Independence Day Disappointment
Independence Day 2003 here on Grand Bahama has gone down as one of the disappointing in recent times.
With such a landmark achievement in the history of an independent Bahamas, one would have expected an all out effort to note this milestone. Certainly, the pre-Independence hype for the 30th Anniversary indicated the level of festivities that was to be expected. Even the controversy over the desecration of the flag with other symbols or words only further serve to make the public more aware that a spectacular event was up and coming.
Grand Bahama is in a unique position as virtually half of the persons residing on this island have been born since 1973, therefore a key to a successful celebration would be to educate the public as to the significance of independence and to appreciate those who through tremendous sacrifice made it possible. By building on the past, this generation can nurture a deep spirit of patriotism.
In the past, this spirit of patriotism was achieved via motor cades, street and youth marches, junkanoo in West End, cultural entertainment, fireworks and in general jubilant activities that encourage the participation of all members of the family - something for everyone. This is exactly what happened in New Providence where government provided a tremendous amount of resources for massive junkanoo parade, cultural events, youth marches, etc. Basically the expenses for these events were taken cared of by government. The average person in Nassau could feel as if they were part of the celebration even the symbolic cutting of the thirtieth anniversary cake at Government House, touched the heart and soul of every Bahamian who witnessed such an event, creating an atmosphere of utter euphoria. Individuals were singled out and their contributions towards the Bahamas receiving independence were acknowledged some even posthumously.
On the other hand, Grand Bahama was treated like a stepchild before the Inheritance Act was passed in the House of Parliament. The celebrations here being described as low-keyed or non-existent. There were no massive motorcade or youth marches, even inspiring speeches by members of government. The massive junkanoo rushout was not as grand as it could have been. This is due to the fact that two of the four junkanoo groups including the 2003 New Years Day overall winners, the Classic Dancers, who were contracted to perform did not show up.
In all fairness to the Grand Bahama Committee one of the difficulties encountered was the fact that the celebrations were held on July 8th and not on July 9th. July 9th was not a public holiday and persons had to go to work as usual. This was done in order to facilitate and accommodate the national committee with the national flag that was to be hoisted at Clifford Park on July 7th. But, this was to be to Grand Bahama's advantage as it will allow the heavy brass out of Nassau and the majority of the Royal Bahamas Police Band members to attend and supplement the Police Tattoo Performance.
Disappointingly only a token number of the Police Band performed, two drums and nine horns. The Tattoo Performance was excellent. However, for a number of persons in attendance, good visibility and audio was impossible at times. This was one occasion when government could have easily justified the purchase/lease of bleachers. Not being able to see/hear Bahamians did what anyone would do in such circumstances. They talked, making it even more difficult for persons to appreciate what was really going on.
On July 9th, the only official celebration going on was at High Rock where scores of East End residents and tourist alike came out in a true patriotic spirit by the beach. The activities included a spectacular fireworks display and an energetic junkanoo performance by the Swinger's Junkanoo group.
The Port Lucaya function on the night of July 9th, included Gino D, fireworks, and the Swinger's Junkanoo group was the highlight for Independence Week here on Grand Bahama. But this was a private affair and had nothing to do with any official capacity.
However, the most noticeable and disgraceful absence of festivities here in Grand Bahama was on July 10th. Absolutely nothing was going on. Driving around town was like a desert. Not even the beaches were well attended. People just stayed at home thanking God for Cable Bahamas and the satellite dish.
Even West End, the first official capital of Grand Bahama was shunned and ignored with virtually a complete absence of any official celebration. Not even the traditional Independence Day junkanoo parade, even though promised, had taken place. This is an outrage as West End is the home of former Senator Austin Grant - now deceased, the one responsible for raising the first Bahamian flag in West End in 1973. His widow, Mrs. Ann Grant, had served the community well over the years including the Red Cross, and Chairman of the Grand Bahama Junkanoo Committee. No acknowledgement was made by these or any other community builders. That is why on July 2nd 2003, it was with a sense of pride that the junkanoo parade at the Smith Point fish fry ended up at Ma Flo's. You see, Ma Flo is another one of those unsung national hero in the tourism industry and was treated to a special junkanoo performance.
For the next official independence celebration here on Grand Bahama, the planning committee should include persons with more vision.
Dr. Lea Percentie