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A dream in the valley of discrimination


Published: Sep 03, 2013

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The United States of America and people the world over celebrated last week the 50th anniversary of the March on Washington which also commemorates the “I have a Dream” speech delivered by the late Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Indeed, The Bahamas was privileged to take part in this celebration as our nation’s prime minister, Perry G. Christie, spoke on behalf of the Bahamian people on the steps of the symbolic Lincoln Memorial in Washington D.C.

During this momentous occasion, Christie seized the opportunity to inform the crowd of attentive listeners of the close bonds that exist between The Bahamas and the American people. More importantly, Christie in essence encouraged Americans to continue toward the struggle and ideals for which Dr. King sacrificed his life – equality, freedom and social justice. It was only fitting therefore that the beautiful rendition of colors and music in the form of our most celebrated cultural expression in Junkanoo would round off such a pivotal speech.


The articulation of a dream

The “I have a Dream” speech is a celebrated speech and arguably one of the most noted and inspirational speeches of all time. One can only wonder whether the late Dr. King, whose major influences were Jesus Christ and Mahatma Gandhi, envisioned the universal and global impact that his speech would have from generation to generation. Though spoken to the people of America, the contents of the speech had wide application to citizens of the world; from Africa to the Caribbean, Europe and the Middle East, his powerful utterances echo through the years to touch the dynamics of today’s society.

Dr. King’s speech takes an audience on the American journey with stops at key junctures at the Independence Declaration and the Emancipation Proclamation by former President Abraham Lincoln to the current day, while highlighting unfulfilled dreams and broken promises. Dr. King continues on with poetic language that accuses America of falling short of delivering her promise of equality, social and economic justice to all in line with the intention of the American Constitution and the Declaration of Independence as drafted by the forefathers of America. The speech suggested at the time that 100 years post emancipation, there was still widespread discrimination, particularly in the African-American community.


A new form of discrimination and divide

As we in The Bahamas reflect upon the words of Dr. King’s speech, it is worthy to note that while we have broken down many barriers of racial discrimination in our country, we have built a new

form of discrimination that has taken hold of our society. Political tribalism over the years has led us down a path that continues to divide our nation. In effect, we have created a modern vice that threatens our national progress and economic survival while seeking to justify our actions in the name of democracy.

While we are grateful for the peace and liberties that we enjoy in a stable democratic nation, we must never forget that a divided nation can never achieve progress; in the words of the Jesus Christ, “Every kingdom divided against itself is brought to desolation; and every city or house

divided against itself shall not stand.” Our differing political affiliations, denominations and various philosophies make us a great people, but we must be united in the common loftier goal to advance our country and not put personal ambitions over the national interest. We must fight our battles within but unite against injustice and attacks on our commonwealth.

In this midst of our political tribalism, there exists another divide in the form of the growing gap between the “haves” and the “have-nots”; otherwise described as the socially accepted and the social rejects. At the lower end of the social pole, we are fighting among ourselves in the form of violence and illicit activities. The Bahamian life has been cheapened as evidenced by the homicide rate in our nation as we have ignored the values that made us a great nation. The animosity that exists among our people today is a stark contrast to the spirit of unity that enabled our forefathers to confront the struggles and travails of yesterday. At the higher end of the social pole, opportunity seems to be a “scarce commodity” as we continue to witness the tragedy of the commoners. Unfortunately while we have progressed as a nation, the “black crab syndrome” remains endemic in our nation, shutting the door of opportunity to many who feel displaced and abandoned in the land of their birth, while many have opted for greener pastures in more developed nations resulting in a growing brain drain.


Twin dreams, one purpose

In the final analysis, Dr. King’s “I have a Dream” speech is grounded in the “American Dream”. Moreover, there is no real difference between the “American Dream” and the “Bahamian Dream”, neither is the definition or foundation of either a phenomenon or new revelation. For the basis of both of these dreams rests and abides in the founding principle and faith of Christianity which strives toward peace, equality and an abounding quality of life for all men, however relative such livelihood may be.

America, though a more developed and older nation than The Bahamas, has traveled a similar path and fought similar battles as our country. Both our nations attained independence from our former colonial master, drafted constitutions that called for equality and social justice for all men, experienced the emancipation of slaves and championed civil rights and the maintenance of democracy.


The universal embrace of a vision

Our destinies remain intertwined and our stories with similar scripts but different casts. In this sense, Bahamians will always find inspiration in the words and life of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Leaders and individuals of all creeds, nationalities, religions and genders will continue to uphold and reference not just the words of Dr. King’s greatest speech, but also embrace his vision.

A look at the current state of affairs in our nation will no doubt show that there has been some actualization of his dream even though much work lies ahead. As Christie reminded the American people, the struggle still continues and there is much more ground to be covered. In the meantime, we honor the legacy of Dr. King and his ties to the Commonwealth of The Bahamas, a little archipelagic nation glistening in the sun, whose existence is proudly tied into so many events and notable figures that changed the course of world history for good.


• Arinthia S. Komolafe is an attorney-at-law. Comments can be directed at commentary@komolafelaw.com.

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