From emeralds of the sea to the DMV
In the 1980s, area Virgin Islanders strived to keep our cultural norms alive and vibrant. We had left behind a robust culture in search of higher education and economic balance. Starving for cultural oneness and with limited resources, Virgin Islanders met this void by putting a face on their unified vision, and so the VI Advocates was born. Its primary function was to be the "village" for VI students in the area -- from mentoring to sharing a good VI-style home-cooked meal.
Much has happened since the early years. Our activities have become somewhat legendary, from camping weekends in Prince William Forest Park, complete with the on-site cooking of fried fish and johnny cakes, to long bus rides to NYC (sometimes with broken-down buses) to socialize with other Virgin Islanders. And we cannot forget the Annual Picnics. When all else failed, the Annual Picnic was and continues to be the vehicle that ignited our spirits to breathe life into VIA's mission.
Since those days, a more formal declaration emerged and created the Virgin Islands Association (VIA), a legal DC non-profit organization. Notable accomplishments have been campaigns to provide food to homeless shelters, to coordinate hurricane relief for our devastated islands, and to purchase hospital equipment for VI hospitals. One such benefit held at the Mayflower Hotel netted over $25,000.
Our early and active participants were many in number and too numerous to mention, but in the midst, we pause and pay homage to a few: *Clarence (Beaver) Beverhoudt, Lybia Callwood, Denise Canton, Keith Charles, Alvin Dalmida Jr.,* Lloyd Davis, Angel (DJ Piper) Fahie, *the late Robert Finch,* Shanda Gottlieb, *Kenneth (Double) Greaves, *Marva Gumbs-Jennings,* Cherie Hendricks, Morse Hendricks, Afrilasia Joseph-Phipps, Larry Larsen, *James (Steely) Lloyd,* Wilma Matthias, David Molloy, the late Dana Orie, the late Bernard Prince, Jr.,* Joe Prince, Myrna Roberts, Loán Sewer, Gail Smith,* Leticia Spaght, *Elizabeth Stanley,* Arline Swan, Clairine Violenes, Vancito Wallace, Delvin Walters, John (Dougie) Watson,* the late Louis Wesselhoft,* the late Keith Williams, and the late Otis Williams.
Among other things, VIA's purpose was to promote fellowship and foster a sense of belonging and loyalty to our homeland. We continue to keep in step with our original mandate, and we welcome those who envision such a resource network for all Virgin Islanders abroad. Every organization needs a team effort to produce good works. VIA has such a team that gives selflessly of their time, energies, and contributions.