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Wake up Bahamas

Published: Oct 29, 2013

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Dear Editor,

Recently, I was appalled to hear that a young person claimed that in the 60s all Bahamians lived in the “ghetto”.  What absolute nonsense.  That ignorant young lady and whoever fed her that nonsense need to be enlightened.

This is the sad legacy of not making Bahamian history mandatory in all schools, both public and private.  Wherever you go in other parts of the world, that country’s history is taught in its schools.  When I was growing up I was taught all about the Boer War, India and other places that meant absolutely nothing to me.  In many ways we are still working in that same antiquated mode and the school curriculum needs to be revised.  I spoke to a COB history class recently and when asked if they had been taught Bahamian history in high school those who said they had been noted it was not in depth.

We also need to stop trying to plug square pegs into round holes by forcing children who are not academically inclined to take BGCSE examinations, which is yet another big disaster that ought to be done away with.  Those students who are not academically gifted must be taught other subjects that will help them to earn a living and function in the real world when they leave school.  We are backward in so many ways.  I often shudder when driving around after school hours to see and hear the manner in which so many of our children conduct themselves, including foul language from both boys and girls.

While on this topic I extend congratulations to T. Edward Clarke for what he is doing to rescue some of our at-risk boys through his L.E.A.D. Institute, and also to Ricardo Deveaux for the tremendous work he is doing through the Bahamas Primary School organization which recognizes excellence in primary school students.  This is the level at which our children need to be taught about the rich historical heritage of The Bahamas.

Around the time that Paul Adderley died, ZNS TV played a number of his speeches and I was particularly struck by one in which Adderley stated that when he was in charge of the Ministry of Education and tried to introduce certain aspects of Bahamian culture into the curriculum, he encountered obstructionist senior civil servants within the ministry and among some school principals.  I also recall attending Marion Bethel’s showing of her documentary “Womanish Ways” and the following panel discussion.  Among the panelists were the direct descendents of the women who were at the vanguard of the women’s suffrage movement in The Bahamas – namely, Alice Ingraham Rolle (daughter of Mary Ingraham who was the founder of the movement); Wallace Lockhart-Carey (daughter of Eugenie Lockhart); Andrew ‘Dud’ Maynard (son of Georgina Symonette), and Shirley Sands-Johnson (sister of Dame Dr. Doris Johnson).  During that discussion Maynard cried when he related how when they tried to get the information concerning the movement introduced into the school curriculum, they were told by a senior Ministry of Education official, although not called by name (a reverend gentleman who is still alive today), that they were trying to indoctrinate the children.  What a shame.

My book “Pictorial History and Memories of Nassau’s Over-the-Hill” came about precisely because of my disgust at the rot and decay in that and many other areas all over the Island of New Providence.  It’s important for the uninformed to know that many of the nation builders and others upon whose shoulders we all stand came from Over-the-Hill: Grant’s Town, Bain Town, Mason’s Addition, Anderson Street, Lewis Street, McCullough Corner, Market Street, Vesey Street, Hay Street, McPherson Street, East Street, Fort Fincastle, Nassau Street, Chippingham, Meadow Street, King Street, Ross Corner and other areas, and they were not the “ghetto”.  These were the areas where our nation builders were born and lived.  We never knew the word “ghetto”, which has been imported from elsewhere in more recent times, and everyone took pride and kept their surroundings clean.

Sir Lynden Pindling was born in Mason’s Addition and grew up on East Street.  Civil servants such as Marina Greaves, Ivor Donald Archer, former Financial Secretary Ruth Millar and her brother Alfred Maycock came from Mason’s Addition; so did Rose Hall-King and her son, former Chief Justice Sir Burton Hall, outstanding educators Dame Dr. Doris Johnson, Rev. Carlton Francis, Donald W. Davis and a number of Poitiers, as well as the current Director of Archives Elaine Toote and her siblings Dr. Vanria Rolle and Lewis Colebrooke.  Mason’s Addition also produced Rev. Earle Francis and medical and academic doctors Baldwin Carey, Eugene Newry, Manny Francis, Pandora Johnson, Junkanoo leader Percy ‘Vola’ Francis, international movie star Calvin Lockhart and Ambassador Basil O’Brien, as well as successful business persons like the Wallaces, Thompsons and others.

Ross Corner produced Franklyn Wilson and his siblings, Dr. Kenneth Alleyne, Kayla Alleyne-Burrows and Kalfani (Lisle Alleyne, Jr.).  I’m happy to see that Dr. Alleyne is now refurbishing the family homestead.  Hopefully others will follow his example and that of Dr. Roger Weir who has done a beautiful job with the Weir homestead on West Street.  The Coakley house on Lewis Street has also been beautifully restored by its new owner Mr. Gibson (formerly of Vesey and Market Streets).

