Panel Discussion | October 17, 2019 | Black Portraitures Conference | New York University
Where you gon go burn? is a rallying cry that almost every Virgin Islander learns perhaps even before they learn to read. These words from a popular folk song about Queen Mary and the 1878 labor revolt known as the Fireburn, harken the Afro-Caribbean tradition of queendom bestowed upon women who were fierce leaders. The refrain is a cry of defiance that forms a significant part of Virgin Islands’ collective memory and identity and has manifested in various forms that stand in sharp contrast to the Danish colonial archives. Although the Danes boast some of the most expansive archival records of the transatlantic slave trade, their removal of them in 1917 when they sold the Danish West Indies to the United States meant that the newly named US Virgin Islands would be a community that would have to form collective memory without their records. This panel presents different perspectives- on a painting, a monument, a performance and reenactments- as examples of the alternative archival systems and ways of remembering that have developed in the Virgin Islands. Unlike the colonial archives, these alternative memory systems center the agency and subjectivity of Virgin Islanders in their still ongoing quest for self-determination. In addition to the four founding members of VISCO (the Virgin Islands Studies Collective) the panel will be moderated by Dr. Cynthia Oliver, also a Virgin Islander and author of “Queen of the Virgins: Pageantry and Black Womanhood in the Caribbean”.
Hadiya Sewer, Brown University, Visiting Scholar, philosopher/Africana studies
La Vaughn Belle, Barnard College, Columbia University, Artist & Fellow at the Social Justice Institute for the Barnard Center for Research on Women
Tami Navarro, Barnard College, anthropologist
Tiphanie Yanique, Emory University, Professor, poet and novelist