The story behind this beautiful island did not just begin when the Virgin Islands National Park was founded. But that is the narrative that is largely presented to new residents and visitors to St. John. A place that is beloved and coveted by thousands of people all over the world has a much deeper story to tell that is often glazed over by Americanized beach bars and burger joints, beautiful beaches and sunsets and adventurous day trips. Although, the current picture of St. John looks to be much like that last sentence, the history of St. John, the culture of St. John is very seldom accurately portrayed. And, in my opinion, the entire kaleidoscope of stories, not just the predominant rose colored lenses, are what makes this place truly magical.
Hello all! This is a topic I have been wanting to share with you comprehensively for a very long time. In many Caribbean and International tourism destinations, the native culture of the place remains somewhat apparent, despite outside influences. I recall being in Costa Rica and eating “Tipico” or typical Costa Rican food nearly every day! And, on our trip to Grenada this summer, locally inspired cuisine was the norm. Here on St. John, it is unfortunately a bit more difficult to seek out the local and Caribbean inspired dining options. But, they are out there in abundance. And well worth the search!
A while back, I was privileged enough to sit down for dinner with two dynamic and talented St. John born women to chat about their homegrown business in Coral Bay. An ingenious build out of a shipping container with the lingering smells of freshly baked treats sits adjacent to the building that used to house Pickles in Paradise. And within the walls of this shipping container, Ann Monsanto and Brenda Stephenson create magical, freshly baked flavors on par with the quality of a decadent corner bakery in Manhattan with the charm and hospitality of Love City. Building their dreams, one muffin at a time.
Good Morning all! Today I want to share with you an amazing spot in “the country” where you can relax and enjoy the breeze…AND some amazing local cuisine!
A few days ago, I FINALLY made it over to the Lumberyard parking lot to check out the new food truck and pick up some of my favorite island cuisine for lunch. Abdue “The Roti King” Hill officially opened his food truck for business last Monday. And business, and the roti, has been very, very good.
Good Morning and a happy Friday to you! I hope that all of you are wrapping up your work week with a smile on your face and ready to get into some fun this weekend. I’m excited to be revisiting the Local Livin’ series this morning with a highlighted local business that offers amazing food, weekend specialties and really, really good company.
It was just about eight months ago that I wrote my first post for News of St. John. In that time, I have learned so much more about our community, hunting for the stories here, the writing styles that work (and the ones that don’t!) and that a journalism major completed in the early 2000’s can still be (somewhat) effective 20 years later! When I first started this, I had a vision to capture the lives and histories of various and inspirational St. John residents in a weekly series called “Local Livin.”
As time went on, COVID and travel updates and the opening and closing of businesses and the territory took center stage. The series took a back burner for a while. But I would like to revisit and re-share the three profiles I did complete and also introduce a new spin on the Local Livin’ series! I hope that you enjoy reading, or re-reading, the following stories of Ital Delroy Anthony, Doreen Callwood and Nisha Jones.
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.