Category Archives: St Croix/Virgin Islands Culture

Evidence of Abundance

Life is happening all around me and I am part of the flow, the change, the acceptance, the reaching for something else, the transIMG_8702forming to become winged.

The caterpillars are eating the Frangipani tree. They are so beautiful and the tree is almost stripped clean –all the leaves have been devoured.  I wonder what the tree says to the caterpillar? Do the caterpillars apologize, say they are partial to the leaves and purple flowers. I nibble at everything in sight.

IMG_8712 Down the road, the horses are horny.  As I begin my walk I watch them sniff each other then the males mounts the female until she shakes him off.

Returning from my walk, the mare is wallowing in the dirt, rolling around as if to dislodge something…The stallion is no where to be seen.  Often, after intercourse couples turn their backs to one another.

The bees love the Haita/Sea Hibiscus/Maho. IMG_8708The swarm it.  They have been frisky and lost, flitting everywhere, seemingly confused in search of the queen or a hive.  Death might be eminent as the pollens swirl in the wind and the petals fall to the ground. Love is like that sometime — it hits rock bottom then soars.  Figures!

There is so much abundance I swoon. The fruits ripen all at once.  We spent almost an hour sighting and picking belle apples.  The nease berries/mesple/sapodilla/chicle are in fruit.  The custard apples/coriazon are in the trees and the ackee branch is so weighted it broke.  Bats and birds prey and we do what we can to have enough and leave them some.

I pop 1, 2, 3, 4, 5 belle apples in my mouth. IMG_8733 I slice off the top and suck the seedy juice in my mouth.  I want their juice to lather my skin.

I want to run naked.

I want to fly away to India.

I want to stop wanting to make a contribution, and really contribute.

My mind finds the words then hold them in my mouth until they vanish, not saliva, not meaning, not fact just a promise that is coming…

Camping on the Beach: ST Croix’s Easter Tradition

From Butler Bay in the west, to Cramer Park in the east, a week before Easter, many Crucian families make the beaches their home, camping out for as long as two weeks for some, or just four or so days for others. It is a tradition dating back at least thirty years, and although, thus far, no one I spoke to can tell me how it began; it is the thing that’s done.IMG_8496

Families and friends tend to camp together and form a cluster or tents that vary in size. While most people stick to basics, over the years, some families have gotten more elaborate bringing gas stoves and fridges from home and generator. In one campsite there was even a large tent designated for entertainment, and inside was a large TV, that reportedly was turned on at nights for the children. There are also porter-potties and makeshift showers at all the camps.

I have visited camp-sights at Dorsch, Salt River and Cramer Park, specifically and hung out with friends and enjoyed meals. As one Crucian senior said to me as we sat on chairs looking out at the ocean and nibbling on vegie burgers,

“I do this so I can forget about everything, including myself.”

Josetta, a mother and grandmother says, “I’ve been camping for over twenty years. My children grew up camping. Now the only baby we have is my four year-old grandson in the water with my daughter. It’s what we do every Easter for 7-10 days.”

Camping allows absolute freedom for the children –-two little ones, no more than four years old were in the water for the three hours I spent at one camp-site and their mother said they had been in the water all day.DSC_0056

There are various bands of children ranging in age and activity, splashing around in the sea, snorkeling, and engaging in other water and beach activity, including chasing and running. Even the pets enjoy this time, as leashed dogs strolls the beach with teenagers.

I stopped a few girls as they were running out the sea and heading towards one of the tents. I asked them if they were enjoying themselves. They affirmed in unison and their responses spilled out and over each other.

“We’ve been doing it since they were young, since third grade,” asserts Shania.

“It’s a family tradition,” adds Jahnaye.

“We do lots of things such as water sports, fishing, hiking and volley ball inserts Shandeah, obviously the leader if the pack.

“And we play board games, and sometimes we do storytelling,” adds the only boy in this group who runs off before telling me his name.

Although I have not camped during this season, I love seeing families and friends living next to the ocean and I enjoy spending the day on the beach with friends and sharing the amazing meals.

Even though living in St Croix, one is never far from the ocean; I imagine there is nothing like sleeping with the sea right in your ears and waking up and jumping right into its arms.IMG_8492

Easter Monday, a public holiday in St Croix, signals the end of this tradition. However, today, Tuesday, you can still see a handful of tents strewn on a few beaches –the true die-harders, soaking up one more of the good sea breeze.IMG_8486

Blessed and Doing the Work

I sometimes forget how blessed I am to have an endless stream of creativity, to care about the world and contribute to help make it better, to be alive at this time and know that right now is the absolutely best time of my life, that everyday I get stronger, better, more inspired, and that I have always been able to find people who love me to support my artistic expressions and my cultural activist work.seahibicusadisa16

Although it is not always easy to make my dream a reality, and sometimes I get frustrated and ask where is my help, why do I have to do so much of the leg work alone, where are the billions to fund my project –after all I want to do good in the world, I don’t want six cars and a diamond ring that cost millions.  I just want to create an amazing  artists colony with a profuse Caribbean garden with sculptures and an orchard with all the many fruits, and ponds and flowing water and wide open space to dream and think and create.

