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A Dress and a Song!

What went wrong?
August 30th, 2012 | Tags: Donald de Castro dress song government
Mr. Donald de Castro. photo: provided
By Donald de Catro

First of all I want to congratulate the Minister of Education and Culture for his strong determination to improve the Education System here in the Virgin Islands, his endeavors to put culture on the fore front and his consistency in his respect for the name of this Territory.

Over the past many years there have been a lot of chatter about a national song and most recently a national dress and we are now closer to this accomplishment. As of this past election with the “supposedly” New National Democratic Party elected to the run the Government, the issue of a National Song and Dress became a priority for the Government through the Ministry of Education and Culture.  With the Olympics coming up, rather than taking their time it was put in high gear, full speed ahead and a rush which caused many people to be upset and disappointed with the end result. 

A national campaign was started and several national dress designs were submitted along with several songs. During the process of elimination the judges of the national wear was unable to select a winner. In their wisdom or lack thereof they asked two people to do a joint venture and they came up with something that was satisfactory to the Committee but not the majority of the people. A competition is supposed to have a winner and especially a historical event such as this where someone should have been able in the future to say to their grandchildren, that he or she won the competition in the design of the National Dress of the Virgin Islands. But when some want a rush, others get crush. 

I personally feel the idea of a National Dress is a good idea and I support it whole heartedly and I do hope that the manufacturer or maybe the designs may be of such that there will be sets of dresses not only for formal occasions but for everyday use as well, including beach wear. 

As for the song that too is a fantastic idea. While I did not personally attend the presentation at the Eileen Parsons Auditorium, I did have discussions with many persons that attended, listened to the info on the news and followed it in the internet. While gathering information for this article, I was also told that many years ago a song was also submitted by the late Robert Creque. I am sure someone in this community has that song somewhere and I would love to hear it. 

The three songs, that made it to the finalist category were, “Land That I Love.” “Wonder of Creation” and “Oh British Virgin Islands.” There was voting online, which ended up with, The land I Love obtaining over 11, 000 votes, Wonder of Creation over 14,000 votes and Oh! British Virgin Islands with less than 4000 votes. These songs were presented at the Eileen Parsons Auditorium at the H. Lavity Stout Community College. There was standing room only at the Auditorium. However, the crowd was disappointed because the results of the voting which was recorded on line were not released. 

Everyone said that they smelt a rat. It was said by almost everyone that the Government will take this to the House of Assembly in order to select, Oh! British Virgin Islands, as the Territorial Song. The rat became real when the three songs in the finalist category was taken to the House of Assembly. Probably, it was taken to the Cabinet previously.  What was surprising and unexpected was when the Hon. Andrew Fahie requested to address the House before the debate began as he had serious concerns about the selection process. The Honourable Andrew Fahie displayed some very wise state manlike qualities. Among other things, he spoke of the lack to judge the songs properly, due to certain understandably limitations of the members of the House of Assembly to judge poetry and music and the infringement of Copyright. This also pertains to many of us. 

Hon. Fahie stated that he disagreed with the process. He is correct because persons voted and it was expected that the results would have been released at the Auditorium. What bothered me is that the ten other members voted for a song was not one of the finalists. Remember, one of the three songs in the finalists was, OH! British Virgin Islands and the one presented to the House by the Minister of Education & Culture was, OH! Beautiful Virgin Islands. It is believed by many that is was brought to the house in this manner in order that majority members would vote along party lines as some had questions. 

The second and new song, Oh! Beautiful Virgin Islands I believe infringes on Copyright because this is exactly the 

same line used, in one of the finalists songs that obtained the most votes, “Wonder of Creation! The Beautiful Virgin Islands”. In addition another noticeable change is in reference to the reclamation by our ancestors. In other words somewhere between the Eileen Parsons Auditorium and the House of Assembly some changes were made I order for the Government to get the song of their choice and not the people’s choice. They are forcing two songs down our throats. Oh! British Virgin Islands and Oh! Beautiful Virgin Islands, but we are sure to cough them up. 

The timing of the voting was deliberate because it was placed to occur just before the beginning of the Emancipation Celebration in order to stifle public response and criticism. How we forget certain principles and implications. During our Emancipation Celebration we denounce the slavery of our ancestors and we have every right to do so. Now we are being forced to accept a Song which has changed its name and content. If the Virgin Islands is a democratic country let democracy reign and not dictatorship. The two songs, Oh! British Virgin Islands/Oh! Beautiful Virgin Islands has a few good things about it. However, too many persons have said to me that is not appropriate for a national song. According to at least one person there are certain terms and phrases that are not historically correct and are questionable. Apparently from the many discussions the original song, Oh! British Virgin Islands was allegedly written, arraigned and sung by supporters of the National Democratic Party. It is important that all the facts in a National Song are correct. The people of the Virgin Islands do not want a Party Song but a National Song. 

The selection of a Territorial Song has become very confused. I suggest that the government should apologize to the people of the Virgin Islands for their deception, unprofessional and dictatorial approach in selecting this song. The voting that was held online should be honourned and upheld. If this is done then Oh! British Virgin Islands will be in last place almost 60 per cent behind the other two songs. 

I may not be right but this is not the end as I strongly believe that the next Government that has this country at heart will revisit this issue when elected in the next three years, as we cannot continue to talk about re-establishing national pride with our leaders not setting a proper example for its people. The new song, Oh! Beautiful Virgin Islands apart from copying from one the finalists song does not match the general theme of the song. 

In conclusion I must repeat what I said in the beginning and that is my support for the Minister of Education and Culture for his determination in this endeavor. However, at this time I must add that unfortunately, in my opinion he was unable to convince the others that the selection should have done in a more democratic manner because we boasts that we live in a democratic society. 


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