- Letter to the EditorReflections on the Association of Black Sexologist Conference in St. Thomas 2017
The association of black sexologists and clinicians held the 2017 Spring Roundtable Series in U.S. Virgin Islands, St. Thomas. The cultural experience was nothing short of some combination of divinity, humanity, community (Ubuntu), and self-care. The conference opened with a presentation from Don'Nika Jenkins of Howard University presenting on colorism and partner selection. As a fellow Ph.D student of Howard University's Counseling Psychology program, it was amazing to see various aspects of the Diaspora—from the very familiar to the very novel—collide and coalesce into what will become an annual tradition for me. Ms. Jenkins set the tone for what would be a robust interdisciplinary discourse in sessions to come.
Inspired by our first night in St. Thomas, my co-presenter and I decided to do something different and more in line with the traditions of Ubuntu— [End Page 105] unity. Instead of presenting at the front of the room creating vertical and horizontal hierarchies, we organized our presentation in a circle. We allowed the voices of the people to guide the conversation while maintain a conversational thread, which spoke to our research position. The conference organizers made room for this last minute change, and other participants were more than happy to accommodate the change in setup.
There was also rich data for any researcher of color (and allies) to be observed when considering the backdrop of the conference—St. Thomas in U.S. Virgin Islands. Firstly, there is something to be said about even the nomenclature that conjures a historical narrative, which speaks to why conferences such as these are so necessary in the first place. Th at is, a narrative about colonization and the experience of complex trauma that results from the victimization of native people to the land that was built into the experience of colonial conquest. It is a matter of belonging to another nation in nomenclature while not as readily belonging when it comes to the allocation of resources. Th at includes the establishment of a national identity as well as a national agenda. Th at narrative, I infer, also includes resilience and innovation. From the moment I was hugged by the sun-warmed air I knew, despite nomenclature, that this was not the U.S. to which I was accustomed. This space was different. Even the linear, mechanical, sterile airports of the U.S. mainland were different. When landing in St. Thomas after de-boarding the plane, we were met with rum shots, steel bands, and Carnival dancers. Because of my preexisting schema, I expected the celebratory experience to end once we left the airport. However, as far as I can gather, it is more than just a capital-driven enterprise intended to provide some experience that attracts tourists to become intoxicated and spend money. It is a rich cultural experience that it rooted in the celebration of cosmic and earthly life, and the spirit of this celebration is on-going. It is encapsulated in the daily interactions amongst the people. Nearly everyone I met embodied this spirit of celebration and harmony. Ms. Cavesha, for example, was warm and welcoming as a member of the restaurant staffand told me about how happy she was because she was soon to become an aunt. Mrs. White was lauded as one the sweetest people on the island. This was the subjective experience [End Page 106] of almost anyone with whom I chatted in regards to Mrs. White, as well as my experience. These are two examples of how the human spirit is felt on the island in ways that are anchored in loving regard as opposed to capital-driven service models.
The retention of many traditional cultural values also speaks to the resilience of the people. What has been preserved is the concept of Ubuntu, the high-context cultural interactions, an inherent...