Right now, a vast number of people everywhere are battling mental health issues and many are heightened due to the pandemic, protests and general state of the world. Here, on St. John, these issues are further intensified as we enter another hurricane season with ongoing PTSD from the 2017 storms lingering and very limited access to local mental health care services. This is a story of a woman who was raised here, worked hard to realize and pursue her dreams and has committed to being a part of the solution to this problem locally….
While I was out and about this weekend I ran into a taxi driver who once did me a great kindness. We sat and chatted for a bit about what’s going on in the world and I questioned him about his opinions on the development of St. John and tourism today. The conversation led to a heartfelt story about his mother who came to St. John from Jost Van Dyke in the 60’s. He told me how she had experienced the generosity of a stranger that led to her eventually being a self-sustaining single mother of four on a tourism driven career path.
A few days later, after thinking about her story with a great deal of questions that remained unanswered, I called him and asked if I could interview her. He paused for a moment and said that it would mean a lot to him, and to her, if someone wrote down her story. So, I’m going to try to do it justice as best I can.
In our first edition of “Local Livin’,’” Ital Delroy Anthony tells the story of his ancestral family on St. John and his passion for the Afro-Caribbean culture and the land of his people.
If you have ever visited Salt Pond Bay on St. John’s south eastern shore, you may have bumped into a vivacious personality selling his wares just past the parking lot entrance. In my first week on-island in 2012, I took the bus to Salt Pond on and crossed paths with Ital in this exact location.
I remember vividly the intensity and passion with which he spoke about the hand-crafted maracas made out of Calabash, jewelry, salves and decor that he boasted on his modest table under an EZ-up. Hand-made wind chimes offering a calming background music to the conversation.
In the years to come, I have had the pleasure of getting to know Ital during his semi-regular presentations about the benefits and uses of local flora, his pop-up shop in the park during events and, eventually, booking him to play music with his trio, the Echo People. To say it has been a pleasure to work with this man of vast local knowledge and many talents is an exaggerated understatement. So, when I thought about who we should feature for this first profile story, he immediately came to mind.
Ital was born on St. Thomas in 1961 to a sixth generation St. Johnian mother. His mother’s ancestors were brought into slavery from Ghana during the Denmark occupation of the Danish West Indies, now the US Virgin Islands. Like many other ancestral St. John families, they were here through decades of slavery, the slave revolt of 1733, the emancipation of slaves in the territory in 1848 and the eventual $25 million US purchase of the territory in March of 1917.
This Friday, we will introduce a new series entitled “Local Livin.” Each week, we will show you a fresh perspective from a different St. John resident and include a bit about their background, thoughts on tourism, culture and St. John in general. The submissions for these pieces will be drawn from one-on-one interviews and will be reviewed by the interviewee for their feedback prior to publishing.
We are very excited to announce that the first profile piece in this series will be focused on Ital Delroy Anthony. If you have been following NOSJ for some time, you might remember Jenn posting a video of this 6th generation St. Johnian in regards to “The Story of the Conch.”
In following up with Ital this week, he shares his family history, frustrations with lack of knowledge about St. John culture, some local resources he utilizes for his artistic creations and a message for visitors! A man of many talents, Ital is also an accomplished musician. Check back on Friday for a musical performance from one of your favorite beaches and the full story!
We would also like to introduce Hillary Bonner as a regular contributor to the News of St. John. You can learn more about our newest voice in her bio!