Civics Education (Bill 31-0337)

On August 3, 2016, in Uncategorized, by viyacsec

The Virgin Islands Legislature has proposed bill 31-0337, intended to amend Title 17 Virgin Islands Code, chapter 5, section 41, subsection (c) by requiring the Virgin Islands public schools’ curriculum include a structure civics course that incorporates the three branches of Virgin Islands government and the roles of public officials.

Testimonies for the support of this bill will be given today at the Legislature of the Virgin Islands on St. Croix @ 10 am EST.

 

Volume 1 by Hadiya Sewer

For the American creed, the democratic dogma cannot be reconciled with colonialism. As the Governor of Puerto Rico remarked in the Congressional hearings on Public Law 600, no Americans can be possessions of other Americans. The effort to reconcile possession with American-ness has, accordingly, been a failure in both logic and life; and, in Puerto Rico, it has produced the phenomenon of what has been aptly termed American anti-colonial imperialism -Gordon Lewis, Puerto Rico: A New Constitution in American Government

 

It is hard to believe that the one-hundredth year of American occupation is upon the people of the United States Virgin Islands. However, the United States of America purchased these islands—St. Thomas, St. John, and St. Croix—from Denmark for twenty five million and the islands were formally transferred on March 31st, 1917.  This day is commemorated in the territory as “Transfer Day” and the upcoming Transfer Day Centennial of 2017 raises a host of pertinent questions about our time under the American flag. It also begs us to deliberate about our future.  What is our vision for our beloved home and how might we achieve these dreams?

 

As we look to our future we must consider the question, “how are we to understand this complex and incredibly paradoxical relationship between the United States of America and its colonial possessions?” As Gordon Lewis points out in the aforementioned 1953 piece on Puerto Rico, America’s democratic dogma is not easily reconciled with the coloniality of American power, to use Anibal Quijano’s wording. The prevailing American narrative frames the United States’ rise to global dominance as the history of an underdog that defeated greater imperial forces in a revolutionary war against empire. The American colonies won independence from Great Britain in 1776 through revolutionary war. This history of resistance and the individual and collective pursuit of the American Dream drives the discourse towards that of American exceptionalism (Go 2012; Pease 2009), the notion that America breaks away from European logics of domination to be “the leader of the free world.” Recent leaders in American history have echoed the concept of American exceptionalism.

 

In 2009, President Barack Obama stated, “America is not the crude stereotype of a self-interested empire. The United States has been one of the greatest sources of progress that the world has ever known. We were born out of revolution against empire. We were founded upon the ideal that all are created equal, and we have shed blood and struggled for centuries to give meaning to those words– within our borders, and around the world. We are shaped by every culture, drawn from every end of the Earth, and dedicated to a single concept: E pluribus unum—‘Out of many, one’.” This particular opinion was also echoed by many of President Obama’s predecessors. Woodrow Wilson, Harry Truman, George W. Bush and many others made similar statements throughout the course of American history.

 

Yet, Gordon Lewis and the Puerto Rican governor that he cites in his text are correct to point out the glaring discrepancy between America’s prevailing ideologies and the ongoing marginalization of America’s colonial subjects in Puerto Rico, the U.S. Virgin Islands, the Northern Mariana Islands, American Samoa, and Guam. While this blog focuses primarily on American colonialism in the U.S.V.I, Bartholomew Sparrow (2006) points out that the inhabitants of all of America’s territories are “second class citizens”. Burnett and Marshall (2010) argue that the 1901 to 1922 Insular Cases determined that the predominantly non-white people of America’s possessions would be classified as “foreign in a domestic sense”. In the U.S. Virgin Islands, we see and feel this marginalization in several ways. U.S. Virgin Islanders have truncated voting rights as people in the territory cannot vote for the President of the United States while residing in the Virgin Islands, limited political sovereignty since the territories are placed under the jurisdiction of the Secretary of the Interior, peripheral economies that cater to the metropole, schemas of racial difference, and no constitutional right to citizenship.

