Pictured: Option 1 for the male and option 2 for the female were chosen.
Photo Credit: BVI Platinum News
History was made last evening, July 24 as Members of the House of Assembly voted for 'Oh Beautiful Virgin Islands' written by siblings Ayana Hull and Kareem-Nelson Hull as the Territorial song, and a combination of two different designs for the Territory's official dress.
The two final designs for the Territorial dress were collaborative work between designers Ms. Kristin Frazer and Mrs. Florence Phillips.
According to Government, the development of a Territorial dress and song is in keeping with Government's commitment to preserve, enhance and promote the Virgin Islands' cultural identity.
Following a robust debate in hte House, the song received 10 votes from the elected members, while for the dress, 10 members voted for option 1 for the male and 10 voted for option 2 for the female.
Opposition Members Hon. Julian Fraser and Hon. Ralph T. O'Neal were absent, while former Culture Minister and First District Representative Hon. Andrew Fahie abstained based on the process that was being used.
Hon. Myron Walwyn, Minister for Education and Culture who moved the Motion, said efforts will be made to have the words of the Territorial song known to all residents and it will be sung at all official activities. However, he said that it will not compete with the national anthem, as it will be sung following the national anthem. The Minister noted that the song should be sung everyday in the schools and he will take that proposal to Cabinet.
The Minister said all the songs in the competition were good and it was a very tough decision to narrow them down. The Minister said even though they are picking one song, it is important that persons learn the other songs as well.
He said the Territorial dress should be accepted attire for any occasion. The Minister told the House of Assembly that it is important to have a national dress to help shape our identity, noting that it is vital for young people to understand and know their history.
"We send our young people overseas to be educated and it's a good thing, and we should continue to do it, but when they get over there and they don't know themselves as Virgin Islanders, if they are not properly grounded they are going to adopt somebody else's culture. They wouldn't know who they are and we see it around us in the Virgin Islands today. You see it in the way we talk; some of the things the young people say; they have their pants hanging down...That is not who we are as Virgin Islanders. So even though it might seem a simple thing like picking a dress and song, it goes a very long way in terms of carving out who we are as a people. We have to take culture seriously," the Minister stressed.
Minister Walwyn reiterated that building national pride is paramount to the future of the BVI.
"You hear them say I born here and it's true; you born here, that is good, but apart from saying it you cannot see it. Something is wrong and we have to make all attempts to get our people to feel a bit more pride," he said.
The Minister spoke on the concerns raised about the style of the dresses.
"I have heard various comments about the style, but we don't want to worry about that. We will get that sorted out; you make your own style once it has the cloth and the colours that have the various significance..."
It was previously stated that once the House of Assembly approves the design, then the idea is to have Government make the print available for purchase in local stores. As of July 11, the cost was not decided on as yet.
Hon. Ronnie Skelton, Minister for Health and Social Development during his contribution to the debate in the House of Assembly last evening, said as Chairman of the Standing Orders Committee, he will put forward for Members of the House to wear the Territorial dress.
"...In the standing orders in this House, to show the seriousness of the dress and song. It will be part of the attire of this House; at least once a year we will have to wear them. So the young people who we say we doing all of this for will see that we are serious about choosing a national dress and national song," the Health Minister stated.
Final Decision Should Not Be Left To 13 Politicians
Meanwhile, making it absolutely clear that the Territory needs a Territorial song and dress, First District Representative, Hon. Fahie said it is not wise for legislators to have the final say on such an important decision.
"...Not to leave the final decision for a national song and dress to 13 politicians...I have an issue with that methodology, but I don't have an issue with the intent or with all that have been done so far. I just believe that all that have been done so far should have followed through to the last stage to allow for that," Hon. Fahie stated prior to the selection last evening.
Hon, Fahie, who asked to speak before the songs were played to the Members of the House, said he is no expert on fashion.
"...As I look through the sound lyrics and the dresses, there is no doubt in my mind it is excellent...When I look at the dresses, it is hard for me to select one, especially not having a criteria. I sometimes have difficulties matching. Sometimes my wife tells me that tie don't match with that shirt and now I am being asked to come to the House to select clothing...It's out of my league and I don't feel I would do justice to the national dress...We are going off of feelings...We are not doing justice to our country," he said.
The former Culture Minister reiterated that he cannot support the methodology for the 13 politicians to choose the final dress and song. He said he is in no way hitting the musicians or designers since they have all done the BVI proud.
