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The 175th Emancipation Celebration Cultural Affairs Committee Launches Cultural Arts and Education Activities in Collaboration with the University of the Virgin Islands during V.I. History Month!

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In honor or V.I. History March in month and in recognition of the approaching U.S. Virgin Islands 175th Emancipation Celebration activities in July, the The 175th Emancipation Celebration Cultural Affairs Committee is proud to announce the launch of the ‘175th Emancipation Educational Lecture & Listening Series’ and ‘175th Emancipation Cultural Music & Dance Community Sessions’ hosted in collaboration with the University of the Virgin Islands – St. Croix and St. Thomas/St. John campuses.

On July 1st, 2022, Governor Albert Bryan Jr. signed an executive order establishing a committee chaired by Senator Carol Burke to oversee the Territory’s preparations for events to celebrate the upcoming 175th Anniversary of the signing of the Emancipation Proclamation. The Cultural Affairs Committee, led by Sub-Committee Chair Dr. Khnuma Simmonds, is responsible for the identification, engagement and development of cultural arts activities that highlight the historical impact of the U.S. Virgin Islands arts including but not limited to: music, dance, culinary arts, fine arts, and literary arts. As the only Historically Black College and University (HBCU) in the Territory that is recognized by the U.S. Congress since 1972 (formerly College of the Virgin Islands), the Cultural Affairs Committee was pleased to host a public signing of the official Memorandum of Understanding during the University’s Charter Day on Friday, March 24th at which time, 61 years of excellence in education was also highlighted.

The ‘175th Emancipation Educational Lecture and Listening Series’ kicks off this Transfer Day, March 31st, 2023 in collaboration with the Education and Public Display committee Chair, Akeem McIntosh. This territory-wide event entitled ‘Constitution vs. Status’, will occur in both districts from 1pm – 4pm and will feature a presentation by Basil Ottley Jr, Director of Policy at the Office of Insular Affairs and a keynote presentation by Dr. Hadiya Sewer, President and Co-Founder of St.JanCo. The event will include a panel discussion with panelists Dr. Sewer, Dr. Malik Sekou, Dr. Lauren Larsen, Former Senator Janelle Sarauw, Former Senator Adelbert Bryan and Sommer Sibilly Brown. Likewise, the ‘175th Cultural Music and Dance Community Sessions’ which has made a call to dancers, will seek dance/movement instructors to teach open community dance classes on the University of the Virgin Islands lawn in cultural and traditional dance forms including Bamboula, West African, Quadrille, Calypso, Kizomba and Bomba.

According to Sub-Committee Chairman McIntosh, “The Constitution versus Status event poses the question of which should we prioritize: defining our status or structuring our constitution? Should we maintain the status quo and simply continue as an unincorporated territory? Or should we be considering other potential status options such as Statehood, Independence and Free Association? Why are we having a sixth constitutional convention? Why have previous attempts failed? These are some of the questions we aim to tackle at this event.” Cultural Affairs sub-committee Chair, Dr. Simmonds echoed these sentiments during her introduction of the UVI and 175th Emancipation collaboration announcement: “The collaboration with the University of the Virgin Islands as an HBCU speaks volumes to our shared commitment to the 175th Emancipation Celebration and what it represents for our community and other communities of color. Further, by actively engaging in the music, dance, culinary, literary and fine arts, we can learn not only about our history of emancipation, but we can embody it as well.”

To complete the 175th Emancipation Celebration Community Survey or for more information on the 175th Emancipation Committee calendar of events including The Keeper of the Flames ceremony, Living Legends Nominations and/or the 175th Emancipation Folklife Festival, please visit our website at www.vi175.com. To request information on future Cultural Affairs and/or Education and Public Display Committee meetings and events, please email [email protected] and include ‘For Cultural Affairs’ or ‘For Education and Public Display’ in the subject line.

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