An exhibition detailing the struggle towards Majority Rule was unveiled at the Harry C Moore Library of the College of The Bahamas on the 46th Anniversary of Majority Rule, which came about on January 10, 1967.
Minister of Foreign Affairs and Immigration Fred Mitchell represented Perry Christie, Prime Minister by delivering the opening remarks at the ceremony held Thursday, January 10, 2013.
“On behalf of the Prime Minister, I wish to pay tribute to all who are responsible for this exhibition this evening and are helping to continue the narrative and to tell the old, old story of how we have overcome,” Mr. Mitchell said.
The Prime Minister has committed to establishing Majority Rule Day as a public holiday.
Mr. Mitchell also attended a Majority Rule Day service on Wednesday, January 9, 2013 in the Bain Town community hosted by Rev C. B Moss.
“I am really pleased at all of the attention that these observances are getting this year; it looks like we are finally getting it right.”
At that service, Sir Arthur Foulkes, the Governor General gave an impassioned plea for people to understand that none of this could have come about if it were not for the untidy business of politics.
“Politicians are bashed, vilified. Politics they say is dirty. Yet it is politics that has produced much of the story which we come here to celebrate and to mark,” Sir Arthur said.
Supporting those words, Mitchell said those who know him, know that he is very strong on the adversarial nature of the country’s political system.
“Out of that adversarial game comes the dynamic history and the public policy which we have today,” he said.
This exhibition depicts the story of the march from the Emancipation of slavery, to Burma Road, to Majority Rule and to Independence.
“I hope next year January 10th is a public holiday. It now has bi-partisan support. I hope that next year, Burma Road, now called Blake Road is completely repaved with cobblestones, an idea given to me by one of the assistant clerks of the House of Assembly.
“So that when we ride over it, everyone will ask: what do these stones mean? And we will reply, “We are Going down Burma Road. Don’t lick nobody”, Mr. Mitchell said.
The Majority Rule Day observances are very much a part of his decision to have a public life, he said.
In 1977, he got the opportunity at the convention of the Progressive Liberal Party, directed by Sir Lynden Pindling to write a series of pieces delivered by members of a group known as the National Alliance, which included amongst others the late Brenville Hanna, and his friends Sean McWeeney and Michael Symonette.
The essays were delivered at the start of the convention, and later his friend Paul Drake put those essays into a book, which he called Great Moments In PLP History.
“It began in my mind as a simple construct: that the political history of the modern Bahamas should be seen as beginning with the Burma Road riots of 1942 and ending with Independence in 1973. In between was Majority Rule Day 1967. The narrative was extended recently to include the Emancipation of the slaves in 1834,” Mr. Mitchell said.
He said he listened to the other speakers at the Bain Town service, namely the Prime Minister; and Loretta Butler-Turner, Deputy Leader of the Free National Movement.
“I thought to myself: “Yes! By Jove I think they’ve got it! Each of the principals I named had the narrative just about right.”
What is interesting though is the FNM’s version of the narrative. It is a parallel narrative but a compelling one all the same, and one which admits to the common history, he said.
“What allows them now to embrace the event, is the fact that the founders of their party, the “Dissident Eight”, were amongst the progenitors of the movement to Majority Rule.
“It appears that having realised that fact, they are able to embrace Majority Rule as the seminal event that it was and is,” Mr. Mitchell said.
The narrative is further broadened by the legal reality that in 1967 there was the vote with full, universal adult suffrage without property qualifications for the first time in Bahamian history. The result then literally was majority rule. It embraced both black and white; in that the will of the majority was expressed and done.
“Further, as the Governor General read his statement, a statement which was read in all the schools throughout the country this morning, I thought that we have finally gotten to the point where officialdom can say the words “Black” and “African descent” without sounding like they are apologising.
“That to me is a major achievement. There was a time in the 1990s and up to recent times, when you had to say those words as if you were whispering a secret,” Mr. Mitchell said.
By Lindsay Thompson
Bahamas Information Services