St. Thomas — All five U.S. territories in the Caribbean and the Pacific have begun having conversations about their relationship with the United States in recent months — with Puerto Rico pushing for statehood. Governor Bryan’s emerging stance on representation and self-determination is set to make this upcoming Transfer Day very different from those of the past.
Governor Bryan, in a statement on Monday granted administrative leave for non-essential government employees on April 1st to commemorate Transfer Day, a move that has become customary for sitting governors.
In the release, the Governor’s tone is now in line with elected officials from other U.S. territories, all seeking better representation in the United States, voting rights in presidential elections and expanded medicaid for over 4 million Americans living in U.S. territories.
“As we observe the 102nd anniversary of the Transfer, the time has come for us to pay deeper consideration to the history of our relationship with the U.S. Government and what we want that relationship to be moving forward,” Governor Bryan said. “Our territory has undertaken a number of initiatives over the years that speak directly to our political status. If we are to renew, once again the process of self-determination, we have to begin a rigorous and comprehensive campaign to educate our community on the pathways to resolving the question of political status.”
The statement from Government House highlights a break from Bryan’s predecessors stance on representation and self determination for the U.S. Virgin Islands. Government House stated that previous initiatives have sought to elevate the territory’s political status with the United States, but that “a more meaningful conversation about our political relationship with the United States of America” should begin with a comprehensive campaign to educate Virgin Islanders about the territory’s predicament.
As the first digital governor in the territory, Bryan is fully equipped to create national buzz about Transfer Day in the U.S. Virgin Islands while tying the day to the territory’s 102 years of disenfranchisement by the United States.
Editor’s note: Similar to President Obama becoming the first digital president and moving his agenda onto social media, it’s clear that Governor Bryan is the first digital governor in the U.S. Virgin Islands. President Obama was the first sitting U.S. President to have a dedicated Snapchat handle and Governor Bryan became the first head-of-state in the territory to own a Snapchat handle after creating one on the campaign trail to resonate with voters.
Since 2017, all five U.S. territories have been affected by severe tropical cyclones, starting with hurricanes Irma and Maria in the Caribbean. After botched or limited disaster response from FEMA, each territory has sought to highlight the disparities that exist when compared to the 50 states.
Governor Bryan testified before the Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources in February and discussed some of the territory’s hardships with finding a sustainable energy solution and maintaining it in such a volatile region — when considering events like hurricanes, earthquakes and the threat of tsunamis.
Congresswoman Stacey Plaskett and Governor Bryan have both stated that the Trump administration is slow walking disaster funds to the territory and making it much more difficult to access the funds.
Both elected officials, including senators representing each island have rolled out stories (and even a video series on YouTube) to highlight Black History Month in February and Virgin Islands History Month in March. The collective story of Virgin Islanders is being shared online everyday by media outlets, elected officials and ordinary citizens with access to the internet — 10 years after Facebook was first introduced to the world.
The Virgin Islands is entering a digital age and it could give the territory a chance to create its own identity while making waves on the national and international stage. Plaskett’s amassing of over 40,000 Twitter followers just seven days after the Cohen hearing in the nation’s capitol spotlights how social media can be a powerful tool in capturing the territory’s message.
Coincidentally, our newspaper received an op-ed about King Christian IX on Monday, discussing the monument’s placing in Emancipation Garden shortly after Transfer Day in 1917. The Governor’s statement was sent to the press the same day.
This is a developing story…