I want to leave my children a legacy of land and ownership, in addition to my writings, so each generation is not beginning from scratch so that we never make any ground way .  I don’t want to go out the same way I came, unknown, unheralded, without leaving monuments that document that I was here, I had dreams and plans which I implemented that will exist long, long after i have gone, and will contribute to humanity.

The Cock Crows Our Secrets Flier Final

I want it all.  I deserve it all.  I will live my dreams.  I will continue to create and leave a lasting legacy.  I will continue to help heal the world, and expose child abuse, and provide victims and parents with a voice to say no more enough. Our community must talk out, blare out, expose, eradicate and heal.  To this end I have written, The Cock Crows Our Secrets, to begin the dialogue.  I cannot do this without out. So support in all ways you can, spread the word, send contribution to the St Croix Foundation care of Moving Women. Raise the conversation with friends, family and colleagues, and most importantly do not be silent about these crimes that impact the entire community.

I am blessed and grateful and each day I am doing my part.  Join me in happinesses and wealth building to support all our dreams. Support Moving Women’s theatre efforts.

Jump and Make It Happen

You dream must be bigger than your fears.

Your reason must exceed your own limited world.

Do support: Ay-Ay: Junior Caribbean WriterPrint

My beloved California College of the Arts mentor, Opal Palmer Adisa, is creating a magazine for kids in her home of Jamaica. Even though she has made a full life as a writer and academic in the Bay Area and around the world, she constantly finds ways to give back to her home, her place of origin. She is a true inspiration! If you have any amount of money to donate, I assure you, it will be put to good use. Before I traveled anywhere beyond South East Texas or South West Louisiana, I traveled the world through books and stories. Putting a book in the hand of a kid gives them a key to the world. This is your chance to help make that happen.

Growing the Next Generation of Caribbean Writers and Improving Literacy | Crowdfunding is a democratic way to support the fundraising needs of your community. Make a contribution today!

Writer/Teacher: The Importance of Play

Anyone who knows Winifred “Oyoko” Loving will confirm that she is a happy, inviting person, who loves to laugh.  Hence it comes as no surprise that her second children’s book, My Grandma Loves to Play, 2013, has a jolly, inviting tone. An ideal book for a grandmother to read to her grandchild, it is also a great read for any adult to read to any child, especially as it is about togetherness and having fun.

bio picture from cruise_BwOPA: You are a poet, a children’s writer and a retired teacher. What grades did you teach and for how many years?

WOL: I taught all elementary grades from Kindergarten through 6th grade over a period of 31 years.   In preparation for working with young ones, I received a Masters in Early Childhood Development from Wheelock College in Boston back in 1972.  I am ancient!

OPA: You have written 2 children’s books, most recent, My Grandma Loves to Play. I know you are a grandmother. Was this book inspired by your grandchild?

WOL:  I have three granddaughters who are the inspiration for most of my writings, and for this book in particular.

OPA: In the notes at the back of the book, you say you emphasize play and family time?  Why is the value of both?

WOL: Time spent having fun is more precious than gold to little children.  Many life lessons can be said in a funny, animal voice, making it engaging and non-threatening to communicate with a child.

OPA: The book is beautifully illustrated by Niarus Walker, a local artist and teacher, can you talk about how that collaboration came about?

WOL: I went to an art exhibit here on St. Croix, and Niarus was the featured artist.  I love her work, so it was only natural that I re-introduce myself a year or so later when I needed an illustrator for My Grandma Loves to Play.  Without hesitation she agreed to the job.  Niarus has two, beautiful daughters of her own and I do believe she has images in the book that “vaguely resemble” Keren and Rayna!  Even her puppy is featured in the story line!  I am so grateful that we were able to find time to work together on this book.

OPA: The entire tone of the book is playful, one of patient exploration, and it rhymes.  Was the use of rhyme a deliberate choice?

WOL: Oh, yes.  It is always fun to rhyme with little ones.  If I say hickory, dickory DOCK; the mouse ran up the…(pause)  All the kiddies will (more than likely) yell the word CLOCK!  Of course, if the class is unfamiliar with Mother Goose, I can begin slowly by teaching rhymes and the meaning of rhyming words.  Rhyming poetry is another fun vehicle for learning vocabulary.  Memorizing poems at an early age helps the children gain confidence in other learning areas.  My story offers a look at a Caribbean grandmother and grandchild, which is a change from mainstream rhyming stories.  All my stories, so far, are based in St. Croix, I’m happy to say.  This is my home.

