When I hear the words of the Virgin Islands March sung it reminds me why I call St. Croix my home away from home.
All hail the Virgin Islands.
Em’ralds of the sea,
Where beaches bright with coral sand
And trade winds bless our native land.
All hail the Virgin Islands,
Bathe in waters blue,
We give our loyalty,
Full to thee,
And pledge allegiance forever true (Virgin Island March & Anthem)
One of my fondest memories of my maternal grandmother was her penmanship, it was superb. Growing up I found this fascinating because her formal education ended at the 6th grade. To this day I have never been able to hold a candle to her penmanship and I have a graduate degree.
My grandfather was a carpenter. I inherited the mahogany jewelry box with the red velvet lining he made for my grandmother. He also made furniture for their home and caskets for the community. Together they had 9 children all born and raised in Christiansted, St. Croix. My mother is the youngest of their children.
St. Croix is the largest of four islands and some 50 smaller islets and cays which make up the United States Virgin Islands (USVI). St. Croix is the home of my maternal ancestry. Short of going back to my African ancestry it connects me to my roots and the thought of it brings a smile to my face. I strongly believe in embracing your culture and history, and teaching it to your children, the good and the bad. As children we create visions and dreams based on our culture and upbringing. We often dispose of these dreams when we become adults. I am a firm believer that if we retained some of that childhood optimism, freshness, and vision we would be happier in adulthood.
I was born in Brooklyn, raised in the Bronx, and I have lived in the Hudson Valley for the last 18 years. However, if you asked me where is home I wouldn’t name any on these three locations, I would say St. Croix is my home away from home. Ever since I was a small child St. Croix has held a special place in my heart and a grip on me that made city living seem inadequate. I lived in St. Croix with my grandmother for about a year where I attended first grade and part of the second grade. I remember being very sad when it was time to return to New York. By now I had reached that stage of development where children begin to form their own identity and build relationships with their peers. The transition was a difficult one and I was often teased at school because of my Crucian accent. I really wanted to go back home to St. Croix.
For me St. Croix has never been a tourist destination. It has always been the home of my elders and my maternal lineage. The USVI is marketed as the American Paradise, but it is so much more. When I travel to St. Croix I don’t say, “I’m going to visit.” Instead I say, “I’m going home”. There are three lessons I learned in St. Croix:
Lesson 1: sea water is blue and you should see your feet at the bottom.
Lesson 2: by telling people my grandfather’s last name they could tell me stories about my family.
Lesson 3: never ever start a romantic relationship until you get some background information about the other person because everyone is a potential cousin.
While I value my Crucian heritage I look forward to the day when I can plant my own roots in St. Croix. I have two goals; the first is to build a home there. In the words of Mark Twain…”Buy land, they’re not making it anymore.” With that quote in mind this is a goal I hope to meet sooner than later. My second goal is to bring some of my business endeavors to the island and the people. I want to create opportunities where people who visit come with more than a tourist mindset, giving money in exchange for entertainment, but as students desiring to learn about the richness of the culture and the people.
St. Croix holds a special place in my heart. My wish is to give back to the land that helped make me who I am as a woman. The same place that shaped the women that inspire me… my mother, my grandmother, my great-grandmother and all the women before them. I want to leave a legacy for my daughter that will instill a sense of pride in her Crucian heritage and hopefully one day she too will call St. Croix her home away from home.
This was my first Toastmaster speech…Project #1 Ice Breaker
To learn more about St. Croix and the USVI visit these links.