Accompanied his Directors, among them the Director of Culture – Dr. Moxey-Brown, the Director of Sports – Timothy Munnings and the Director of Youth – Mr. Darren Turnquest, the Minister of Youth, Sports and Culture – the Hon. Daniel Johnson, arrived on Abaco on Friday, February 22. He came to meet and discuss items in his portfolio with the MP for North Abaco and Island Administrators.
Following a breakfast at Junovia’s, the Minister had a busy agenda. He paid a courtesy visit to Renardo Curry – Member of Parliament for North Abaco. He had a closed- door meeting with the island administrators followed by a press conference to discuss matter pertaining to the Ministry’s portfolio. He also paid a visit to the future site of the proposed Sports Complex.
He also came to attend the Abaco Love Rush Junkanoo Parades scheduled for the weekend. He was particularly interested in the Junior Junkanoo parade, featuring nine schools, that was to take place on Friday evening. The Minister has a special interest in Bahamian Youths and is eager to follow their accomplishments.
During the meeting with MP Curry, the Minister reiterated the Ministry’s intentions to support programs that had been promised during the Prime Minister’s former visit especially youth development programs. He mentioned the economic impact for Abaco of events such as the parades and asked the local representative of the Ministry of Youth, Sports and Culture, Ishmael “Stretch” Morley, to give him a detailed report of airline bookings, car rentals and hotel rooms occupied during the Junkanoo weekend.
Mr. Morley had already established that all rental cars had been taken, that hotels in Treasure Cay were booked-out and that the fast ferry had brought over several hundred people.
The Minister also wanted to find out the amount spent per capita in order to have an idea of how much money the government should invest to promote such events and how much to expect in return, comparing the possibilities offered by Junkanoo to Mardi-Gras festivals which bring thousands of people to Trinidad and Brazil.
“We can generate economy from arts, sports events and other cultural activities”, he stated.
Mr. Curry acknowledge the Minister’s comments, explaining that he too visualized a variety of sporting events taking place on the island.
Minister Johnson conversed with two Abaco Central High Students who had been invited to the meeting as reporters, asking them what their interests and visions were. Akeem Adderley, a gifted Gospel Singer, said he would like to see a recording studio on Abaco to be able to record and produce CDs. The other student, Raymond Telusma, who plays the trombone, also proffered an interest in building a music facility such as a facility where an Abaco Youth Orchestra could perform.
Dr. Brown proposed that the three best musical talents of each island be invited to be part of the National Youth Orchestra. The Minister pointed out the difficulty involved in addressing the needs of the many individual lands masses that comprised the Bahamas.
The three National Junkanoo Committee members, “Bola” Percy Francis, who will be retiring this year, Eddie Dames and Anton Dean, the Saxons’ leader, took turns to offer advice on developing local talents. They suggested that the youth be advised to look for mentors to guide them and promised that workshops could be organized to help people with talent.
The Director of Sports said he shared Mr. Curry’s vision of developing international competitions not only on Abaco but also on various family Islands.
The Press Conference was opened by Mr. Curry, who expressed his happiness at having the Minister and his team of Directors come to Abaco to support the Junkanoo Festivities. He also praised the Minister’s aggressiveness concerning youth programs.
The Minister confirmed that the construction of the Moore’s Island Sports Complex, located near their airport, was to commence soon and that the Abaco Sports Complex would follow. A new site for the Abaco Sports facility has been identified near Abaco Central High School and Murphy Town Park.
When asked where the money will be found to support such projects, the Minister responded it would involve partnering with corporate entities and that such a corporate business had already been found on Abaco to partner in the Murphy Town project.
It will be a private and public partnership, he announced.
He also confirmed that Junkanoo will become part of schools curriculum as of next school year.
Accompanied by the Director of Sports and Mr. Morley, Minister Johnson met with the Principal of Abaco Central High School, Ricardo Ferguson, and Dr. Lenora Black to identify the site of the new Sports Complex. Minister Johnson said the track will be re-surfaced as well as the basketball court.
The soccer field will be leveled and replanted with grass. A 10,000 square foot building to house administrative offices, an amphitheater for cultural events, changing rooms, showers and separate toilets for boys and girls as well as a small first aid room and a training gymnasium will be erected. The building will be supplied with audio-visual equipment.
Minister Johnson promised that the building is to be started no later than April or May.