Op-Ed: “Who are we?”

Op-Ed: “Who are we?”
The Valley Boys junkanoo group under the 2019 Boxing Day theme: “Wild Life On The Great Serengeti”

By Allyson Maynard-Gibson

Frequently when a Bahamian asks, “who are we”, we go into Junkanoo mode. I love Junkanoo. I’ve participated in Junkanoo since my early teens. I was a member of the first “Showtime Girls” that the late Paul Knowles brought to Bay St., as a part of The Valley Boys. I am now a member of STING. I understand the Junkanoo mode response.

As we think about a plan our future post COVID we really do need to ask and answer, “who are we”.

So, who are we? In the international arena we are Rhodes Scholars (it is said that we have the most per capita of any nation); first black Princeton University valedictorian; NASA scientists; Academy and Grammy Award winners; Olympic and Pan American Games gold, silver and bronze medalists; world class swimmers and baseball, basketball, tennis and water polo players; principal dancers in international ballet companies; opera singers; playwriters; authors; UN President; WHA President; CTO Director; Google executive; Wall St. and City of London advisors; artists who have exhibited at MOMA; members of choirs who have performed around the world; world class musicians; and so much more.

Combined with our international status, we only have to look at our historical development (in most arenas) and political stability to understand why the words “see how the world marks the manner of your bearing” are a part of our National Anthem.

So how did the people of a country that is a dot on the globe achieve so much? To achieve high national and international status, young people were brought up by “the Village” – it takes a village to raise a child. Parents and teachers worked together to ensure that children achieved their God-given potential. Children understood that parents make significant sacrifices for them to get a good education and to participate in extra curricular activities. Travel to CARIFTA is not cheap. Boys Brigade and Marching Band practice require time and discipline. Competition and performance require lots of time, practice and discipline. A “D” grade or “D” performance were not satisfactory and were not acceptable. Children understood that excellence in studies was expected. I (and most children) knew what would happen if a teacher or neighbor reported my misbehavior to my parents or grandparents. Children did not always welcome discipline by neighbors or teachers. Parents welcomed “the Village’s” involvement in raising children.

So, post COVID, how can we prepare children from Cat Island to be the best coders; children from Fox Hill to be Rhodes Scholars; children from Mayaguana to go to Harvard; children from Andros or Acklins to become Governor-General; children from Exuma to work at NASA and so forth. In short, how can we assure that every Bahamian child has an opportunity to fully develop their God given gifts? Let’s get back to basics.

Parents – no child left behind means that as well as supporting parents. Parents must be accountable for the actions of their minor children.

Housing – children need safe and secure homes with indoor plumbing.

Nutrition – children can’t give their best performance if they’re hungry. School meals are important.

Teachers and coaches –  must be respected and supported (including being paid well).

Sporting facilities – every Island should have basic sporting facilities to enable children to exercise and participate in sports.

Reading programs – including computer assisted programs, should be made available to assure adult and child literacy.

Child abuse and domestic violence  matters – should be expeditiously dealt with in a Family Court. Mediation rather than an adversarial approach should be the norm.

The Village must raise children if the government platform for online classes, supported by tablets for children and free data from hotspots, is to succeed.

Let’s showcase the Bahamian indomitable spirit. Sustained effort in these areas will produce the desired result – world class excellence – especially needed in a post COVID-19 world.


Allyson Maynard-Gibson is a Barrister, and former Attorney General and the former Minister for Legal Affairs.