Sunday, January 1, 2012

Sinclair Wilkinson - 1972

Sinclair Wilkinson
One of my most memorable experiences while a student at the College of the Virgin Islands dates back to the 1969-70 school year, when I was enrolled as a sophomore on the St. Thomas campus. I recall gathering in the campus parking lot west of the bus shed with other students, representatives from various college clubs, members of the faculty and staff, and some community well-wishers. There, we geared up for our annual, long march and bonfire at Stumpy Bay. This serene spot was a remote public beach located 4 to 5 miles west of the campus.

It was a late Friday afternoon. Everyone was dressed in light and comfortable clothing. Some paraded in their club T-shirts, bathing suits, and different color sneakers. Each participant had an instrument consisting of either a tin can, drum, guitar, grater, old pan, or anything that could be used to make different types of music.

I recall all of the marchers engaging in uplifting chants – old and newly composed songs – that rhymed and consisted of some infectious tempo with beautiful melodies and great rhythms. Each acceptable song was accompanied with laughter and music that resonated from the makeshift instrumental band.

I also recall moving to the musical beat in the parking lot for about 30 minutes. We all introduced ourselves to each other, danced, socialized, and made sure that our marching shoes were strong enough to survive the long journey. We then waited and waited until someone gave the signal to “move out.”

Sinclair Wilkinson from 1969 Student ID Card
Traveling by foot to Stumpy Bay was no easy walk. The large hills had no pity on the quality of students, faculty, staff, or visitors as each hill had its own unique challenge. The pain on the legs got more and more intense as we approached each hill, but thankfully this intense pain was equalized with the rhythm from the marchers as the music got louder and louder. When one song was exhausted, another was composed and sung immediately by a new musical genius and we would all “join-in” to add our approval to this new melody that added some relief to the legs.

The first two miles of this march were traveled mainly uphill. It was gruesome for those who had not exercised for years and their “mind over matter" concept did not work. Some students sat along the side of the road to catch a breath or two; others removed their shoes, and a few begged and received a ride from the driver who rode alongside in a standby vehicle. When we arrived at the top of the last hill, all participants descended on their “own power.” Once on the beach, we gathered to make sure all were present, reviewed and selected a final uplifting song, synchronized our marching steps with the signals leader, and got an update on the status of the evening meal.

We were then greeted by the initial “advanced teams” who went ahead to prepare the bonfire and barbecue. As students, we all felt that our yearly college obligation and hiking mission were accomplished which was indeed a sigh of relief. Our legs got some needed rest and our marching ordeal was over.

Before we sat, we were all encouraged to dance around the bonfire, after which we listened to several anancy stories, ate, enjoyed the comedic entertainment, listened to some new reggae songs and speeches, and spoke about our hiking experience. At approximately 10:00 p.m., after all of the celebration had ended, someone announced that it was time to start marching back to the college. We all shouted in unison, “What! Walk Back! ARE YOU SERIOUS!!!”


  1. This memorable experience has a lasting effect on you Mr. wilkinson. Although so many years has subsided,you remembered like it was yesterday. This give us a preview of the former year at UVI. Looking at the present UVI and compare it with previous year, we must pause and thank God for all the development at unversity.

    Congrats! From Debs

  2. Mr. Wilkinson was a very successful teacher and then retired when he was principal at Eudora Kean High School. He is now on the Board of Trustees of his alma mater! We should all be very proud of him. Thanks Mr. Wilkinson for all of your contributions.


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