Op-Ed

Boulé in Paradise  

Two weeks ago, we announced in this column that approximately 2,500 members of Sigma Pi Phi Fraternity and their families were about to descend on the world-renowned Atlantis resort and casino on Paradise Island from August 18 to August 23, 2022, for its first-ever international convention. Sigma Pi Phi Fraternity is also referred to as the Grand Boulé.

We described the Boulé and provided a synopsis of some of its accomplishments, both at the international and the local level, through its member boulé, Delta Lambda Boulé.

We also previously noted that there are 142-member boulés (chapters) in Sigma Pi Phi Fraternity.

The first international boulé was formed in Liberia. However, that boulé was disbanded after its members were killed during the civil war in that country.

Between 1994 and 2012, The Bahamas’ Delta Lambda Boulé was the only boulé situated outside the United States (US).

On May 3, 2012, another international boulé, Epsilon Xi, was formed in London, England.

The international conference ended on Tuesday past, August 23, 2022, after which our visitors returned to their homes in the US and England.

Therefore, this week, we will consider this: Was the 56th Grand Boulé successful?

An impressive beginning

Shortly after touching down at Nassau’s Lynden Pindling International Airport, on Wednesday, August 18, Grand Sire Archon (President) Dwayne Murray, Grand Sire Archon-Elect Antoine Garibaldi, and their wives (Archousai) paid a courtesy call on the prime minister, Archon Philip Davis.

As always, the prime minister was extremely gracious, welcoming the leaders of the 5,000-plus member organization to The Bahamas, while simultaneously extending best wishes for a successful conference.

Later that evening, Grand Sire Archon Murray and his Archousa, Lisa, hosted a small but distinguished group of Archons and Archousai from Sigma Pi Phi’s executive committee, along with the entire local boulé, Delta Lambda, and their Archousai, to a beautiful evening of dinner and entertainment.

The event was dubbed Boulé in Paradise, enabling our out-of-town guests to experience another dimension of our tourism product away from Paradise Island.

The guests were feted to the superlative hospitality of Sapodilla Restaurant, followed by a magnificent musical concert by internationally renowned artist Phil Perry. That event set the stage for an exceptional week of fellowship and fraternal interchange.

The Grand Opening

One of the highlights of the Grand Boulé was the opening ceremony on Saturday morning. The occasion was marked by the presentation of colors by the Royal Bahamas Defence Force (RBDF), and the opening enjoyed the excellent musical performance of the world-famous Royal Bahamas Police Force (RBPF) Band.

Grand Sire Archon Murray welcomed the gathering which included Minister of Education Glenys Hanna-Martin and Minister of Social Services Obie Wilchcombe, members of the diplomatic corps, Commodore Dr. Raymond King of the RBDF and Assistant Commissioner of Police Kenneth Strachan.

A round table discussion on the African diaspora featured contributions from Prime Minister Davis, former US Ambassador to the United Nations Andrew Young (both Archons), and former Prime Minister of Jamaica P.J. Patterson.

The round table discussion was lively and informative, albeit too short, leaving many participants desirous of hearing more.

During the discussion, Prime Minister Davis related the extent to which the effects of climate change as well as illegal immigration have adversely impacted this country’s national debt.

Patterson talked about the need to strengthen ties between the nations of Africa and the Caribbean, and warned that there is an urgent need to address the brain drain from the Caribbean countries to the developed world.

Archousai programs

Archons’ spouses are integral to the boulé. It was therefore imperative to incorporate Archousai programs into the Grand Boulé.

Throughout the entire conference, Archousai enjoyed an Archousai lounge which afforded them rest from the conference programs.

Other activities included an Archousai luncheon, which was limited to spouses only, as well as the Archousai Forum. The Archousai of Delta Lambda Boulé were also intimately involved in the memorial service and the rose ceremony as described below.

YACS program

The Young Adults Career Symposium (YACS) program was established in 2008 as a standard feature of the Grand Boulé, with a focus on encouraging young adults and assisting them in career-building activities.

During this Grand Boulé, there were symposia on career mapping, with breakout sessions on careers in law, medicine, health services, and the sciences, business finance and consulting, government, non-profits, higher education, technology, engineering, and the arts and entertainment.

The YACS program also has a community service component. This year, the Grand Boulé decided to contribute to worthy charitable institutions to leave its footprint in The Bahamas after conference attendees departed.

Therefore, cash contributions totaling $75,000 were made to Hands for Hunger, the Children’s Emergency Hostel, the National Youth Choir, the Gentlemen’s Club for academic scholarships, and the Ranfurly Home for Children (the Ranfurly Home).

In addition to the $75,000 contribution from Sigma Pi Phi, Delta Lambda Boulé requested Sebas Bastian, The Bahamas’ non-resident ambassador to the Central American Integration System, to donate 28 laptops to the children at the Ranfurly Home, which he unhesitatingly did.

