The pandemic has continued to upend and dominate people’s lives in 2021 as everyone had to adapt to the “new normal” – although what that “new normal” looks like is different for every person. And then there’s the fact that coronavirus has become one of the most frequently used nouns and with it came lots of new jargon, buzzwords and slang – words that continued to be pervasive. With COVID-19 rife, and despite a year fraught with disappointments and setbacks, there were still many reasons for people to be proud of which gave cause to celebrate.
From national spelling champion Roy Seligman’s amazing and historic run at the 93rd Scripps National Spelling Bee in July, to Miss Bahamas Universe Chantel O’Brian semifinals berth at Miss Universe, to Cherelle Cartwright’s Mama Sassy Gourmet Foods pepper marinade being distributed onboard Royal Caribbean International (RCI) vessels, para-triathlete Erin Brown given godmother status to a RCI vessel, and Bahamas-based Coral Vita’s innovative approach to coral farming awarded as one of the first ever five winners of the most prestigious environment prize in history, The Earthshot Prize – there were numerous historic achievements that turned out to be a reason for the nation to celebrate.
Roy, 13, a three-time national spelling champion as a 12-year-old romp through Scripps, ended with him tied for fourth with three other spellers; a field of 209 started the process to the finals.
Roy was the first Bahamian to advance to the finals of the prestigious competition since The Bahamas began competing at Scripps in 1988.
Even more significant in his finals showing, Roy was the lone international contestant.
Roy stepped down from the competition after he incorrectly spelled the word ambystoma in round 12 of the live televised finals at ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex at Walt Disney World.
Not only did Bahamians celebrate Roy’s accomplishment, but so did the Spelling Bee which shared on Twitter afterwards that Roy represented The Bahamas wonderfully.
Miss Bahamas Universe Chantel O’Brian, 27, made history as the first Bahamian contestant to place in the semifinals in the 70 years of the Miss Universe competition, which was held in Eilat, Israel, on December 12.
O’Brian broke the Bahamas’ pageant drought when she was named in the top 16, then again when she made it through to the top 10, a little over two months after winning the national title.
She was also awarded the Carnival Spirit award from Carnival Cruise. The award is given to the delegate that embodies the company’s values of fun, friendship, diversity and inclusion, in honor of the work done by her charity, The Leading Ladies Project, and the positive energy she displayed while in Israel. She received the award after she competed in the pageant’s preliminary competition.
The historic moment for O’Brian cane eight years after she began competing in pageants. In 2013 she initially contested for the Miss Bahamas Universe title, that affords the winner the opportunity to compete at Miss Universe. She placed first runner-up to Lexi Wilson.
In 2015, O’Brian returned to compete for a national title in the year that saw three queens crowned from one competition. She was crowned Miss Bahamas World; Toria Penn was crowned Miss Bahamas Universe; and Darronique Young was crowned Miss Earth Bahamas.
Six years after competing for each title twice, O’Brian claimed the Miss Bahamas Universe title, which earned her the right to represent The Bahamas at Miss Universe in Israel, which culminated in her making history.
Prior to O’Brian’s historic semifinal showing, notable accomplishments by former national title holders on the Miss Universe stage included Ava Marilyn Burke-Thompson winning the Miss Photogenic Award at Miss Universe in 1982 in Lima, Peru; a year after Linda Smith-Scott won the Miss Amity award at the 1981 Miss Universe pageant in New York.
And then there is para-triathlete Erin Brown, who was named Royal Caribbean International’s (RCI) first Bahamian godmother. Brown, officially christened Royal Caribbean International’s new Odyssey of the Seas at a ceremony in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, on November 13.
In accordance with maritime tradition, Brown blessed Odyssey of the Seas and broke a bottle of champagne against her hull to bring good luck to all who sail on the vessel.
Brown is godmother to the new Odyssey of the Seas, the first Quantam Ultra-class ship in North America.
Brown, a life-long athlete had her leg amputated above the knee after receiving treatment for stage four osteosarcoma (bone cancer) in 2004-2005. She went to become the first-ever Bahamian para-triathlete to compete in a Paralympic Games qualifier.
Brown, a disability inclusion consultant, has said her experiences empowered her to reinvent herself and transform her life.
And then there’s Cherelle Cartwright who saw her hard work with her Mama Sassy’s Gourmet Foods pepper marinades receive international recognition after her Papaya Medley Pepper Sauce was chosen to be distributed throughout RCI’s cruise ships after a panel of judges decided that out of three pepper sauces put forward, Cartwright’s spicy concoction was the hands-down winner.
Cartwright has gone as far as to have some of her products tested by the United States (US) Food and Drug Administration for nutritional content. She has said she put her “blood, sweat, tears and resources” into dream-building Mama Sassy’s Gourmet Foods to be ready for the international market.
It’s her goal to have her product distributed worldwide to prove that Bahamians have the wherewithal to carry out large-scale manufacturing and mass market product distribution.
The Bahamas-based Coral Vita’s innovative approach to coral farming gave Bahamians another opportunity to celebrate this year, after they were awarded as one of the first ever five winners of the most prestigious environment prize in history, The Earthshot Prize.
Coral Vita, founded by Sam Teicher and Gator Halpern, was awarded the prize for the Revive our Oceans Earthshot for its innovative approach to coral farming. Their approach of growing coral on land then replanting it in the ocean can grow coral up to 50 times faster than traditional methods and improves resilience to the impact of climate change. As well as restoring reefs, Coral Vita works with local communities, public officials, and private companies to improve education and create new jobs in environmental protection.
Through winning the prize, the Grand Bahama-based Coral Vita received £1 million pounds ($1.4 million) prize money and a global network of professional and technical support to scale their innovative technology. The prize will enable Coral Vita to accelerate their goal to establish a global network of coral farms to grow a billion corals each year, including deploying the latest technology in coral farming as well as developing funding models to make coral restoration more financially viable for coastal communities. Winning would accelerate Coral Vita’s scaling plans, helping them to build new coral farms and working with other leading organizations to kick-start a restoration economy around the world that people everywhere can be part of – and it came out of The Bahamas.