SAMECA HENDRICKSON | ST THOMAS – After competing in poise, talent, image, and personal/private interview, Elisa M. Thomas, Miss UVI 2014-2015, captured the prestigious title of Miss NBCA Hall of Fame Queens Pageant. Thomas vied for title among 29 other HBCU royalty in Atlanta, Georgia on September 24-28.
University faculty and staff, students and well wishers greatly applaud Thomas on her a job well done!
ST.THOMAS- After successful tryouts, fundraising, extensive stretching, exercising, three months of rehearsal and perfecting their “boom kacks,” the ladies of U.V.I Dance Team are prepared for their debut performance at the Paradise Jam game on Saturday, Nov. 23. During the halftime game, where Metropolitan University takes on the U.V.I Buccaneers, U.V.I’s dance team will perform their latest dance mix. The performance features music from many genres such as hip-hop, R&B, dance hall, pop and calypso and also uses well-known songs.
ST.CROIX- An unfamiliar face walked into the theater on a Wednesday afternoon. He walked to the back to the only piano, a Baldwin, sat down and played an original song, “Origami,” while students listened in amazement.
The University of the Virgin Islands has musically talented students who might be compared to famous pianists such as Ray Charles, Ludwig van Beethoven and Sun Ra, but they go unnoticed. Students at UVI say there isn’t a strong music program and going off island seems to be the better option.
Jahmal Francis emerges from the circle of students whose musical talent stands out.
Francis is an 18-year-old freshman at UVI. His personality and calm charisma is sculpted by music. He started playing the piano at the age of 12 and at 15 he made a special effort to master his talents. Francis sings and has mastered both the tenor saxophone and the piano, with piano being his favorite. His high school music teacher taught him the basics of playing the piano, however, he learned the rest on his own. He enjoys incorporating his R&B style into every key he plays on the piano.
“I first play with my heart, then my hands in a sense. The music takes me away,’” he said.
This multitalented student majors in business management but his true passion is music. Francis Francis says he might transfer to a different school. He really wants to major in entrepreneurship with a concentration of music, however, majoring in music is not UVI’s strong point. According to UVI’s website, the only degree program that UVI offers in relation to music is a bachelor’s degree in music education. Francis is torn between leaving home and going away to study his true passion.
When Francis is not playing a mellow tune, he is writing poetry. In his free time he plays his emotions into his piano and projects his lyrical thoughts on paper through song writing.
Francis is a perfectionist when it comes to his music. Along with recording his music, his keen hearing for piano notes allows him to tune his music to perfection.
Francis is an original. His smooth style, soulful keys and other musical elements included in his music are 100 percent him. He listens to a variety of music because he believes every artist is unique and it inspires him to be different. Listening to a variety of musical genres allows Francis to channel his musical abilities through his voice and instruments to share with other people who enjoy music.
There are only a few people who aware of Francis’ talent because there are limited showcasing outlets for musical talent at UVI. Promoting himself as an artist can be difficult because he does not have the proper materials to record his music. However, Francis still finds alternatives to promote his music through social networks like Facebook.
The famous pianist, Ludwig van Beethoven said, “the barriers are not erected which can say to aspiring talents and industry, ‘Thus far and no further.’”
Francis and a group of other young artists are on their way to making an album. The album will contain a collage of young local artists showcasing their different styles and abilities.
Music is something special to Francis. It brings out a humble, artistic aura that touches others when he plays. Even though showcasing outlets and required materials to record his music are few, Francis pushes through and finds alternatives to stay local through the album and remain at UVI.
The University of the Virgin Islands has musically talented students who anxiously wait to find an outlet to showcase their abilities.
“If you have a talent, use it in every which way possible. Don`t hoard it. Don`t dole it out like a miser. Spend it lavishly like a millionaire intent on going broke.” said Aaron Kildow.
Salsa Club works to promote Latin culture on campus
ST.CROIX — The counting of steps and Latin music could be heard from the cafeteria of the Albert A. Sheen campus on Tuesday afternoon, as the Salsa Club worked to promote Latin culture through dance.
According to University of the Virgin Islands graduate and president of the Salsa Club, Ismael Rosado Jr., Latin culture, especially salsa is underrepresented at the university.
“I was a part of the first Salsa Club in St. Thomas, and after three or four solid years over there I decided that since I’ve been home for about a year, let’s see if this could work out,” Rosado said. “There is nothing like that here, no salsa exposure.”
According to the listing of clubs and organizations on the university’s website, there are no clubs or organizations geared towards Latin culture. The closest organization would be the “Social and Cultural Committee.”
