Proud of Who They Are

This Pride parade was a true celebration — a celebration of pride, of diversity, and of the joy of being able to live life on your own terms.

Yes, these people are proud of who they are. See the smiles? It’s what freedom can look like.

Flag Runner

Flag Runner

On the Sidewalk - Proud of Who They Are

On the Sidewalk – Proud of Who They Are

The Drummers

The Drummers

Flaunting It

Flaunting It



Pride... and Joy

Pride… and Joy

Even the Bus Company

Even the Bus Company

The Adults’ Parade

The parade, a word and a touch

The Parade, a Word, a Touch -- 2011

These are two of a series of images from the Adults’ Parade — the culmination of the Christmas festival on St. Croix in the U.S. Virgin Islands. If you enjoy a party, can find the shade, drink beer in the afternoon, and move to the earsplitting sounds of reggae, soca and calypso, you will like the Adults’ Parade and its genuine atmosphere of a community celebration.

But with all that, there is still something mysterious and inaccessible about it. Perhaps it is how the powerful family and community bonds and shared unspoken values manifest themselves in the heat and dust, the colors and sounds of the parade. And the setting — the ramshackle remains of an old colonial-era town — speaks to a shared past for those whose families have lived there for generations. Whatever it is, no matter how long one from the continent lives in the islands, there will always be a part of the culture that remains foreign and a mystery that demands respect.

St. Croix beauty queen

Beauty Queen -- 2011

Red Majorettes

Red Majorettes

Red Majorettes -- 2010

The “Red Majorettes” was selected, along with work from 13 other artists, for inclusion in the Caribbean Museum Center for the Arts 2011 calendar. It is the first year that photography-based images have been included as a fine art. The “Red Majorettes” illustrate the month of December — a fitting choice because December is the beginning of the festival season on St. Croix. I am pleased to be included.

The face below is a rework of an earlier image of a “warrior” re-enacting a part of his heritage. It is cropped more closely, the edges and textures are softer and more painterly, and some of the color is desaturated — all to focus more on his disturbing gaze that nevertheless demands respect.

reliving history

Warrior -- 2010

Pictures from the Fair

Ag-Fair Yellow

Ag-Fair Yellow - 2010

St. Croix’s annual agricultural fair held in February is an eagerly anticipated and well attended event. And then there is the color.

There is a small village of food booths in one area all painted the same slightly greenish yellow. Vendors sell pates (vaguely like a fried turnover), johnnycakes, fried chicken and fish, a variety of fruit drinks and other local delicacies out of these booths.

One of the routes from the food booths to the animal, fruit and vegetable displays leads down a narrow street lined with vendors selling everything from t-shirts to honey to art and jewelry — and even a few local politicians hawking their wares to the sound of reggae in the background. Come early in the day to beat the crowds and the heat of the sun!

Vendors at the Fair

Vendors' Row -- 2010


festival performer

Dancer - 2010

These two images are from a street festival. The man was a dancer and performer. He stood out with his serious clear-eyed gaze and spear held so close. The woman was a spectator… of sorts. She was so excited and having a good time just dancing on her own up and down the street! And best of all, her curved pink sunglasses almost perfectly echoed the shape of her wide-open smile. If only we could all find such joy so easily.

Woman from St. Croix

Havin' a good time -- 2010

Everybody loves a parade

dancer in Christmas festival parade

Parade dancer -- 2010

These images are part of a larger series from this year’s festival parade in Frederiksted. Fortunately, we arrived in Frederiksted about two hours after the parade was scheduled to begin, and only had to wait an additional hour. When we left some time later, people were still arriving with their chairs and coolers. I understand the festivities went well into the night. You would think I would eventually learn the rhythm of the place. By the time I do, I’ll probably no longer have the stamina to participate!

The first image is from a dance troupe celebrating their African heritage. While the costumes may not have been as large or colorful as some of the more traditional carnival-like troupes to come later, I thought the group’s costumes and dance were especially interesting and heartfelt. The bottom image is of one of the several groups of young majorettes on the island. The blue velveteen uniforms glowing in the sun formed a striking band of blue as the young women lined up to march further down the street.

Blue majorettes in Frederiksted

Blue Majorettes -- 2010

Time passes

queen for a day

Queen for a day - 2010

The queen rides by in sparkling yellow proud and smiling. A few blocks away, the afternoon sun illuminates a crumbling cemetery. The stones speak of dreams and lives long gone, and stories played out on that balcony just beyond the cemetery wall.

Cemetery in Frederiksted

Gone for a while - 2010

Different lives

Christmas boat parade

Before the boat parade -- 2010

Different people, different lives. The image above was captured at dusk in a waterfront cafe, waiting for the Christmas boat parade to begin. A smiling older woman strolls through the crowds selling trinkets and candy from a bin in a baby stroller. Always ready with a smile, she is a fixture at the town’s events.

And below is a tall man, cigar and beer in one hand, cell phone in the other, apparently oblivious to the woman with her small basket of goods to sell, as the night’s energy swirls around them.

Cigar, beer and a cell phone

Cigar, beer and a cell phone -- 2009

For a Jumbie-free New Year!

Mocko Jumbie Dance - 2009

St. Croix’s celebration of the holidays continues through the week, ending with the adult’s festival parade (a loud, long, and sometimes lewd extravaganza) on January 2. In keeping with the celebratory spirit, these two night-time mocko jumbies may help keep the bad spirits away throughout the New Year.

May 2010 bring the best to all.

Mocko Jumbie with Holiday Lights - 2009

Holiday Spirits

Mocko Jumbie - 2009

Colorfully costumed stilt dancers — or mocko jumbies — appear at many island festivals. Cultural icons and entertainers today, the mocko jumbies have ancient African origins. “Jumbies” are mischevious or evil spirits and ghosts, and one interpretation is that the mocko jumbies scare them away by mocking them. Their height allows them to see the spirits before they arrive to cause trouble. While there are other interpretations, they all relate to protection from the spirit world.

Now just imagine if it were a jumbie that had become manifest in the form of the young woman below…

I wish a happy holiday and good spirits to all!

(Learn more about the origin and cultural significance of the mocko jumbies.)

Elfin Dream-Girl - 2009

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