While suggesting that the BVI’s openness to immigrants is contributing to cultural erosion, local attorney Patricia Archibald-Bowers said aspiring citizens should be required to take a written test to prove they know indigenous BVI culture.
She said this is one way to ensure the territory’s culture is preserved.
Archibald-Bowers made the suggestions when she appeared as a panellist at a roundtable talk on constitutional reform at the H Lavity Stoutt Community College on November 8.
She mentioned that the BVI could follow the footsteps of the United States which currently requires aspiring citizens to sit a written test.
“We’re a very welcoming country — the British Virgin Islands — and we have become more welcoming to the detriment of our culture. I believe that if you come into somebody’s home you conform and it is the same as if you come into the Virgin Islands you conform to our culture,” Archibald-Bowers argued.
“When I was growing up, stores didn’t open on Sundays. We didn’t sell frocks and panties and those things on a Sunday. Doors were shut. That was not our culture and the BVIslander was not the one that broke it and we allowed it. We have allowed certain things to drift in and the question is now, ‘how do we pull it back’?” Bowers said.
She said along with the test for citizenship, the BVI could also make inclusions within its constitution which set the framework for defining the BVI’s culture.
“Then we now have to look at what we put into the constitution as far as, what is BVI culture? Is it that we have a commission that determines these are the cultural norms of the Virgin Islands? Do you realise that the BVIslander is one of the few citizens of the Caribbean that does not go to live in another country? That says something about our culture, it’s a good culture. We need to protect the BVIslander and I really don’t apologise for it” Archibald-Bowers said.
In commenting on the ways that the BVI constitution can help to preserve its culture, former legislator Dr Kedrick Pickering said the BVI should strive to embrace multiculturalism.
“The BVI, whether we like it or not, will have to embrace multiculturalism. One of the things I remember growing up was that every house had a little safe. In that safe there used to be one or two cups. What were they for? In case somebody stops by you could give them a cup of water to drink. We are a very welcoming people, that is the culture of the BVI I remember, we were warm. How do we embody that as a part of our cultural identity is a question I think we need to grapple with,” Pickering explained.
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