The newly formed Association for the Preservation of the Virgin Islands Heritage (APVIH) has decided to rehabilitate the African burial ground that is located in Kingstown as its first undertaking. The project was launched on 12 November during an introductory event.
According to historian Vernon W. Pickering, “after the abolition of the slave trade several ships carrying slaves were seized in Virgin Islands waters. In an attempt to solve some of the problems affecting the liberated Africans, in 1831, the government gave grants of land at Kingstown, Tortola. In the course of time, St. Philip’s Church was built specifically for the liberated Africans.”
At the ceremony, historian Dr. Angel Smith explained that he has observed that persons in the Territory have a tendency to attend funerals, pay respect to the family of the deceased, and after that do not go near to burial sites, and this has resulted in the state of some gravesites. He hopes that the restoration project is a good start at looking at the sacredness of burial sites.
Director of Culture, Luce Hodge-Smith told the gathering that she cannot overemphasize the fact that preservation is a continuous effort and the preservation of historical sites is particularly important, since they are also part of the Territory’s tourism product.
APVIH Member, Dr. Patricia Turnbull disclosed that the organization began as a discussion group and has five members. “It has taken us a year to come to this point, but we wanted to launch with a project.”
The mission of the Association is to contribute to the heritage of the Virgin Islands. She added: “We find it kind of appalling that we tend to neglect our burial sites, and we are learning more about that site…”
Minister for Education and Culture, Hon. Myron Walwyn described the project as a significant one, and said that his Ministry fully supports the efforts.
Key restoration features include the installation of over 100 stone markers, log wood or stone benches, and a stone tiled walkway.