 

While the last 98 years of American occupation in the U.S. Virgin Islands can aptly be termed “American colonialism”, Americans on the mainland and in the territory are often hesitant to use this particular wording. Colonialism is a heavy word. It carries the weight of European expansion, settler colonial violence against Indigenous people, slavery, systemic racism, hetero-sexist patriarchy, and the rise of unchecked predatory capitalism. Many may shy away from the term American colonialism because they perceive America to be a “soft power” and the Organic Act of 1936 increased local autonomy and dismantled the more formal aspects of colonial government in the U.S. Virgin Islands. Yet, we must also recognize that these efforts to increase autonomy have not necessarily decolonized the U.S. Virgin Islands.

 

In short, colonialism is the systemic process by which a socio-political power acquires, settles, and controls an external territory and its people. Colonialism is a complex system of domination. Colonizers acquire new territories and maintain control of these spaces through several methods. Political and economic marginalization are key facets of colonialism. People in colonies do not have political sovereignty and their economies are often exploited to benefit the colonizing nation’s economy. However, as Stuart Hall, Frantz Fanon, and others remind us, colonial and imperial power is also rooted in language, knowledge, and systems of representation. Aimé Césaire sums up colonialism in one word, “thingification,” a system with no human contact only relations of “domination and submission”.

 

The Virgin Islands Youth Advocacy Coalition is working with the Decolonizing the USVI blog (www.decolonizingtheusvi.com) to create this series on American Colonialism in the U.S. Virgin Islands. With the Transfer Day Centennial on the horizon, we hope that this ongoing discussion of the history of the U.S. Virgin Islands and the nature of American colonialism might help us decolonize one of the seventeen remaining non-self governing territories in the world. We hope that this series might increase awareness and give voice to local challenges. We recognize that several scholars in the Academy and many members of the U.S.V.I community are doing a lot of work to address the coloniality of American power in our home. We would love for this blog series to serve as a bridge between the Academy and the community. Ultimately, this is a space where we can hold a “reasonin’ session,” to use Rastafari languaging, about freedom and decolonization.

 

PHOTO.HadiyaHadiya Sewer is a PhD Candidate in the Africana Studies Department at Brown University. Hadiya’s research interests in include Africana Feminism, Western empires and Caribbean subject formation, Caribbean philosophy, and radical political thought. Her dissertation examines the impact of American colonialism on sovereignty and questions of the “human” in the U.S. Virgin Islands.

 

As it is, the US Virgin Islands have been on a long path of self-determination. This process mostly indicates our territorial need to define ourselves nationally and clearly delimit the kind of rights we should be afforded as a people. This struggle is even yet complicated by the fact that our representation in the global commercial market is never quite clear. For example, when you’re conducting online shopping or even trying to mail something from abroad and the options to list the USVI directly is completely unavailable or marked as implicit within the country of the United States but yet the USVI is unlisted as a “State”. Clearly, much of these inconsistencies speak to a larger political struggle for representation. So then, how can we really resolve our large lack of commercial/global recognition? What are the connections to be made with such a recognition and our national political struggles? How does one speak for the other?

***Please feel free to leave any comments, thoughts, or questions.

Related Links: VIYAC’s President & Vice-President, Genevieve Whitaker and Dominic Latty participated in the UCCI/UWI 50-50 Caribbean Conference, title=”UCCI Conference” target=”_blank”>http://on.fb.me/UCCIVIYAC12″> https://www.facebook.com/VIYouthAdvocacy/posts/374748502564727

 

 

(June 2011 VIYAC Feature Topic)

By: Jessica Samuel, *VIYAC Board Member (Public Relations Officer & Blogger) & Dominic Latty, VIYAC Vice-President & Chief Researcher

“Leadership does not mean domination. The world is always well supplied with people who wish to rule and dominate others. “Haile Selassie, “Leadership”

Here Ethiopian Emperor Haile Selassie suggests a definition of leadership that is apart from dictatorship. Thus, if not control and domination, what indeed is leadership? As citizens, primarily, but also as youth, what roles do we expect to play in our own government? What are some of the characteristics and traits that we expect from an effective leader? Is service an inherent component of leadership? If so, how can our current leaders better serve?

*VIYAC is youth-led and dedicated to educating young voters who have not been full participants in the political processes.

