40th Independence To Honour Sir Sidney Poitier

NASSAU, The Bahamas – The Bahamas’ 40th Independence Anniversary celebrations will kick off on November 2, 2012 with a star-studded concert at the Atlantis resort on Paradise Island honouring  legendary Bahamian actor, Academy Award winner Sir Sidney Poitier.

The announcement was made during a press conference at Cabinet Office on Tuesday, October 9, during which the events were endorsed by Perry Christie, Prime Minister. Also present were co-chairs of the Independence Committee Dr Nicolette Bethel and Charles Carter.

The celebrations start November 2 – 3 “a weekend of dedication and celebration” highlighting the best in Bahamian talent combined with a special concert by Academy and Golden Globe awards winner Jennifer Hudson, who will pay a special tribute to Sir Sidney, the first black American to win an Oscar.  The gospel group the Region Bells are on the list of Bahamian talent to perform.

The efforts to celebrate Bahamian culture at its highest level is in keeping with the Progressive Liberal Party Charter for Governance which outlines the Government’s plans to have Bahamians “fully understand and appreciate the culture and heritage of their language, music, expressions, food, religion, and myths”.

“We are going to use the 40th Anniversary as a catalyst to create this higher level of awareness about the importance of developing, properly, the ethos of country and being able to connect this island destination in a very special way through all of the components that make up this country and the characteristic spirit that makes us all Bahamians,” the Prime Minister said.

The Government also plans to rename the National Centre for the Performing Arts after Sir Sidney Poitier, and the Atlantis to name the bridge in his honour as well.

Sir Sidney was born on February 20, 1927 in Miami to Bahamian parents, but grew up in Cat Island. In 1963 he became the first black man to win an Academy Award for his role as Homer Smith in Lilies of the Field. He served as Bahamas Non-resident Ambassador to Japan and to the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation.

The Prime Minister confirmed that Atlantis has agreed to rename the bridge in honour of Sir Sidney.  And, the national arts centre in his honour, the same as the national stadium named after Bahamian athlete Tommy A Robinson.

Architect Michael Foster has been asked to submit plans for the redevelopment of the national arts threatre for the renaming ceremony.

The Prime Minister said he was happy that the Independence Committee chose to honour Sir Sidney  – although there have been a lot of debate on that.

“Sir Sidney not only has an incredible story, but in his later years he made significant contributions in the field of diplomacy to The Bahamas.”

The Prime Minister said it was a pleasure for him to speak with Sir Sidney and have him invite whom he wishes, to attend the weekend of celebrations in The Bahamas.

“Hopefully this would symbolise to The Bahamas at large that we are now beginning a process that is intended to unite us, intended to bring focus to what really keeps us together and to minimise what divides us,” the Prime Minister said.

As to how much the Government plans to spend on the celebrations, the Prime Minister agreed that it is priceless.

“From the point of view of what dollars we spent, we will account for them. What I do know is that I will spear no efforts to catch up with history that is escaping us now and every time one of these great ones die, they bury a part of our history with them,” he said.

Mr. Carter referred to Sir Sidney as “the most famous Bahamian of our time.”

He said the celebration is the beginning of the joining of two generations – from the generation that brought in Independence on July 10, 1973.

“At that time the population was 180,000, it has doubled since then. That generation is a diminishing one, we are on our way out and it would be sad if we did not pass the baton to the next generation,” he said. “It is going to be a wonderful opportunity for us to reclaim our history and our heritage.”

Mr. Carter will also travel the islands to solicit responses from Bahamians to find out what they like or not like about The Bahamas, and what they would like the country to be.

Ms Bethel, who was a child during the 1973 Independence celebration, said that it is never too expensive to celebrate the culture of a nation. She too regards the 40th anniversary as the catalyst toward celebrating the 50th Independence.

“It is never too expensive to celebrate one’s nationhood, that is an investment that country’s need to be making. We all need to step up and create the new Bahamas,” she said.

Other plans to celebrate the 40th Independence Anniversary will be announced later.

By Lindsay Thompson
Bahamas Information Services

Caption:  Prime Minister Perry Christie announcing plans to honour legendary Bahamian actor, Academy Award winner Sir Sidney Poitier, during the launching of The Bahamas’ 40th Independence Anniversary celebrations on November 2, 2012.  Pictured from left are Dr. Nicolette Bethel, co-chair Independence Committee; Prime Minister Christie; Charles Carter, co-chair Independence Committee; Philip Davis, Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Works & Urban Development; and architect Michael Foster. (BIS Photo/Peter Ramsay)