On the heels of the August Emancipation Festival, Director of Culture Dr. Katherine Smith believes this period of observation should include a greater focus on the true meaning of emancipation in the BVI, and the journey of the ancestors throughout that process.

Dr. Smith, who was responding to questions raised on the latest edition of “Honestly Speaking with Claude Skelton Cline”, said, “It really is not anything to be taken lightly. That history… that era in our heritage and so there ought to be a real celebration of it and also a real understanding of the meaningfulness of it.”

As the month of August continues, Dr. Smith is calling for more discourse and education on the process of emancipation in the British Virgin Islands.

Though she did note that the festival period is, as clearly named, a festival, she believes there is room for improvement in ensuring that the event celebrates things that are directly related to the emancipation period.

“Since we are in this period of August and particularly just came out of the emancipation festival, these are the sorts of things that we need to know during the emancipation festival. I mean it is a festival, of course, but the event being celebrated is emancipation…. We can do many celebratory things that are directly related…. So with that, Women and what kind of avenues did they pursue during that whole period in the Virgin Islands,” she said.

Well documented “Strategies of Freedom” explained

In response to a question posed by Cline the director of culture went on to explain some of the well-documented “Strategies of Freedom” utilised by the enslaved women of the Virgin Islands in order to gain freedom for themselves and their children.

One of these strategies, she explained, was the bearing of children to white male planters, who at the time stood at the high end of the power dynamic.

A well-documented case of this occurring in the territory has been identified within the will of George Martin.

Smith said, “One would have been to reproduce with the planter, in this case, George Martin, who owned plantations at Joe’s Hill Estate and one at Brewers Bay. From my last count, I am thinking or remembering 10 women with 20 children…. So it’s very obvious what was going on… because the children would have a greater likelihood of freedom and inherit property on the part of the white planter.”

Smith noted that the process of exploring all of the documentation on this period is still ongoing. Currently, it is believed that one of the territory’s female heroes, Pereen Georges, would have been born in this type of union.

Dr. Smith lamented that where the documentation process fails is differentiating which of these births would have resulted from consensual relationships, and which would have been the product of coercion and rape.

Smith added that the power dynamic at the time supports the belief that some of these interactions would have been forced.

Chiming in, Cline stressed that a proper understanding and grasp of what happened in the Virgin Islands in the past is the only way to make informed diagnoses on events and social behaviours of the day.