OPA: Was there a particular memory or incident that prompted this book, maybe an unmade bed…?

WOL: My own grandmother, rest her sweet soul, taught us manners, the books of the Bible, how to sing three-part harmony, and our bedtime prayers.  Those lessons instilled so much confidence into my siblings and me that I now find myself  doing the very same things she did!!!  To this day I can sing and recite all 66 books~~both old and new testaments!

OPA: How has your years as a teacher, helped you to capture the right tone that would appeal to children?

WOL: Be prepared.  Be flexible.  Keep it short, keep it sweet, make it fun.  Laugh a lot.  That’s it!

OPA: When can we expect your next children’s book, and are you willing to share what it is about?

WOL: Most definitely, Opal, my next book will be about a boy who is eagerly waiting for an important event.  (I will leavethat for your readers to imagine!)  I would like to publish it in 2016.  I already have Bethany Kennedy~~an awesome illustrator! (Finally,  I have yet another idea looming in my imagination about  a book I began while visiting the Philippines last summer.)  LOL   I am laughing out loud, indeed!

51t3YBKteNL._SX384_BO1,204,203,200_ Available @ and from author:

B is for Benye, a VI Book from New Writer

PembertonPhoto_72dpiCharlene Pemberton, is a retired teacher who taught for 30 years in St Croix, at the middle school and high school level. Although she hails from St Thomas, her place of birth, St Croix is now her home, where she has just launched, her first book, but most certainly not her last.

Teacher Pemberton worked for seven years researching and editing this ABC text that is not a primer. “After writing it, I left it on my desk for years until my daughter pushed and propelled me to publish it, October, 2015.”   Similar to many established and emerging writer, Pemberton’s process begins with brainstorming. She adds, “Then I write continuously without correcting errors. Usually, I put my writing away for a day or two and begin with a fresh eye. Here is when I complete my revising and editing.   Also, writing and reading groups offered ideas and encouragement throughout the process.”

The kernel for this book began many years ago as Charlene narrates its impetus. “One day I brought benye treats for my high school English classes.  To my surprise, this local name was unfamiliar to them.  However, after tasting the treats, the class responded saying, “We’ve had this before. But we just didn’t know the name.” Pemberton asserts that it was this event that “planted the seed for my cultural book that informs, and at the same time it highlights culture.  I dedicated my book to my grandson because I want him to know about his culture and to pass it on to future generations.”

Donning the roles of teacher, mother and grandmother contributed enormously to the writing of the book, Charlene Pemberton notes.  Even though her targeted audiences are middle school students and their parents and teachers, the book is also for visitors to the US Virgin Islands.  “These groups, I believe, would appreciate the essence of our culture and history.” Reflecting more, Charlene adds, “I would like my book to reach different cultures.  Virgin Islanders have a unique heritage and through my books I hope to share my culture with the world.”
Inspired by her community, Pemberton pays homage to the late Crucian poet, Marvin Williams, whom she knew.  “One of his [Williams] first published poems is my favorite.  I believe it was about Milo and the Kings, a musical icon on the island of St Thomas. I loved this particular poem because it depicted Virgin Islands musical pride.”

Be is for Benye is the first of many to come. Charlene Pemberton is currently researching Virgin Islanders “who were members of the Tuskegee Airmen.  This type of information is usually not found in history books.” Like so much of the Virgin Islands rich history that has been omitted, Charlene Pemberton believes firmly that the history and culture “must be written about and celebrated by its own so our children and future generation will know the foundation of their culture.

Support local writers such as Charlene Pemberton by buying her book, and insist that local schools purchase copies. In additiona, by purchasing and sending copies for family and friends who live abroad, as well as the children who are here, you help to support the continuity of the culture.

Happy that her book is finally out, Charlene Pemberton says, “I would like to give a warm Virgin Islands shout out to all my former students!”

Below is an excerpt from B is for Benye.

B is for Benye: A Virgin Islands Historical and Cultural A-Z Book begins with a Virgin Islands family, the Penns, living In Orlando Florida. The grandparents, Clarice and Vincent, who live on the island of St. Croix, want to pass down and share their Virgin Islands heritage with their grandchildren, Madelyn and Joah who have visited St. Croix only one time. So, both grandparents decided to send the children a very special present.

Can you guess what present the Penns sent their grandchildren?

Well, come along and find out.


Available at stores in St Croix and St Thomas