This article is written in what can be described as the “post centennial” era, post 2017, the year marked by the 100th anniversary of the sale and transfer of the Virgin Islands from Denmark to the United States. 2017 marked a shift in the conversation around and between Denmark
and its former colonies in the Caribbean, most notably the increasing access of Virgin Islanders to the millions of archival records that remain stored in Denmark as they began to emerge in online databases and temporarily in exhibitions. That year the Virgin Islands Studies Collective, a group of four women (La Vaughn Belle, Tami Navarro, Hadiya Sewer and Tiphanie Yanique) from the Virgin Islands and from various disciplinary backgrounds, also emerged with an intention to center not only the archive, but also archival access and the nuances of archival interpretation and intervention. This collaborative essay, Ancestral Queendom: Reflections on the Prison Record of the Rebel Queens of the 1878 Fireburn in St. Croix, USVI (formerly known as the Danish West Indies), is a direct engagement with the archives and archival production. Each member responds to one of the prison records of the four women taken to Denmark for their participation in the largest revolt in Danish colonial history. Their reflections combine elements of speculation, fiction, black feminist theory and critique as modes of responding to the gaps and silences in the archive, as well as fining new questions to be asked.
in the largest labor revolt in Danish colonial history. Their reflections combin
e elements of speculation, fiction,
black feminitist theory and critique as modes of responding to the gaps and silences in the archive, as well as
finding new questions to be ask
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Here is a sample from my section of the article. I felt like I was the last leg on a relay team that comprised of the dream team. #ironsharpeniron
- A Queen by Another Name: Susanna Abrahamson aka Bottom Belly
I Am My Own Empire: Susanna Abrahamson aka Bottom Belly
Queen Susannah and the Bottomless Imaginary of a Black Queen
Queen Susannah and the Bottomless Imperial Imaginations of a Black Queen
La Vaughn Belle
My mother named me after a queen. She told me she had seen the name of a carnival queen in a newspaper in Trinidad and had liked it. I had forgotten to ask her if she had seen the name and held on to it, claiming it from then to be mine. Was I in her belly yet? Was I even a thought yet? Were there qualities about this queen she hoped I would embody? Or was it just the name, it’s look and it’s sound that drew her to place it upon me? My mother is no longer here for me to ask her these questions and it didn’t occur to me until much later in life that these were questions I might have even wanted answered. Hence this compact story of how I got my queen name was something I did not always know. But what I did learn very early on growing up in the Virgin Islands, first on St. Thomas and later on St. Croix, is that our queens were different from the ones in storybooks that lived in castles. Those queens were born. Our queens are made. Whether they be queens of pageants, carnivals, labor revolts or slave rebellions, through your own fashioning, determination, your own work and imagination you could lead yourself into a realm and become the kind of queen that was impossible to dethrone and impervious to invasion. Our queen means: you are your own empire. You rule yourself, your body, your destiny and even when that wasn’t entirely true due to history and circumstance, you believed it to be true, you moved as if it were true because you understood that life is the realm of fiction anyway.