The 2020/2021 Junkanoo parades will not take place as a result of a worsening COVID-19 pandemic, officials have advised.
The decision was announced in separate statements by the Junkanoo Corporation of New Providence (JCNP) and the Ministry of Youth, Sports and Culture, and followed weeks of speculation regarding whether the annual parades will be canceled as the COVID situation in The Bahamas deteriorated.
The prime minister and Culture Minister Lanisha Rolle held joint meetings with the JCNP and group leaders (Category A and B groups) to discuss the impact that COVID-19 has had on the Junkanoo community, the corporation said in its statement yesterday.
“We ended those sessions in agreement that due to health and safety concerns for both Junkanooers and the viewing public, as well as the financial constraints that both our partners in government and corporate Bahamas that sponsor the parades are currently experiencing, it would be in the best interest that traditional Junkanoo parades which host between 7,000 to 9,000 spectators not take place this year,” the JCNP said.
The statement added that the JCNP — along with the ministry; National Junkanoo Committee (NJC) co-chairs Kishlane Smith and Dr. Dwight Marshall; and Junkanoo leaders — have begun the process of planning a phased approach to “safely” relaunch Junkanoo and Junkanoo activities.
It said they are finalizing several alternative Junkanoo experiences that will take place during the holiday season.
“We ask that the Junkanoo community and public continue to display patience as we continue to finalize these plans,” the JCNP said.
The Ministry of Youth, Sports and Culture added that it will not “lend support to hosting” the traditional parades.
It said this decision was the result of advice given by the Ministry of Health on July 16.
The ministry said health officials advised that “given the current status of the COVID-19 pandemic, the Ministry of Health cannot lend support to the hosting of this cultural activity at this time”.
“The health and safety of our citizens, residents and visitors are paramount to this government and its decision-making,” the ministry said.
“Hence, considering the volatile state of affairs surrounding the COVID-19 phenomena, we must err on the side of caution and stand with our sister Ministry of Health.”
The ministry said it — in partnership with the JCNP and with the support of the NJC — will strategize “a strategic plan to relaunch physical Junkanoo activities commencing Spring 2021”.
“To assist with the execution of an agreed and approved strategic plan for the relaunch of Junkanoo, the government of The Bahamas has made a 2020/2021 budgetary allocation,” it said.
“The Ministry of Youth, Sports and Culture and, by extension, the government of The Bahamas, remain steadfast in our commitment to supporting our Junkanoo community and investing in the preservation of our premier cultural expression.”
The ministry said it anticipates that Junkanooers will integrate technology to transform Junkanoo in a way that captures “the essence and spirit of Junkanoo as a unique Bahamian cultural expression”.
“We encourage every Bahamian and Junkanoo stakeholder to support the ‘Stay Safe Virtual Parade Platform’ that will preserve this unique expression of our cultural heritage in the form of creative arts, rhythm, dance and the pulsating sounds of the goatskin drums and cowbells vital to creating a quality Junkanoo Parade experience,” it said.