Sunday, July 14, 2013

Interview: Sonia Jacobs Dow, Executive Director of the St. Croix Landmarks Society

Sonia Jacobs Dow, Executive Director of the St. Croix Landmarks Society

This week I had the opportunity to interview Sonia Dow, executive director of the St. Croix Landmarks Society. It's an amazing organization dedicated to the preservation of cultural heritage. They run two museums, a library and have great programs, exhibits, concerts and tours. Ms. Dow also has connections to Free Gut and the larger Christiansted, so she was a natural choice for an interview subject that deals with the town, the buildings and the story of its former residents.
Sonia Dow, Executive Direction of St. Croix Landmarks Society in front of "My Granny House"

We interviewed her on the property of the Estate Whim Museum. I have actually had an exhibit there. You can see a link here and here to view some of the images from that show.
Iron Bed as a part of the "My Granny House" Exhibit at the Estate Whim Museum

However we chose to interview her in front of a beautiful wooden house that was constructed about 20 years ago that has been recently converted into an exhibit entitled "My Granny House". The first time I entered the house it brought back so many memories of both of my grandmothers houses. My grandmother in Barbados and Tobago have similar homes. The kitchen, the bed, the grip, the dollies, the crochet doll, the rocking chair, coal pot all made me think of my Granny and how my parents grew up. Both of them in one and two room wooden houses that they shared with 6-8 people.

What was most memorable to me about our interview was Ms. Dow's commentary on the effect of uncovering one's family history. She talked about the varied emotions that surface when someone finds that first African born ancestor or the first ancestor that was a slaveholder. Due to the meticulous Danish accounting of property taxes, and we remember that slaves were considered property, it is possible for many Virgin Islanders to trace their family history in their library. The process, she says, is incredibly healing, the stories are healing. And for me, although I am not related to anyone that owned my house, we agreed that the stories are powerful enough that they transcend bloodlines. It was a great reminder of one of the many reasons that I am doing this documentary.

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