While the Salsa Club is led by Rosado, the class was taught by Humanities Professor La Vaughn Belle, and her husband, Rivert Diaz, which was the first time the class was taught by guest instructors.
The instructors were chosen for their background in knowing how to dance salsa, although their salsa style is more Cuban.
“I wanted to see how their teaching style was, and how the students received them,” Rosado said. “Hey, anytime you have a guest professor who knows salsa you take them up on it.“
Diaz and Belle are in the process of opening a dance studio called “House of Clave,” but are currently instructors at the Bailar Casino Social Club on Tuesdays and Thursdays at the Comanche Hotel, and Saturdays at La Laguna.
“We’ve been teaching for a long time,” Belle said. “I was going to start a Salsa Club, but it just happened to be synergetic that he was starting one at the same time so it was perfect.”
Belle said that while she would not be able to attend every class, she would try to attend as many as possible.
According to Rosado the classes are scheduled for Tuesdays and Fridays at 12:30 p.m. in the cafeteria.
One of the most challenging tasks with the club is attracting male students.
“Originally it was just girls and with some recruiting on the day, which is why I think 12:30 is a good time, you can kind of recruit guys,” Rosado said. “Generally, towards the beginning recruiting is a lot easier than later on because they already are exposed and they know what it is. So if they don’t want to come, they just don’t want to come. But I’m optimistic.”
With National Hispanic Heritage Month coming up in November, Rosado is hoping that with some practice, there will be a group that can represent the Salsa Club, even if it is only a small performance.
“It’s going to take some work, but ideally that would be great. Maybe if we can get La Vaughn Belle and some of the other instructors and students who are more skilled, we could do a simple performance,” Rosado said.
“I had fun,” nursing major and Dance Team captain, Deidre Dubois, said. “I knew Ismael for a very long time and he invited me to take just one day of classes and I decided to stick with it.”
One of Rosado’s ultimate goals is to get a worthwhile group that can participate in and bring awareness to the community.
“I’m hoping to get a solid group together that can learn gradually and develop their skills to potentially being able to perform and go outside into the community and participate in the social culture, which is salsa and Latin dance,” Rosado said.
ST. THOMAS- When 19-year-old DeLanni Matthew was surrounded by friends who all wanted to become members of the Buccaneer’s Cheerleading Squad last Spring, she decided to give it a shot.
Years ago, skirts didn’t exist to her. She would put up a fight whenever someone tried to get her out of her favorite basketball shorts. Now she can be found courtside shaking her pom poms in a tiny skirt.
To most of her friends, it was quite a shocker.
“Are you serious, I don’t even know who you are anymore,” ToQuoya George, long time friend of Matthew, said.
In junior high, when all the girls in her class were having conversations about hair and nails, she often stood out.
“I was the outsider all the time,” Matthew said, “I preferred basketball.”
Cheerleading, however, wasn’t the breakthrough for her.
She didn’t quite fit the petite look of the majorettes you see competing in the World Baton Twirling Federation International Cup, but she practiced baton twirling each summer with the Lutheran Church of Reformation from the young age of seven.
For this 5’9” computer science sophomore, the change officially began eight years ago. This was when she fully dedicated her heart to the sport and began twirling professionally.
“All the girly girls call themselves fashionistas, but me I’m a batonista,” Matthew said. “Twirling for me is more than just fun – it’s a way of life.”
Matthew was one of the few Charter Members of the eight-time champions, the St. Thomas Majorettes, Inc.
“I got a phone call from the assistant director of the organization and I took her to the first practice and we haven’t left since,” Brenda Monsanto, Matthew’s mother, said. “I didn’t take her seriously because whenever I tried to get her involved in something she never stuck to it but she proved me wrong.”
Even though she had been used to performing, for her, being a cheerleader was like being a totally different person.
“Cheerleaders are supposed to have school spirit and be perky all the time and that wasn’t me,” Matthew said.
To many, Matthew is considered a star performer. Her fellow cheerleaders look up to her and expect a lot.
“DeLanni Matthew is a talented and well-rounded student. The enthusiasm and skill that she has brought to the team is a great example of what a university cheerleader should look like,” Thia Homer, captain of the Bucs Cheerleading Squad, said. “She represents us well and is always encouraging others to do well also.”
Outside of classes, she has been very involved in student organizations. She is known for her participation in the Social, Cultural and Carnival Organizing Committee in the 2012-2013 school year. Many of her peers were granted an opportunity to see her perform in the Dining Pavilion during the First Annual Carnival Week in March of 2013.
Matthew also enjoys reading, playing games on her iPad and most importantly spending time with family and friends outside of school and performances.
