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USVI Community Pulse

Kelly Pugh Named Local Realtor of the Year, Recognized for Community Engagement and Leadership

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ST. CROIX — Kelly Pugh, a dedicated realtor with REMAX USVI for the past five years, has been honored with the prestigious title of local Realtor of the Year. This recognition, awarded at the recent Virgin Islands Realtors general meeting, highlights Pugh’s significant contributions to her community and her active involvement with the Board of Realtors.

Pugh’s commitment to community service is also reflected in her membership with Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Inc., known for its emphasis on public service. She has been a board member since 2021, serving as vice president in 2023 and president-elect the following year. As she prepares to assume the role of president next year, Pugh plans to focus on leadership, training, and increasing realtor and community engagement on St. Croix.

In collaboration with Christopher Jones, Pugh co-founded the Ay & Ay Realtor Team, under the guidance of broker Ava Gail Bourdon. The team’s name pays homage to St. Croix’s indigenous Tainos, who referred to the island as “Ay-Ay,” and incorporates the Rastafarian phrase “I and I.”

Pugh notes the dual aspects of her profession, from the joy of handing keys to first-time homebuyers to the challenges of limited housing inventory on the islands. The current high-interest rates further complicate matters, reducing buyers’ purchasing power. “It’s difficult when potential buyers qualify for a $250,000 home, but there aren’t any available in that price range,” she explained, adding that cash buyers often outbid those seeking financing.

Looking to the future, Pugh intends to expand her operations to St. Thomas and St. John, aiming to recruit new team members to tap into a broader market. Her recognition as Realtor of the Year will take her to Boston in November to attend the National Association of Realtors meeting, where international realtors will gather to celebrate the 2024 awardees.

Pugh remains accessible to new clients and colleagues via text, email, or phone at 340-725-5066. More information can be found on her website, [email protected].

For those considering a career in real estate, Pugh advises seeking mentorship from experienced professionals and underscores the need for patience. “The real estate community is full of helpful professionals willing to share their knowledge,” she said. “But it’s important to be patient, as returns on investment in this field are not immediate.”

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USVI Community Pulse

Community Initiatives and Volunteer Opportunities in USVI

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Engaging in community initiatives and volunteering in the USVI is a rewarding way to give back and make a meaningful impact. Here are some notable opportunities for those interested in contributing to the community and environment of the USVI.

Community and Human Services

Lutheran Social Services of the Virgin Islands: This organization provides comprehensive support to various vulnerable populations, including abused and neglected children, low-income seniors, and adults with disabilities. They manage facilities like the Queen Louise Home and offer crisis intervention services, ensuring essential care and support for those in need​​.

Lighthouse Mission: Based in Christiansted, this faith-based organization serves the homeless by providing meals and personal care items. They also run after-school programs for local children, helping to foster a supportive environment for the youth in the community.

Animal Welfare

St. Croix Animal Welfare Center: Since 1973, this nonprofit has been dedicated to the care of orphaned, abused, and neglected animals. They focus on adoption, spay/neuter programs, and humane education outreach. Volunteering here involves caring for animals and helping with adoption events​.

Healing Paws: This organization works closely with the St. Croix Animal Welfare Center and aims to establish a no-kill animal sanctuary. They also run the “Paws from Paradise” program, which helps transport animals to loving homes outside the island​.

R.E.A.L. Cruzan Cats: Focused on improving the lives of stray cats on St. Croix, this organization helps with spaying/neutering, vaccinations, and finding permanent homes for these animals​.

Cruzan Cowgirls Horse Rescue: The only horse rescue on St. Croix, they provide sanctuary and rehabilitation for retired racehorses and other neglected or abused horses. Volunteers assist with daily care and rehabilitation efforts.

Environmental Conservation

St. Croix Environmental Association (SEA): Committed to protecting St. Croix’s natural beauty, SEA offers environmental education programs and organizes events like beach clean-ups. They promote environmental stewardship among both residents and visitors​.

The Nature Conservancy: This organization works on preserving the natural habitats of St. Croix, including monitoring sea turtle nests and restoring coral reefs. Volunteers can participate in conservation projects and educational programs​​.

Clean Sweep Frederiksted: This community-driven initiative focuses on the beautification and economic development of Frederiksted through organized clean-ups and public art projects​.

National and Territorial Parks Support

Friends of Virgin Islands National Park: This nonprofit supports the Virgin Islands National Park through various initiatives, including trail maintenance, plant propagation, and educational programs. They welcome volunteers to assist in preserving the park’s natural and cultural resources​.

Friends of St. Croix East End Marine Park (STXEEMP): This group supports the marine park’s mission by promoting responsible recreation and enhancing community outreach. Volunteers can help with education programs and compliance efforts within the park​​.

How to Get Involved

Volunteering in the USVI offers numerous ways to contribute, from hands-on animal care and environmental conservation to supporting social services and educational programs. Many organizations welcome both local and visiting volunteers, making it easy to get involved and make a difference.