He said that there are certain legal aspects such as copyright infringement and the experts on music and designs should have the final say. The process, which according to him from all appearances was transparent, should have been done to the final stage rather than the politicians having the final say.
"...We are going to listen to the songs, but then the question is, where are our expertise in those areas whether song or dress. This is something that is going to be there for generations to come...From a legal standpoint, whether Attorney General or legal entity, to ensure there is no copyright infringement; no disrespect with anyone who wrote the songs...I am sure they are very prudent and upstanding young people (musicians). Sometimes you create something that is already out there and you don't know...," Fahie stated.
He said he knows that he will receive some blows for his comments.
"I know that I am going to get some blows for this, but better I be hated for who I am than to be loved for who I am not and that is how I am going to live my life in the latter part. But I don't want our people there dancing one of these times with one of these dresses on and playing the song in some country and then you hear Police come saying take off my dress and stop playing my song. I mean it sounds farfetched, but these things could happen with copyrights," he said.
Hon. Fahie said he commends the Minister of Culture, Hon. Walwyn for such a move, and his comments are in no way political.
"By no stretch of my imagination my comments are politics...Our national identity must be clear, crystal clear that it leaves no doubt what is our national dress, national song, food...No way I would debate, that would not be wise or getting into politics...I am for us passing a national dress and song, but I have a concern with this methodology," he stated.
The former Culture Minister reiterated that they will be acting off emotions.
"...Even if we continue, I humbly ask that at least the legal part of what I requested be looked at, be insured for each song if we are going to continue. It's nothing much you could do with the dress part...So that when members make a decision, we can ensure that we would never have a problem with the decision...but I support this initiative to get us a national wear and song," he said.
However, Hon. Mark Vanterpool, Minister for Communications and Works said the time is now for them to choose a Territory song and dress and all the other issues can be sorted out, but those issues do not bar them from choosing a song and dress.
"It is time that we do it. We may talk about all the semantics of doing it and that's fine, because we all have issues and concerns, but it is time we make a selection and all the other things that may have to be sorted out, whether it's infringement for copyright...Whether it be one of those things, we will have to do them, I agree, but it does not hinder us from making this important step tonight. And I am so glad that we are able to bring it to this Honourable House to give it that national symbol," the Minister stated.
Health Minister, Hon. Skelton also said the Elected Members are capable of choosing from the lot that was presented to them.
"I think all the hard work has already been done by the committee and participants and by the Minister, and now it's for us...And they have made their selection and presented us with something that we can say we think this is a good dress and it represents what BVI stands for," he said.
According to the Motion, on Wednesday, 11th January, 2012 the Minister for Education and Culture, Hon. Myron Walwyn appointed an Ad Hoc Committee on the Territorial Song and Dress, whose members included Mrs. Eileene L. Parsons as the Chairperson, Dr. Charles Wheatley, Mrs. Sheila Brathwaite, Hon. Delores Christopher and the Acting Director of Culture, Mrs. Brenda Lettsome-Tye.
The Ad Hoc Committee on the Territorial Song and Dress was charged with hosting a competition to decide the Territorial Song and Dress for these Virgin Islands.
The Motion stated that whereas in its early meetings the committee determined the criteria for submissions in both song and dress and felt it necessary to have as impartial a process as possible, and decided to use as judges, persons versed in music, English language, poetry and culture to judge the song entries while persons versed in dressmaking, the Virgin Islands culture and fashion were used to judge the dress entries.
Further whereas the Acting Director of Culture was charged with the responsibility of receiving the entries for the competition; whereas on Friday, 13th April, 2012, which was the deadline for the submission of entries for the competition, a total of 24 songs and 9 dress designs were submitted.
According to the Motion, following a lengthy judging and selection process which involved public participation, the top three songs selected were 'Land I Love' by Dylan Penn, 'Wonder of Creations' by Dr. Quincy Lettsome and 'Oh Beautiful Virgin Islands' by Ayana Hull, and the top two dress designs selected were a collaborative design by Ms. Kristin Frazer and Mrs. Florence Phillips.
Further, on Tuesday, 8th May, 2012, the Acting Director of Culture made a presentation of the Territorial Song and Dress Competition, the process and results to the Government of the Virgin Islands at its Caucus Meeting and returned on Monday, 25th June, 2012 to present the collaborative work of Ms. Kristin Frazer and Mrs. Florence Phillips.