Who are we?
We are three years away from our 50th anniversary of independence.
The history of mankind is writ large by the successes of powerful countries who for centuries have seen the world as their workplace and playground. We know their stories because they tell them, they write them, they illustrate and mark them, and they commit them to national memory.
Recently, in many countries around the world, there is a move to remove the monuments to the stories of other peoples and nations from bygone times as newer nations and peoples object to serving as the stage for other people’s stories. From time to time this discussion finds traction here.
Many such discussions center on tearing down, not building up and telling our story and committing it to national consciousness.
We think that it is long past the time when we should have a national museum in which to set out our movement from aboriginal people, the Lucayans, who did not survive the European colonial assault, to our present experience.
Absent Lucayans, repopulation followed by European colonists, first in Eleuthera but eventually encompassing all our islands. They were free people but attended by slaves.
Who are we? We are not only the aggregate of all our parts, as our whole is greater than any of those single parts. Our story encompasses every island in our archipelago.
Each of the events of the past was caused by individuals who came from a place, formed by family, neighbors and community.
But no plaques, no plinths (pedestals), or stones record our history to fire curiosity.
What is the story of Nassau’s forts?
Few slave plantations are marked; only one slave rebel, Pompey, is widely recognized and one free black community celebrated, Fox Hill.
Greeks, Syrians, West Indians, Chinese and Haitians came. They too shape us.
Colonial Bahamas revelled in and survived boom and bust economies, became a sleepy fishing village, engaged in shipwrecking and salvage and revisited piracy in bootlegging alcohol. But nothing memorializes our involvement in either rum running, curing sponges, or farming for export: citrus, pineapple, sugar or ground provisions in Eleuthera, Grand Bahama or Abaco.
We cultivated political awareness, formed party politics, created tourism and financial services, moved to independence, established institutions of nationhood, fostered enhanced opportunity for many and, revisited piracy a third time in the illicit drug trade.
Can young people visiting The Recreation Ground know that it was the place where formative political events took place in the middle of the last century?
Is there pride of ownership in Family Island communities or New Providence neighborhoods that produced Milo Butler, Roland Symonette, Lynden Pindling, Paul Adderley, Orville Turnquest, or Cecil Wallace-Whitfield?
Does a plaque remind where Stafford Sands lived?
Is Long Island dotted with plaques or pedestals recognizing the birthplaces and single-room schools that formed the minds of those who helped lay the groundwork for political advancement in our country: Henry Taylor, Bill Cartwright, Cyril Stevenson, Ivy Dumont, Frank Watson, and Cornelius Smith?
Does Acklins mark the birthplaces of A.D. Hanna, Clifford Darling or Loftus Roker or Grand Bahama that of Hubert Ingraham?
No sign marks the original sites of schools that educated so many of the founding fathers of our country: The Government High School and Queen’s College.
Few know the site where the original St. John’s College stood or how St. Augustine’s College came to be.
Do we mark former homes of painters like Brent Malone and Jackson Burnside, of musicians including Blind Blake and Tony McKay or of writing dentists like Paul Albury and Cleveland Eneas?
Nothing marks the abandoned building opposite the Eastern Parade as our first international seaport.
Can we find the site of The Hillside theatre, The Cinema, or the Savoy? Do we know what they represented? And the Dundas Civic Centre?
Nothing marks the Queen Elizabeth Sports Complex as the first land-based airport in The Bahamas.
What of the sites of once famous clubs: The Silver Slipper; The Cat and Fiddle and The Zanzibar?
Are children taught the story of the Hobby Horse Racetrack?
Old statues do not define us.
A national museum, new statues and relevant plaques will tell our story as we wish it to be known.