A star-studded cast of young Bahamian sketch comedic artists who are making waves on social media will be among the performers for the country’s 47th independence commemoration next week.
Latoya Dean and Zhane’o “Sarge” Newbold out of Grand Bahama; DasQuay, Myz Priceless Woods, Cookie and Hope, Solo, Dynamite Daisy and Stephen Hanna will perform in a scaled down, made-for-television show that Mark Humes, chairman of the 2020 national independence committee, promises will be an entertaining, delightful, first-of-its-kind, made-for-television four-hour program that audiences of all ages will not only be able to enjoy, but participate in virtually as well, during its airing on Thursday, July 9 from 8 p.m. to midnight, translating what takes place on Clifford Park.
The Bahamas will observe 47 years of independence under the theme “Pressing Onward: A Time of Hope, Triumph and Transformation” on Friday, July 10.
Musical performers for the television event include Pastor Christopher Roberts, Simeon Outten, Ricardo Clarke and a 30-voice gospel choir, along with Blaudy, D-Mac, Lady E, Puzzle, Ossie “Mr. Andros” Poitier, Drew Harmony, Khiara Sherman and Alia Coley; with JD and the Rhythm Band providing music for the artists.
Over the past two years, Humes said, the aim of the independence cultural productions has been to showcase aspects of Bahamian heritage and story, and the artists and performers who bring the country’s heritage and stories to life through their unique sound and style of music, dance and/or practical performance.
He promises this year’s television special will be in keeping with the tradition. The production is entitled “Pressing On”.
Humes said this year’s anniversary will also be historic.
“More than any other independence in our history as an independent nation, this independence, in so many ways, will probably be the most historic to date,” said Humes. “As we observe our 47th anniversary, we would have come through many hard trials as a country, and a people since marking the 46th anniversary a year ago. As a committee, when we originally started our preparations [in January] for the 47th anniversary, we did so with the anticipation that we would use the time to celebrate our resilience as a people, post-Hurricane Dorian. However, we never could have imagined how upended our lives would become once again with the arrival of COVID-19 – and so soon after Hurricane Dorian. Never could we imagine at any point, how we could have been so impacted by this global pandemic, with the greatest impact being our inability to gather in large numbers and socialize as we normally do.”
Humes said that it’s this impact that will make this year’s independence historic.
Next week’s independence observations will be the first time in the country’s history that Bahamians will not be able to gather en masse for celebrations on Bay Street, Government House or historic Clifford Park – the site of every major independence celebration from the lowering of the Union Jack to the raising of the black, aquamarine and gold flag in 1973.
“That mere change makes this independence a somber, yet momentous occasion,” said Humes.
At the same token, he said, it made for their greatest challenge in planning a celebration.
“In light of the COVID-19 pandemic, the committee had to make adjustments,” he said.
Humes said producing the television event on the scale they have for the independence celebration was a challenge in that it was the first time they attempted to do something like it on the scale they did. The difficulty also arose in the time frame in which they had to do it, and the fact that they had to be “fluid” as they watched the unfolding of the pandemic. He says the committee began working on the television show towards the end of May.
“We thought in March, if we had obeyed all the necessary orders that possibly we would have been out of this [COVID-19] by at least May – but it didn’t work out that way.”
The television special is also the third iteration of their plans, which originally had a staging of the historical musical “Hamilton” and that was blown out of the water. They then planned on a “sing-spiration” service of worship coming out of Hurricane Dorian, but that was scrapped as they realized people would not be able to come together. In deciding on the television production, Humes said they didn’t want an overly-produced, stylized production. They wanted the celebration to be toned down, and give people the ability to use Skype and Zoom platforms to engage live interactions with Bahamians around the archipelago and around the world.
“I want people to celebrate with us in their living rooms. It’s more of a commemoration than a celebration. We want people to recognize where we are, and enjoy the entertainment we provide for them and participate, because the medium will be there for them to participate,” he said.
“It’s historic all around,” said Humes. “This is our new normal. We have this circumstance and we have to make the best of it in the most creative way. COVID, in some ways, has forced us into the 21st Century. We’re playing with it this year, and going forward, we will see how we can use elements of it moving forward.”
During the anniversary celebration, recognition will be paid to the victims of Hurricane Dorian and COVID-19. The committee is asking those people who have lost loved ones to Hurricane Dorian and the new coronavirus, who would like to have them memorialized during their memoriam segment, to send a photograph and a biography of no more than 200 words on their loved ones to firstname.lastname@example.org by Monday, July 6.
And for the first time in probably decades, the podium that was used during the country’s first independence celebration will be utilized once again in the celebration. Bahamas Christian Council president Bishop Delton Fernander will deliver an abridged version of the annual independence ecumenical service from the historic podium on Clifford Park, live.
“This is actually a history-making independence celebration. We’re not on Clifford Park, but we’re still celebrating, and we wanted him to bring that message live from Clifford Park in the emptiness of that space to get that impact and the understanding of where we are as a country – the stark reality that our lives have been transformed to such an extent as a result of the COVID crisis. COVID has sort of stopped us from gathering and socializing…and that is one of the greatest impacts this has had on us as a country.”
The flag raising and singing of the national anthem by Alia Coley at Clifford Park will also be live, at midnight, to keep the tradition going.
“You can’t pre-record something like that,” said Humes.
Capping the evening which will be hosted by ZNS personalities, along with Bodine, Dion Johnson, Wendi and Dyson Knight and Chigozie Ijeoma, will be a live flag raising ceremony at midnight and the usual fireworks display.
Humes said they are encouraging Bahamians to show their national pride as of today through July 10 by wearing their black, aquamarine and gold.