By Lisa Roberts
As we pass the half way mark of our year of 40th independence celebrations, and approach the actual independence date on 10th July, it seems as though the festivities are achieving their celebratory goals, but are also helping islanders to remember their roots and enabling them to regain their sense of pride in being Bahamian, whether it be through music, art or sport.
The entire Bahamian community has got behind the celebrations and have shown their patriotic support for the Bahamas. Our national anthem instructs us all to come together in ‘love and unity’, and the 40th independence celebrations have encouraged us all to do that.
Events such as the Girl’s Empowerment Conference which supported young women to ‘rise up’ and make life changing decisions, encouraging them to think of themselves as the future leaders of the Bahamas. The Deputy Chair of the Independence Anniversary Committee and Vice President of The Grand Bahama Port Authority, Ginger Moxey, told the young women, ‘In the coming weeks, as we celebrate our country’s Independence, a sense of pride should be swelling in us. Let us all dig deep to remind ourselves of where we come from, where we intend to go, and the difference we intend to make on our island, and throughout The Bahamas.’
Despite the tough economic times local businesses have also shown financial support for the 40th independence celebrations. The Grand Bahama Shipyard has recently stepped up as a corporate sponsor of the celebrations. They have not only donated $5,000 to the committee but they will also be assisting with equipment and labor requirements for functions.
Time for celebration and remembrance
Events such as the ‘All Tings Bahamian’ independence concert bring a bit of fun and authentic Bahamian entertainment to the celebrations, enabling the community as a whole to celebrate this milestone date.
As well as being a time for celebration, Prime Minister the Rt. Hon. Perry G. Christie is encouraging islands not to forget the stories of the independence. When speaking at the official 40-day countdown launch ceremony at Rawson Square on 4 June, he said, ‘Our Bahamian heroes must have permanence in the Bahamian Story. We must write it well, so that even after death they live.’ He went to great lengths to remind younger generations of the suffering and hard work that previous generation put in to ensure the independence of our nation, and that this should never be taken for granted.
Sticking to our roots
It seems as though the 40th independence celebrations are already bringing out a sense of pride and patriotism among Bahamians if the response to the 2013/14 budget communication is anything to judge by. Aspects of the report suggested that in order to boost our tourism economy we need to diversify and bring in ideas that work well elsewhere in the world, such as an ‘Italian village, a Mardi Gras style festival, or Las Vegas style entertainment. The government has since been criticized for not believing in the true culture and real identity of the Bahamas. The Freeport News retaliated to the report by suggesting that ‘We must build on our substance from within…. catalog and showcase Family Island history and reignite a national pride that makes us excited to showcase The Bahamas.’
In fact, the celebrations themselves are also attracting tourists to the Bahamas. Many of the tour operators are promoting the 40th independence celebrations as an attraction and providing clients with access to the events calendar so they can book their vacation around the schedule and attend the events they are interested in. One of our most important sources of tourism income comes from the ocean liners that bring passengers on cruises to the Bahamas. Nassau welcomes more than one million cruise passengers every year. We rely upon the cruise passengers coming ashore to enjoy our shops, restaurants and attractions and to feel comfortable spending their money here. The 40th celebrations look set to boost this tourism spend as the majority of the cruise companies are promoting the 40th celebrations aboard their ships and encouraging passengers to come and take part in our events. Many of the events that have already taken place have been well attended by tourists showing that they are interested in our heritage and culture and that the reason they come to the Bahamas is to experience our natural beauty and interesting heritage just the way it is!