Celebrating Community Culture
Posted 04/20/2017 11:00AM

Who owned the land surrounding Magens Bay Beach? Was Blackbeard the Pirate even real? Former Virgin Islands Senator Shawn-Michael Malone answered these and lots more questions Wednesday during an early morning session with third grade V.I. History students, who, over the past few weeks, have been rounding out their curriculum with some hands-on cultural speakers and experiences.

Malone, who was responsible for passing legislation designating quelbe as the official music of the Virgin Islands, even belted out a few bars of “Good Morning,” a traditional quelbe tune that was once used by the V.I. Department of Tourism to welcome visitors arriving to the territory. Malone said quelbe instruments were originally hand-made, fashioned out of everything from bamboo for the flute to goat skins for the bass.

The music was paired with dishes that were also created from discarded scraps, Malone said.

While talking about the evolution of music and food, Malone also spoke about the creation of the local tourism industry, which he attributed to former Gov. William Hastie. Hastie, Malone said, was the driving force behind the local acquisition of Magens Bay Beach, which was donated to the Virgin Islands by philanthropist Arthur Fairchild, who had purchased the land slowly from members of the Magens family.

Knowing these tidbits of history, Malone said, helps V.I. residents – no matter where they’re from or how long they’ve lived here – become more informed.

“The more you know about the Virgin Islands, the more you can tell someone else,” Malone said to students. “You can help them learn more, you can make them excited about coming here to visit, and you can help them see how special it is here.”

Malone was one of several guest speakers on campus over the past few weeks as Antilles celebrated V.I. History and Black History months, which kicked off in March with special performances by our Honors Band and Expressions Choir at this year’s Centennial Transfer Day Celebration.

Students in the Upper and Middle Schools also organized a Black History/V.I. History Month celebration, while Lower  Schoolers also got the chance to form their own mini quelbe band with the help of master storyteller Yohanse Henley, Outreach Manager for the V.I. Department of Education.  

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