Contact us at viyouthvote@gmail.com

 

By Stephanie Felix (Guest Blog Contributor)
Published: May 19, 2010 in The Virgin Islands Daily News

It has been a year exactly since I graduated from college and eight months since I returned to the Virgin Islands. In my time home, I have come to a rather unsettling and unfortunate conclusion: Very rarely is the young adult voice heard in the political discourse.
When I left for college in fall of 2005, I wasn’t very interested in politics; it was hardly priority curriculum material in public schools locally. This changed drastically during my time at the University of Miami. I became actively involved in the presidential campaign and various activist organizations. I have seen first-hand the difference a dedicated young person can make. So this letter is me, making sure my voice is heard. 
Local news reports clearly illustrate the tumultuous and sometimes gruesome state of affairs in our local communities. We are at a record high for violent crimes. The local economy has been suffering, and our local schools are in dire need of improvement. Obviously, something is wrong. 
My generation is young, yes, but old enough to become instrumental and valuable members of the community. I urge my peers to get involved. In the upcoming election, go out and vote! Support candidates based on their backgrounds, qualifications, past experience, involvement and most importantly, ideology. Let them know what is important to you, work on e-mail campaigns, and ask questions. Your opinion is just as important and just as vital!
Likewise, I urge political and government officials to lead by example. How can we expect our young people to do the right thing without role models to show them the path? In addition, please seek the insight of young people in the decision-making process. We must consider future generations when making drastic economic or administrative decisions. After all, isn’t it my generation that will experience the long-term effects of these decisions? Good or bad?
Finally, leaders much take a more progressive approach to problem solving. Prevention is better than a cure, studies have shown that incorporating the use of research, SWOT analysis and proactive vs. reactive measures can really make a change and are far more effective.
Consider creating a community think tank of local leaders to identify the problem and generate long-term solutions. We must address and rectify the root causes of these issues to make a significant difference. It is better that we invest our time, money and energy into preventative ideology: investing in quality education vs. youth rehabilitation efforts, creating more jobs vs. unemployment benefits, mental health clinics and free counseling, parenting classes, early-childhood education, safe-sex education, free after-school programs, even leadership and management classes for officials, etc.
Once again, I encourage everyone to get involved. We all have the potential to create a better future for our Virgin Islands. 

— Stephanie Felix, class of 2010 at Teachers College, Columbia University, is from St. Croix

 

final logo without wording A. MOTTO/LOGO: Moving Valiantly Forward, Inspiring Our Fellow Youth to Succeed!

B. MISSION STATEMENT: By way of background, VIYAC is a broad based coalition of organizations and individuals committed to increasing political and civic involvement and overall voter participation of Virgin Islanders, ages 14-30. VIYAC is youth led and dedicated to educating young voters who have not been full participants in the political processes, namely the electoral and legislative systems. VIYAC aims, through civic education, voter literacy, and leadership development training, to educate youth and young adults on how to identify issues, to influence public policy and how to become a more effective participant in the democratic governance of the Virgin Islands (U.S.).

C. BACKGROUND: VIYAC was founded by Genevieve Whitaker, human rights activist/attorney and youth activists: Akeel St. Jean, Stetson University Student Government Association President and a student of Political Science & Economics; Dominic Latty, a graduate of Brown University where he received dual Bachelor’s degrees in Africana Studies & Computer Science; and, Amaris Chew, a graduate of The University of the Virgin Islands, where she received her Bachelor of Arts degree in Social Sciences, who as the UVI Class of 2009 Commencement Speaker took two out of three categories for the winning team of the 2009 UVI Model U.N. Competition.

D. STRUCTURE:

a. Steering Committee (the leadership team comprised of Advisors, experts in various fields, tasked with developing and implementing the projects and programs of the Initiative)

b. Coordinators (Individuals designated to carry out the goals of the respective programs and initiatives)

E. PROGRAMS & INITIATIVES:

Programs

  • Youth Radio Program
  • Youth Voter Literacy Program
  • Civic Education Program/Human Rights & Youth Political Participation

Initiatives

  • Youth Agenda Report Cards Initiative
  • VI Youth Perspective on the proposed Constitution
  • Youth Bill of Rights Initiative
  • VI Youth Sports Advocacy

 For More Information Contact Us @: viyouthvote@gmail.com and connect with us via the following sites:

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