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Are You Ready For Carnival 2021? An Examination into the Division of Festival’s Vulgarity Concerns

St. Thomas 𑁋 Executive Director of WTJX Tanya Singh, stated that “nudity” and “vulgarity” were troubling issues for the Adult’s Parade where costumes “Were covering less and less.” She testified in a hearing hosted by Senator Myron D. Jackson that they are strict guidelines set out by the Federal Communication Commission that WTJX must follow for national broadcasts. 

Last year, WTJX began working with national television providers such as Dish Network and is likely reaching a broader audience than it did in past years. 

Senator Jackson stated, “These are family events, not adult entertainment, and many of our residents think they have gotten out of hand”. He then urged representatives from the station to come up with a solution. Since the news broke about the testimony in the 33rd Legislature, social media in the Virgin Islands, including Virgin Islanders living abroad have slammed the new policy as body “censorship.” Particularly because videographers have full control over what angles they capture during the annual parade. A growing number of irate residents see this as a broad attempt to censor and dilute the entire Adult’s Parade, where adults are, well, behaving like adults. 

For those who are unaware, the U.S. Virgin Islands Carnival is a yearly cultural event where three cultural events take place each year on St. Croix, St. Thomas, and St. John and is viewed as an expression of creativity and overall celebration of everything that makes the Virgin Islands great.

These cultural events can last for a little over a week. There are many events such as Children’s Carnival, cultural fairs, Food Fair, Mango Melee, Stanley J’ouvert on St. Croix, and many other events that can be considered television approved. 

However, adult events (which are in fact adult entertainment) such as the Mon Bijou J’ouvert, J’ouvert in Charlotte Amalie, and Adult’s Parade are, in fact, not marketed to or geared for children. There is even a Children’s Parade that can accommodate more wholesome content for residents who don’t appreciate sensual dancing between consenting adults. These cultural staples in the community, which have been around for decades and should not be subject to any form of discrimination and the new policy appears to be a haphazard attempt to reign in the behavior of adult’s who have paid their money to party in one of the most eclectic cultural events in the territory. 

The critique of “vulgarity” has led to social media being in an uproar with memes pointing to a “Hand Maiden’s Tale-esque” approach to policies and those opposed to the policy slammed Tourism’s Division of Festivals for such a sudden u-turn on the heels of an extremely successful Crucian Christmas Festival — a showcase that received overwhelming praise for its fresh approach and violence-free festivities.

This, however, highlights a larger issue, the constant infusion of local official’s personal or religious beliefs on government policies and cultural events. For example, the now infamous, “Sin Tax” passed by the 32nd Legislature and signed into law by former Governor Mapp slapped additional taxes on more alcoholic beverages, cigarettes and even certain types of engines for boats. Additionally, the Virgin Islands Government also upholds far-reaching liquor restrictions on Good Friday, a Christian holiday celebrated in the United States as well as other countries. 

Liquor sales are restricted on Good Friday, according to the V.I. Code. According to VIC Title 1, Chapter 11, Subsection 171(b): Distilled liquor and drinks prepared therewith shall not be served in public places of refreshment between the hours of 9 a.m. and 4 p.m. on Good Friday. Whoever violates this subsection shall be fined not more than $200 or imprisoned not more than a year or both. Other religions like Islam who celebrate Ramadan don’t have customs that are embraced and enforced by the local government.

Residents who do not observe these religions must also comply with local laws — Good Friday, also known as Holy Friday is celebrated by Catholics, Christians, Lutherans and the Methodist church. Not only do far-reaching policies like these establish a complete disregard for decades of earned cultural celebration, but they also dictate and regulate how taxpayers and consenting adults indulge in their personal lives and slap restrictions on a well-earned annual celebration of life, freedom, and independence from the oppressive rule of European nations. 

This concern on “vulgarity” could also be a clandestine attempt to target adult women’s rights to wear whatever they want, in short, another form of “slut-shaming”. WTJX’s wish to comply with FCC regulations is completely justifiable, however, the public broadcast network also has the option to cut its cameras off when “adult behavior” crosses broadcast gray lines. This does not give senators and the territory’s Department of Tourism the legal latitude to censor the entire Adult’s Parade for the benefit of a few.

With all the economic, systematic, and environmental problems such as rising electric rates, food costs, the rising cost of living, and increased exposure to natural disasters, regulating the minuscule amount of entertainment and relief residents get to enjoy, only invites personal bias dictated by federal broadcast regulations who may view certain adult acts as inappropriate. 

Television ratings aren’t really something officials should be focused on with issue after issue plaguing the territory. The U.S. Virgin Islands, like many U.S. jurisdictions that have a very defined ethnic population, and heritage is in a constant state of preserving its culture and freedom for the next generation to enjoy. Carnival is one of the most precious local traditions to survive into the 21st century. To that end, I say, “give me debauchery or give me death!”

Fin.