The 45th Independence Cultural Extravaganza and Flag Raising Ceremony was held under the theme – “Celebrate Bahamas: We’ve Come This Far by Faith” – at the BAIC Park on July 9.
The Master and Mistress of Ceremony were Dikembe Wilkinson and Khalea Richard.
Bishop John McIntosh invoked the presence of the Almighty God over the gathering, while Kelia McKinney delivered an outstanding rendition of the National Anthem.
Next, Senior Deputy Family Island Administrator Maxine Duncombe was called to the podium with the welcome address. With a grateful heart, she welcomed all in attendance as she reflected on The Bahamas’ 45 years of independence, and how as a community we have come together to celebrate our accomplishments as a nation. She said while it has not been an easy road, our love for God and respect for one another has helped us to overcome.
The Murphy Town Community Choir graced the stage blending their voices together for two melodious selections just before remarks were made by MP for South Abaco James Albury, who also read the Prime Minister’s message. He, too, acknowledged how the Bahamian people have enjoyed tremendous success in the midst of struggles.
“I have the distinguished pleasure and privilege tonight to be delivering the Prime Minister’s address, but before I do so I’d hope you all indulge me just to take a moment to say how grateful and happy I am to be here tonight with all of you and how thankful we should all be for how far we’ve come.”
The Prime Minister’s address highlighted 45 years of our country’s sovereignty, and the inauguration of a system of national honours to recognize the outstanding contributions of our citizens. The message went on to give a brief history of The Bahamas before independence, emphasizing myriad accomplishments along the way for Bahamians both at home and abroad. It also addressed challenges like crime, health concerns and climate change that we must address.
As Prime Minister Dr. the Hon. Hubert Minnis’ address continued, he also commended our diplomatic officers and other representatives stationed overseas who perform essential work on behalf of our country.
“The theme for this year’s Independence Celebrations, ‘Celebrate Bahamas: We’ve Come This Far By Faith,” reminds that our achievements as a nation are due to our faith in Almighty God and to our abiding faith in our collective ability to meet our challenges with resolve and resilience.
“In this spirit, let us always seek God’s guidance. May God bless the Commonwealth of The Bahamas as we continue our national journey,” Albury read.
Odell Cox, a student of Treasure Cay Primary School and winner of the E. Clement Bethel National Arts Festival Upper Primary Drummer Division, held the crowd’s full attention with a riveting drum selection.
Min. of Foreign Affairs and MP for North Abaco, the Hon. Darren Henfield also brought remarks, and shared the Governor General’s message. Her Excellency Dame Marguerite Pindling’s words chronicled the journey that began 45 years ago to provide our citizens with the opportunity to live in a free and democratic land.
However, her message also put forth a charge to the Bahamian people to be passionately involved in the process of nation-building, having respect and dignity for each other, steadfast in promoting law and order, and investing in the time and care for our young people who will eventually lead our nation.
“Now on my own personal behalf, as a Member of Parliament for North Abaco, as a son of the soil from Block 30, I want to commend all of you for being here tonight. I am encouraged by what I see,” he expressed. “I think we have exhibited from what I’ve seen here throughout the course of the last two days, true Bahamian pride that I have not seen anywhere else in The Bahamas.”
He personally extended gratitude to Administrator Duncombe and the Independence Committee for the work they have done.
“In my other life, I am a minister of the Gospel. I love the Lord, and I am not ashamed of Him and I promised Him wherever I go, I will speak of His goodness, and His grace and His mercy, and His goodness toward us, and toward me.
“God has been good to us, and He’s brought us a mighty long way…By the grace of the Almighty God, we will continue to build this country into what we believe it ought to be with His help and assistance.
“All I want you all to know in Abaco is we are not who we are or where we are because of our own intellectual acumen. We are who we are and where we are because of the will of the Almighty God who has brought us a mighty long way, and I want y’all to put your hands together and raise your hands to Heaven and give Him thanks, praise, glory and honour for He has been very good to us. Happy Independence Abaco – love y’all!”
A slew of performances decorated the program following Min. Henfield’s remarks with a dance selection by Crossing Rocks Primary School; musical selection by Central Abaco Primary School (CAPS); oldtime Bahamian songs by Hope Town School; songs by the talented One Sound Gospel Group; a cultural skit featuring all of The Bahamas’ Prime Ministers by the students of Patrick J. Bethel High School; a saxophone selection by Rashad Reckley better known as the “Sax Man”; a selection of Bahamian songs by the Royal Bahamas Police Force Pop Band; and New Entry Band.
Awards were presented by District Superintendent Dominique Russell and Education Officer Ruth Smith to students who participated in an Independence Essay Competition as well. Khalea Richard was the winner for the senior division of the essay competition; Patera Major was the first-place winner for the junior division; and Savannah Williams placed first in the primary division.
For the best decorated Government departments, the Administrator’s Office took the win.
Following the presentation of awards, the crowd’s attention was soon directed toward Don Mackay Boulevard where dignitaries were escorted and seated for a front row seat of the mini tattoo and inspection of the guard led by the Royal Bahamas Police Force Marching Band. The Bahamas Defence Force Rangers also took center stage expertly executing their drills to perfection.
Thereafter, the Bahamian Flag was hoisted by Sgt. Cloyd Leary as the National Anthem rang out in the background.
Listed among the 45 well-deserving Abaconian honourees (deceased and living) were: Annie Albury; Troy Albury; Capt. Garnett Archer; Percy Archer; Suzanne Bethel; Miriam Ann Feaster-Cornish; Colon Curry; Arthur Eldon; Steven Gardiner; Vernon Malone; Khalea Richard; Donna Sands; Bill Swain; Capt. Leonard Thompson; Merle “Mother Merle” Louise Williams; Yvonne Key; Catechist Euclid Baillou; Everette Bootle; Bishop Archilaus Cooper; Maxwell Cooper; Charmaine Cornish; Rev. Jackie Curry; Roosevelt Curry; Shavez Hart; Bishop John McIntosh; Rosamae McIntosh; George Russell; Myrtis Russell; Rev. Stafford Symonette; Boynell “Chubbie” Williams; Kenneth Albury; Reginald Albury; Carolyn Bain; Michael A. Bethel; Robert Cornea; Rosemae Davis; Jacquelyn Estevez; Robert McKinney; Melvinia Munnings; Bruce Smith; Alice Williams; and Vera Williams.
The 45th Bahamas Independence Cultural Extravaganza and Flag Raising Ceremony concluded under the canopy of a starry night bedazzled by majestic fireworks that raced in brilliant splashes of colour across the sky accompanied by the infectious, vibrant rhythm of a Junkanoo rush out.