School offered their dancing tributes.
The dance troupe performed to Beyonce’s “Freedom” while the students displayed a flash of colour with their swirling rainbow of floral and plaid skirts.
Ms. Lettsome and VICA President Melissa Potter also offered a brief skit about the importance of carrying on the stories of past stalwarts through the generations.
As the evening progressed, community members including Troy Christopher took turns remembering the Long Look residents who played important roles in the daily lives of their peers, whether it was from raising laying hens or starting some of the area’s first groceries and other shops.
They also fondly recalled the days of community members uniting to build a house and being rewarded for their labour with a communal lunch.
The decorations that filled the amphitheatre at The Stickett offered a glimpse of this nottoo-distant past, showcasing tools including a classic sewing machine.
Works by community artists including Reuben Vanterpool also stood to the sides of the stage at The Stickett.
‘A strong call’
Dr. Smith noted the importance of remembering and telling such stories — the theme of this year’s celebration.
“We heard a strong call to bring back and bring forward our culture,” she said.
She thanked community members for their growing support over the years and said the Department of Culture plans to continue supporting celebrations of the history of Long Look, particularly through the further development of a walking tour of the area’s murals and historic houses.
Organisers handed out maps of the proposed route, and she said more details are pending.