Though she is over the age limit to perform in the annual Carnival Children’s Parade whenever there is an opportunity to perform, on or off island, she goes for it.
“DeLanni has proven herself to be a very dedicated and talented contributing member to the majorettes,” said Alicia Gumbs, secretary of the organization. “Even though she has graduated and is attending college, she continues to give up her time in order for the group to remain a success.”
So when you see her around campus, baton or no baton, pom poms or no pom poms, feel free to ask her to show you one of her famous “Olympic” toe touches. If you get lucky, she might even teach you.
Better resources and facilities needed for aspiring young artists
ST. CROIX – In a society so rich and diverse in culture we find many ways of expressing ourselves as a people. Sweet combinations of various art styles connect us in ways that express how people feel, think and live. Whether it’s through music, dance, paintings, photos, videos, or illustrations, people as a whole interpret and obtain unique perspectives. They in turn share their own creative twist in hopes that someone can relate to and respect it.
“It is strange that only around carnival time we tend to see a lot of art in a cultural aspect,” said Albert Hazard. Born in California, but a a resident of the territory since 1971.
Hazard primarily started in the ceramics area of arts. He had accomplished 30 years’ of experience in teaching art and retired in 2003.
According to Hazard, art is all around us.
“We take it for granted and think that it is not important. Art is very important because without it life would be bland. Life would simply be black and white,” Hazard said. “Students need some way to express themselves and an outlet to help develop their talents.”
Hazard has heard many parents say they don’t think arts are as important as other subjects. However, he believes that we have a lot of talented and gifted children in the Virgin Islands.
Although Hazard is retired, he has dedicated his time to St. Croix Educational Complex High School because they were in need of an arts instructor. His passion for art and his love for the future generation is why he agreed to come back to Complex and help students see a window of opportunity through the arts program.
Many believe the stigma in our society in the Virgin Islands that says we cannot make a living in the arts.
Ceramics foundation arts instructor, Dwydale Dariah. begs to differ.
“When people think of art, all they think about is drawing and painting; there is more to art than that,” said Dariah.
Dariah believes that as a career, the arts department is not taken seriously. Children are being discouraged out of pursuing their dreams because there is a lack of education as to how far arts can really take talented and inspired students.
Dariah was born in St. Lucia and has been an arts instructor for 13 years. He admires seeing each child’s unique talents.
It saddens Dariah to see the drift in arts within the school system. With the lack of teachers and supplies it nearly seems impossible to facilitate students’ desires to get seriously involved in their passion for arts in the community.
“I believe 60 percent of the community could be better if there were better supplies and facilities to accommodate the youth of today. There is a trickle-down effect to things here,” Dariah Said. “If we as a people find more positive things for young people to do that will actually benefit them, we wouldn’t see as much crime and violence because they will be actively engaged.”
He stressed the need for more instructors, but feels that one reason the territory won’t receive any from abroad is because most won’t leave the mainland where there is better pay to come to the territory where resources are limited as well as income.
“For the sake of the children, we need change” Dariah said.
A student who wanted to pursue his dreams in the arts, Marcus Castillo, revealed his perspective on the matter.
“The possibility of students who leave the territory to reach opportunities and coming back home with the knowledge, skills, and talents is very small,” Castillo said. “If students can’t achieve their art potentials here because of limited funds, staffs, and supplies, at least inform the students that there are options outside of the territory although I feel as a diverse community we should have been able to provide for students who don’t have the privilege of going abroad.”
Castillo is a recent graduate of Columbus College for Arts and Design in Ohio, and one of the first from the territory to attend the college.
He was born in Dominican Republic but was raised in the Virgin Islands. Upon graduating from the St. Croix Educational Complex High School, Castillo made the decision to leave St. Croix to go to the mainland to acquire his Bachelor’s degree.
According to Castillo, It was a tough move to leave family and friends. The University of the Virgin Islands didn’t have a sufficient program that would help him the way he envisioned. Because of his move to the mainland he is currently working as an illustrator doing what he loves and has a passion for.
He did come back to the territory to do work, and when that backfired, he felt it was best to stay in the United States where he had more opportunities.
“I had a strong support system from family and friends,” Castillo said “but the man that helped me get where I am today is Mr. John Jones.”
Mr. Jones was Castillo’s art instructor throughout his high school life. He educated Castillo and pushed him positively in his talents and abilities because he saw the potential in him.
“The territory could do better with more multi-centers where children can go to feed their creative imaginations. Giving them something constructive to do, helps minimize idleness in the youth and provide them with something to do other than steal, fight, and get into trouble,” said Castillo. “I found an escape from a stereotype as a young man through my passion for arts; others should have that chance as well.”