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2004-07-12 10:14:12

Celebrating Bahamian Independence

Saturday was the 31st anniversary of the Bahamas' independence from Great Britain in 1973.

Boynton Beach Gina Fox has celebrated Bahamian independence in the past with music, fireworks and church services in Nassau. Saturday she was frying conch fritters outside the Boynton Beach Civic Center and enjoying gospel music at the Bahamian Independence Day Festival.

"This is my first Independence Day here," the Boynton Beach resident said.

Saturday was the 31st anniversary of the Bahamas' independence from Great Britain in 1973. The Boynton Beach Black History Awareness Committee and Boynton Beach Community Redevelopment Agency sponsored the festival, led by community activist Lena Rahming. Volunteer Dennis Bethel said organizers advertised from Jacksonville to Miami.

The gospel singers and dancers were participants in Gospel Star Search Live, a talent search organized by the Rev. Larry Woods of West Palm Beach.

The Bahamian cuisine came from the organizers and vendors. The organizers provided chicken, macaroni, pigeon peas, rice and string beans. Vendors selling conch fritters, conch salad, guava duff and grouper, king fish and barracuda sandwiches attracted many of the visitors.

Kristen Barr, 18, splits her time between the Bahamas and Port St. Lucie. She came to the festival with a dozen friends and family from Port St. Lucie to celebrate en masse.

"Usually we go out and have a barbecue, a big old Bahamian dinner and spend time with the family," Barr said.

But the festival was about more than fun and food. Guest speaker Ron Pinder, the Bahamian junior minister of health and environmental sciences, gave a passionate speech telling citizens of the young country that they are all ambassadors and representatives of the Bahamas. Later he bragged about the Bahamas having the third-highest per capita income in the Western Hemisphere.

"We have a very stable political culture and thriving economy," he said. "When you look at what Bahamians have been able to accomplish in the last 31 years, it speaks to a tradition of strength, excellence and something else we hold dear, our Christian heritage."

Thelma Knowles, 18, grew up in Florida but knows her island heritage. She has celebrated most Independence Days in her parents' native Bahamas, cooking, eating and shopping. On Saturday she wore a yellow shirt and black visor, both emblazoned with the Bahamian flag.

"I'm a Bahamian. I came to support the Bahamian people here," she said.

Ushma Patel can be reached at 561-243-6621 or upatel@sun.sentinel.com.

By Ushma Patel, Staff Writer
South Florida Sun-Sentinel

 
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