SENATOR GENEVIEVE R. WHITAKER APPLAUDS THE PASSAGE OF THREE BILLS COMMENDING PROLIFIC ST. CROIX EDUCATOR, HONORING THE FIREBURN QUEENS AND ESTABLISHING THE SIXTH CONSTITUTIONAL CONVENTION
St. Croix, Virgin Islands (U.S.) – The Committee on Government Operations and Consumer Protection held a hearing this past Wednesday, January 19, 2022, in which several bills were considered. Three bills sponsored by Senator Genevieve R. Whitaker were heard during Wednesday’s hearing: (1) a Resolution honoring one of our matriarchs and prolific educators, Ms. Gloria H. Canegata Waterman, sponsored with Senator Kenneth L. Gittens; (2) a measure to establish the Sixth Constitutional Convention, sponsored with Senator Janelle K. Sarauw; and (3) a Resolution commemorating the participants of the 1878 Fireburn, sponsored with fellow Senators Javan E. James, Sr., Marvin A. Blyden, and Alma Francis Heyliger.
Senator Whitaker thanks her colleagues for their support in passing the measures. All three bills were forwarded to the Rules and Judiciary Committee, of which Senator Whitaker serves as a member. The Committee moved Bill No. 34-0157 to the Rules and Judiciary Committee, and it is on the agenda for the upcoming hearing scheduled for Thursday, January 27, 2022: a Resolution honoring and commending Ms. Gloria H. Canegata Waterman for her outstanding years of service to the Virgin Islands as an educator and public servant. “Ms. Canegata Waterman is a pillar in our community and a diligent and determined educator,” said Senator Whitaker. “She was also instrumental in my education during her tenure as principal of St. Joseph’s High School. Much of the discipline she instilled in me has contributed to who I am today. As a senator and former student who benefitted from Ms. Canegata Waterman’s exceptional leadership, I am truly proud that she has now finally gained the public recognition she truly deserves.” The Committee also moved Bill 34-0153 to the Rules and Judiciary Committee: a bill to establish the Sixth Constitutional Convention. Attempts to draft a constitution for the Virgin Islands to achieve constitutional parity with other states and territories have failed five times. The Committee invited several testifiers to share their perspectives - two of whom were members of the Fifth Constitutional Convention: Gerard M. Emanuel and former Senator Myron D. Jackson. “I was disappointed to see the absence of certain invited testifiers, specifically, Dr. Malik Sekou, who was invited but did not appear. The senators present were deprived of the opportunity to question Dr. Sekou on issues related to our constitutional and political status issues,” Senator Whitaker said. Dr. Sekou is Director of the Office of Self Determination and Constitutional Development, which was established with a $500,000 grant from the Department of the Interior Office of Insular Affairs. “Nevertheless, I am pleased that the Committee moved the bill forward for further consideration,” Senator Whitaker said. “As one of the editors of the Fifth Constitutional Convention, I can attest to the delegates’ efforts resulting in a well-drafted document.
I highlight that it is our right as Virgin Islanders to have a hand in creating the type of government that we envision for ourselves and move away from our required adherence to the Revised Organic Act.” Additionally, Bill No. 34-0146, acknowledging and commemorating the memory of Mary Thomas, Axeline Salomon, Mathilde Mcbean, Susanna Abramson, and other estate laborers involved in the Fireburn, was moved to the Rules and Judiciary Committee, where it was placed on the agenda for a hearing scheduled for this Thursday, January 27, 2022. The bill acknowledges the importance of the Fireburn as not just a one-time event but as a precursor to a series of labor movements led by Virgin Islanders who were born during the Fireburn era. “A great example of this would be David Hamilton Jackson,” said Senator Whitaker. “Being born six years after Fireburn and having parents who witnessed Fireburn would have undoubtedly made him aware of issues affecting the working class, which shaped him as a future labor leader.” Fireburn not only had a significant impact on the Virgin Islands but would also play a significant role in future labor movements in the United States, such as those of the Harlem Renaissance in the 1920s and 1930s, in which Virgin Islanders such as Casper Holstein, Ashley Totten, Frank Crosswaith, Hubert Harrison, and Elizabeth Hendrickson were key players. The bill’s objectives fall in line with Senator Whitaker’s advocacy and legal actions with other community leaders for the teaching of Virgin Islands and Caribbean history in our schools, as mandated by Act No. 4844.
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