Whether you’re passionate about human services, animal welfare, or environmental conservation, the USVI provides diverse opportunities to give back to the community. By dedicating your time and skills, you can help foster a vibrant and supportive community while enjoying the natural beauty of the islands.

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USVI Community Pulse

BLACKFULLNESS: Emancipation 2024 Art Exhibition Opens at Fort Frederik Museum

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The highly anticipated third annual Emancipation Art Exhibition is scheduled to open this Friday from 5 p.m. to 7 p.m. at the Fort Frederik Museum. This year’s theme, BLACKFULLNESS, was announced by Commissioner Jean-Pierre L. Oriol of the Department of Planning and Natural Resources.

Curated by Monica Marin, Chief Curator of the Division of Libraries, Archives, and Museums, the exhibition invites artists from the Virgin Islands, the African-Caribbean Diaspora, and those connected to the region to showcase their work.

Featured artists include Waldermar Brodhurst, Jeffrey Rezende, Victoria Rivera, Elisa Mackay, Danica Davis, Niarus Walker, Adrian Edwards, Ray Llanos, La Vaughn Belle, Quiana Adams, Elwin Joseph, Stuart Rames, Mike Walsh, Danielle Kearns, Rob Gigsun, Therese Trudeau, Eric Paxton, A’we Study Group featuring Sayeeda Carter, Kemit Amon-Lewis, Oceana James, and Nina Mercer, among others.

The term BLACKFULLNESS, coined by the late Black feminist Audre Lorde, describes the profound sense of belonging and purpose she felt within the majority Black community of St. Croix. In her interview titled Above the Wind, Lorde reflected on how St. Croix helped her heal and become more active as an artist and human-rights activist. Similarly, many creatives from the United States have been inspired by the vibrant energy of the Virgin Islands community, which has served as a beacon of light and inspiration.

“This year’s exhibition spotlights the spirit of resistance that is at the core of Virgin Islanders’ identity and that is etched into everything that makes Virgin Islands’ cultural production so powerful,” stated Marin. “It calls attention to how Black protest, art, and activism in our region have influenced international Black brilliance and liberation.”

Admission to the exhibition is $10 per person, with free entry for students aged 17 and under. Additionally, there will be a free viewing on Saturday from 1:00 p.m. to 4:00 p.m. The exhibition will run through October, and visitors can view it during the Fort Frederik Museum’s regular hours: Monday to Friday from 9 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.

For more information, please contact Monica Marin at [email protected] or call 340-772-2021.

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USVI Community Pulse

Emancipation in the USVI: Celebrating Freedom and Resilience

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Today, the U.S. Virgin Islands (USVI) commemorate Emancipation Day, a significant public holiday marking the abolition of slavery in the Danish West Indies on July 3, 1848. This day stands as a testament to the strength and determination of the enslaved Africans who fought for and won their freedom 176 years ago.

Historical Background

The journey to emancipation in the USVI began under Danish rule in the 17th century, with the trans-Atlantic slave trade starting around 1673. Enslaved Africans were primarily forced to labor on sugarcane plantations under harsh and inhumane conditions. This oppressive environment led to several revolts, including a notable six-month rebellion on Saint John in 1733.

The pivotal moment came on July 3, 1848, when over 8,000 enslaved people, led by Moses Gottlieb (also known as General Buddhoe), initiated a non-violent uprising on Saint Croix. Overwhelmed by the scale of the revolt, Danish Governor Peter von Scholten declared the immediate emancipation of all slaves in the Danish West Indies, preempting an earlier plan to gradually abolish slavery by 1859​.

Celebrations and Events

Emancipation Day is celebrated with a variety of events that reflect the rich cultural heritage and enduring spirit of the Virgin Islanders. This year’s festivities include:

  • Freedom Walk: A symbolic journey from Fort Christian to Fort Frederik, held at dawn, honors the path to freedom taken by the ancestors.
  • Emancipation Day Parade: Starting at the Frederiksted Post Office, the parade showcases vibrant cultural displays and community participation.
  • Official Ceremony: Held at Buddhoe Park, this ceremony includes speeches, performances, and a reflection on the historical significance of the day.
  • Luncheon and Festivals: “Freedom, Feast & Folklore” luncheon on the Frederiksted Pier, followed by an evening of music and fireworks at the “Unshackled Music Festival” in Freedom City​.

Reflecting on the Past, Embracing the Future

Emancipation Day is not just a day of celebration but also a time for reflection on the struggles and sacrifices made by those who fought for freedom. The commemoration underscores the importance of remembering history and continuing the journey towards equality and justice. As Carol Burke, chair of the Emancipation Committee, emphasized, this day serves as a “springboard to a brighter, better-defined future” for all Virgin Islanders​​.

By honoring this day, the USVI acknowledges the resilience and bravery of its ancestors while inspiring current and future generations to uphold the values of freedom and equality. Emancipation Day in the USVI is a powerful reminder of the triumph of the human spirit against oppression and the ongoing pursuit of justice and dignity for all.

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