Scores of residents embarked on the 15-minute journey from the Band Stand to Sir Olva Georges Plaza yesterday as the territory commemorated the 72nd anniversary of the Great March of 1949 which led to the restoration of the legislative council (now called the House of Assembly).
The residents re-enacted the historic protest which was led by one of the BVI’s national heroes Theodolph Faulkner. Faulkner who was joined by other national heroes such as Isaac Fonesca and Carlton deCastro along with more than 1,500 BVIslanders who marched through the streets of Road Town to the Commissioner’s Office in protest of issues adversely affecting the territory at the time.
Changes were demanded by these protestors and it became the catalyst for political development which lead to the evolution of what is now the modern BVI.
Culture Minister and Deputy Premier Dr Natalio Wheatley said he was proud to see the number of people who showed up for the commemoration of the history-defining march in the territory.
He also acknowledged the role of the Virgin Islands Communal Association (VICA) in staging the re-enactment as it was the first time it has happened since 2014.
“There has been a reawakening of the Virgin Islands spirit and just as sister Helda said, there is a need for us to know and appreciate our history and culture and that is why the cabinet decided on two new holidays in particular. One day is Heroes and Fore-parents day and the other is the 1949 great March and Restoration Day because we want that story to be told. We want it to be told on a consistent basis,” Dr Wheatley said.
Meanwhile, Director of the Department of Culture, Dr Katherine Smith, said while the territory commemorates the march — which she describes as the most defining moment in the life and the story of the Virgin Islands — it is equally important to acknowledge the journey and struggle of the territory’s political status which is key to its cultural identity.
“In the words of our leaders in that march, today we are marching towards freedom and we will continue to March until that freedom has been secured,” Dr Smith said about the re-enactment.
The commemoration also heard testimony from Hilda Smith Abbott who was thirteen at the time of the march and one of the more than 1,500 people who participated. Smith Abbott said the BVI is currently lacking historical and cultural knowledge along with the integrity of those who fought for self-government.
“We should know our history; we should know our culture. But everybody brought their culture and we lose our culture and that is where we are today. I’m going to tell you something today [about the march]. Behind every story, there is another story and that march was not the first story. The first story came from the federation. The British Virgin Islands was under the Antigua Federation and they kept all the money and send us the weevil and the dregs and we had to survive how we could,” the elder said.
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