Furthermore, Delta Lambda invited Bay Shore Management Services Limited to donate one year’s free internet service to the Ranfurly Home for the users of the laptops. It, too, unhesitatingly accepted the invitation, and Ranfurly Home children will now have free internet service.

The Grand Boulé’s leadership in this community service initiative will be felt for many years to come.

Remembering the recently departed

The Grand Boulé presented a reflective, solemn opportunity to remember Archons and Archousai, who passed away during the last biennium (two years ago since the last Grand Boulé, which was virtual because of COVID-19).

The memorial service is always emotionally poignant and profoundly personal as the name of each Archon and Archousa is read aloud, while a red or white rose, respectively, is carefully placed into a vast urn to memorialize each person’s transition into eternity.

During last Sunday’s memorial service, the Archons and Archousai of Delta Lambda quietly rose from their seats as a white rose was deposited into the urn as Archousa Marilyn Rahming’s name was announced.

The rose ceremony was followed by an inspiring message from Archon Marcus Cosby, senior pastor of Wheeler Avenue Baptist Church in Houston, Texas.

During his homily, he recounted the story of the turtle on the fence post, reminding us that someone had put the turtle there. The turtle didn’t get there by himself. The message is that many of us were helped along the way in our lives, that we did not get there alone, and that just as someone helped us to get where we are today, we are obligated to help others.

Celebrating life

During the week-long conference, there was also ample opportunity to celebrate life. The evenings afforded conference attendees opportunities to participate in festive activities. The Grand Sire’s Dinner Dance on Saturday night kicked off several days of late-night entertainment.

On Sunday night at the Boulé Foundation Gala, Charlie Wilson excited his standing-room-only, oversubscribed audience with many of his recording hits. Monday night’s entertainment featured five-time Grammy winner, Lelah Hathaway.

The last night of the conference was designated as Bahamia Night, which was another highlight of the week-long conference.

The evening’s festivities were produced and choreographed by Delta Lambda’s Archon Dr. Beverton Moxey and his Archousa, Rosel.

Bahamia Night was a tribute to Bahamian cuisine, culture and entertainment, including a Junkanoo parade.

The entertainment featured famed Bahamian DJ Pencil and live music by the Higher-Level Band which kept dancers on three dance floors all night until the end of the event.

Content-rich programs

The conference organizers also ensured that content-rich programs were provided for Archons who attend the Grand Boulé.

Some of the enlightening programs included sessions on economic empowerment, Blacks On Boards, and the Parity Project. All sessions were well attended and fulfilled their promise of containing content-rich material.


Enormous economic impact

The Grand Boulé had a significantly favorable economic impact on our tourism sector.

Given the number of participants at this event, it is estimated that the Grand Boulé contributed at least $3.5 in hotel revenue during its week-long international gathering.

That does not include the cost of meals, entertainment and transportation. Neither does it include the hundreds who were employed in staging, lighting and the local entertainers who were contracted for the many events.


Vote of thanks

Delta Lambda Boulé and Sigma Pi Phi are eternally grateful for the enormous support they received from so many who significantly contributed to the success of this historical event.

The Bahamas government played a vital role in the success of the Grand Boulé.

We thank the RBDF, the RBPF, the Department of Immigration, Bahamas Customs, and the Ministry of Finance for their support.

We especially thank Tourism Minister Chester Cooper, Tourism Director General Latia Duncombe, and her entire staff at the ministry, who worked tirelessly to honor an agreement that was initially made by Minister Obie Wilchcombe, who, in 2016, promised that the Ministry of Tourism would ensure that we obtained the full support of The Bahamas government for the Grand Boulé, which was originally scheduled for 2020.

We also applaud the attentiveness of the executives and the entire staff at Atlantis, who proved to conference attendees and support staff that it truly is “better in The Bahamas”.

As the chair of the Host Organizing Committee, I salute and thank the Archons and Archousai of Delta Lambda Boulé, the event organizers, Danielle Kennedy Jones and Kevin Richardson.

I also thank Grand Grammateus Samuel Bacote and Archon Marcel Henry, both from the Office of the Grand Boulé in Atlanta, for their tireless efforts, indefatigable energy, and unceasing support to ensure that the 56th Grand Boulé was what has been described by many attendees as the best in Sigma Pi Phi Fraternity’s 118-year history.

Conclusion

Many who attended the conference believe that we accomplished that objective. As I remarked in the vote of thanks on the last night of this historical event: “The 56th Grand Boulé has been a real joy, an honor, and a privilege to have served as the chair of the host committee. It is an experience that I will never forget and will long remain in my memory as one of the most profound experiences of my life of 60-something years.”

By every measurable yardstick, the 56th Grand Boulé in Paradise was a success. We are all eternally grateful for all who contributed to that success.

Philip C. Galanis is the managing partner of HLB Bahamas, Advisors and Chartered Accountants. He served 15 years in Parliament. Please send your comments to pgalanis@gmail.com

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