Gaol Alley and Anderson Street produced Monsignor Preston Moss, Mildred Johnson-Bowe, Verna Elcock, Leslie Johnson, the Sweetings, Gibsons, Bostwicks, Bowes, Adderleys, Allan, Ivan, Perce, Paul and Dr. Andree G. Hanna, Velma Archer-Allen, Annette Knowles, Durward Archer, the Pinders, Seymours, Mitchells, Beryl Barnett, Leslie Hanna, his brother the renowned artist Kendal Hanna and Michael ‘Sarge’ Hanna.  On Lewis Street there were the McCartneys, Coakleys, including Sylvia, Matthew, Hyacinth Saunders, Alma Cartwright, Marina Thompson-Sands, John, Wyatt Johnson, Stephen and Ellen Serville, the Tinkers, Johnsons, Darvilles, C.A.P. Smith and William Cartwright.

Sir Randol Fawkes was born at Fort Fincastle and later lived on McPherson Street, Justice Jeanne Thompson’s family and the family of Timothy Gibson, the McCartneys and Coopers also lived there.  Archdeacon William Thompson and his brothers Bishop Gilbert Thompson and Dr. Philip Thompson lived at the corner of Hay and Market Streets.  Sir Orville Turnquest’s family lived on Hay Street, Dr. and Mrs. Jackson Burnside’s family lived at Fort Fincastle where Mrs. Burnside still resides; the Coakleys, Smiths, Johnsons and McCartneys lived on Lewis Street; Dr. and Mrs. C.R. Walker lived and worked in Bain Town and their daughter Juliette Barnwell still lives there.  Many of our schools are named after outstanding persons who came from Over-the-Hill: Cleveland W. Eneas, C.R. Walker, Mabel Walker, S.C. McPherson, Carlton Francis.  Doris Johnson, Donald Davis, Sadie Curtis, Thelma Gibson and the list goes on.

I get annoyed every time I hear Craig Flowers on TV talking about being born in the “ghetto” and he should know better because when he lived there Quakoo Street was clean and he and his brothers, like everyone in the area, were always well groomed and were taught manners.  Over-the-Hill and other areas of this island did not look the way they do now with all of the filth.  Flowers is seen on TV picking up a piece of paper from the immaculate lawn on his property on West Bay Street.  I would urge him to use his influence to encourage some of the Quakoo Street residents with whom he is seen shaking hands and patting on the shoulders to clean up the nasty environment that they have created instead of sitting around under the trees in the midst of the filth.

This is to the detriment of other people like the Storrs and a few others who keep their properties in a clean and pristine condition, as was the case when Flowers grew up there.  Everyone in the neighborhood from the humblest to the more successful, like Flowers’ father, kept their surroundings clean, and it was definitely not a “ghetto”.  We all lived by the adage that “cleanliness is next to godliness”.  Perhaps a part of the reason for the current state of affairs is that so many of our people are godless while others just pretend to be godly and are more concerned with all of the material trappings of being self-appointed pastors, apostles, reverend doctors and bishops.

Self-pride is sadly lacking in so many of us.  On the one hand, we complain about the foreigners and want to blame them for everything that is wrong in the country; while on the other, we are quick to pick the most negative aspects of some of those other cultures.  I don’t want to see your dirty underwear.  At the same time some of our so-called “entertainers” pick up a fake Jamaican accent as soon as they put a mic to their mouths.  Wherever they go in the world Jamaicans, Americans, Britons and other nationalities never lose their identities or accents, but we Bahamians, the ultimate copy cats, pick up accents after only being away from The Bahamas for brief periods.  We are such “pretenders”.  We also need to get away from the notion that Junkanoo is the only thing that defines our culture.  We are much more than that.

I think that one of the worst things to happen in this country was the dismantling of Jumbey Village, which was the brainchild of Edmund Moxey.  The village was located at the site where the National Insurance Board building now stands, and featured every aspect of our culture including Junkanoo, art, straw work, music and live entertainment.  When Moxey fell out of grace, he was ridiculed and Jumbey Village was dismantled.  James Rolle can attest to the fact that he was sent abroad to train as a curator for the art gallery and that when he returned home the village was no more.  I also highly recommend Moxey’s Jumbey Village documentary to the public.

Wake up Bahamas!  We need to educate and enlighten the unformed and yes “indoctrinate” them with what is Bahamian. I make no apologies for that.

– Rosemary C. Hanna

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