The British Virgin Islands government has announced that all festival activities – with the exception of an online church service scheduled for Sunday – have been canceled in response to the COVID outbreak that has claimed 31 lives this month.
In a press release issued Friday evening, Natlio D. Wheatley, who is Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Education, Culture, Youth, Fisheries and Agriculture, said the service will reflect the ancestral history of the territory and the history of emancipation, and will serve as a special memory for those who lost their lives due to the COVID-19 virus.
“Now more than ever, the Virgin Islands must continue to unite in the strength of prayer and purpose. We must continue to remember the strength of our ancestors and our ancestors who, like us, have lived similar experiences and they have always come together, united for the Virgin Islands, and our action must not be different ”, a Wheatley said.
The annual emancipation service will feature remarks from Wheatley as well as BVI Premier Andrew A. Fahie, who is also Minister of Finance.
The service will also include tributes and presentations from various churches as well as poetry from the Laureate Poet of the Virgin Islands, Dr Richard Georges, who is also Acting Chief Medical Officer; writer and researcher Eugenia O’Neal; and singer / songwriter Jovan Cline.
Festival Culture Director Katherine Smith praised the churches’ commitment to hosting the Sunday service, noting “It was heartwarming to see the spirit of compassion with which the churches and those attending our service were virtual emancipation 2021 give of their time and talents “.
“This special remembrance ceremony will be held in honor of those who have died due to the COVID-19 virus even though the commemoration of our ancestors remains the reason for this virtual service,” she said.
To ensure everyone’s health and safety with increasing COVID cases this month, the festivals and fairs committee has canceled festival events. Parades scheduled for August 2, known as August Monday, were canceled days after the announcement of a full-fledged celebration. More information will be provided at a later date on the Miss BVI pageant. Initial plans were for a winner to be crowned on Sunday.
The public is invited to connect to the emancipation service from 3 p.m. It will be broadcast live on the BVI government Facebook page (@BVIGovernment) and on ZBVI radio.
On August 1, 1834, the Emancipation Act saw the abolition of slavery in Britain. The religious service is held annually on the first Sunday in August and celebrates liberation from colonialism and slavery through prayer and worship. From Monday to the following Wednesday are public holidays to celebrate the history and culture of the people with different activities ranging from musical and talent shows to cultural food and game exhibitions.