Chairman of the Virgin Islands Heritage Month Committee, Reverend Dr Melvin Turnbull, said the church has fumbled regarding festivals, and said celebrations over the years have been deviating from the initial purpose of emancipation festivities in the BVI.
In a recent interview on JTV 55 News, Dr Turnbull said there may be a time when the Virgin Islands
cannot have festivals but there should never be a time when emancipation is not celebrated in the territory. He said people need to understand why the celebration happens — emancipation from slavery.
“At the heart of the celebration is spiritual because when the slaves were declared free, one of the things they did was go into the church and prayed and sang and for those who don’t know, the celebrations started with the church. It was the church, the Methodist and Anglican Churches, from whenever up to 1954 that alternated the leadership of the celebrations,” Dr Turnbull said.
“It was called ‘Fete on the Field’ which really was a cultural thing and a happy time. The church dropped the ball kind of, and then other organisations picked it up. So, over the years, it has shifted away from its original intentions,” the Reverend added.
He explained that people, like himself, have been trying to keep the nucleus of the celebrations and not drift too far from the original meaning of festival.
“It is our emancipation and when you behave in a certain way it shows that you are not emancipated,” he said.
The Reverend noted that most of the celebrations he described have been attributed to the festival celebrations in Easter, but he explained that although there are many festival celebrations, the territory needs to focus more on the main thing and keep the August celebrations the main thing.
“Sometimes we get fragmented and lost in the process. Again, I want to declare, since 2004, that the month of August is really our heritage month. We can have a lot of things and call them a lot of other things but really, we must never forget emancipation month. Heritage Month is August. I must add it should not be a one-month thing, we should always talk about our heritage,” Dr Turnbull said.
This year’s festival celebration is expected to open on July 27 with Gospel Night and an opening ceremony. It will close on August 5 with Carrot Bay Cultural Day, among other activities.