Published: Mar 27, 2024

ST. CROIX – The 35th Legislature of the Virgin Islands’ Committee on Government Operations, Veterans Affairs, and Consumer Protection, led by Sen. Carla J. Joseph, convened at the Frits E. Lawaetz Legislative Conference Room.

Lawmakers met to consider Bill No. 35-0030, An Act honoring and commending Vaughn Benjamin posthumously for his contributions to reggae music in the Virgin Islands and the global communities, appropriating $45,000 to the Department of Sports, Parks and Recreation for the design and construction of the “Vaughn Benjamin Monument” and naming the waterfront park west of the Marley Homes “The Vaughn ‘Akae Beka’ Memorial Park”. The measure was proposed by Senators Novelle E. Francis, Jr., Angel L. Bolques, Jr., and Carla J. Joseph.  Today’s measure was approved and will be forwarded to the Committee on Rules and Judiciary for further consideration.

Various members of the St. Croix Community voiced support for the measure. Niani Benjamin stated that the proposed measure was befitting Vaughn “Akae Beka” Benjamin. She stated that through Akae Beka’s music and message, he was a vocal advocate for pan-African solidarity and often spoke out against imperialism, colonialism, and neocolonialism throughout the world. Furthermore, Ms. Benjamin stated that Akae Beka encouraged her to “stay conscientious, listen and observe closely”.  In conclusion, Ms. Benjamin said that Akae Beka was a suitable recipient of the honor. Phil Codrington, a member of the Ethiopian World Federation Local Number Five Incorporated, voiced his approval of the measure. He applauded the senate and executive branch for recognizing the musical contribution of Vaughn Benjamin. Bevan Smith, Jr. spoke accolades of Benjamin. He stated that he was convinced that Vaughn and the Midnite Band were on the path for a successful music career after seeing the audience’s reaction during a performance in Washington, D.C., Calling him an avid reader, Mr. Smith stated that it was notable that he was able to comprehend the information, and use his own insights to decode messages. He stated that this attribute was something that many schoolteachers and college professors try to teach to their own students. Additionally, Smith noted Benjamin for his humility, speaking of his ability to remain grounded despite his fame. He called him a role model.

Vaughn Benjamin was born on the island of Antigua on August 13, 1969, and moved to St. Croix at the age of nine. In 1989, he and his brother Ron Benjamin formed the band Midnite, a roots reggae band that featured Vaughn as lead vocalist. Benjamin’s albums frequently charted in the Billboard Top 10 Reggae Albums Charts. Midnite disbanded in 2015. After which, Benjamin took the name Akae Beka. He released 72 albums, 61 as a part of Midnite and 11 as Akae Beka. Benjamin passed away on August 4, 2019, at the age of 50.

Senators present at today’s committee hearing included Senators Carla J. Joseph, Javan E. James, Sr., Samuel Carrion, Novelle E. Francis, Jr., Alma Francis Heyliger, and Ray Fonseca.

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