When Usain Bolt talks of eating yams as an explanation for his speed, is he talking athletics, or is he talking culture? When George Mosko points out that getting up early and staying fit is part of his strategy for building a business, or that Trevor Kelly did not think that new cars were important, is he talking business, or is he talking culture? When Neil Ellis talks about the importance of his family to his faith, is he talking religion, or is he talking culture? In each case, these individuals are addressing behavior peculiar to a particular group of people. They are talking about culture.

“trapped in a cell
Of constant separation
We speak of culture
As if it was Coca Cola
To be refrigerated and kept

Culture is the way people live
That’s all
(From “Culture Vultures”)

As I listen to the talk shows, especially about the upcoming Carnival, I am saddened by the comments made by both hosts and guests that expose the fact that, as a community, my generation has not done the most basic job of exposing ourselves to ourselves. Time and again, I hear about the need to “get our culture out to the world”, and to “go international”. I hear that “our culture is being threatened” by outside influences. I hear that there is a need to “establish our identity”. These are all statements that reflect that, firstly, we are insecure as a community, secondly we are ignorant of our history, and thirdly, that we are easily led down nonsensical paths.
The first recorded black superstar in the US was a Bahamian named Bert Williams (1897). Tommy Robinson stunned the British Commonwealth in 1958. Joseph Spence amazed the Newport Festival with his unique style of guitar playing (still being studied today) in 1959. Sidney Poitier became the first black man ever to win an Academy Award with his Cat Island attitude in 1963. The Beginning of the End, the T-Connection, Baha Men (Grammy Award in 2000) and Johnny Kemp all “took Bahamian music to the world”. King Errisson has been taking Bahamian percussion to the world for decades. One of the oldest active jockeys in the US, Gary Bain, just won his 1146th race at age 62 in December.
As Mwale Rahming says in his essay “Santa Anna”, if you came across a city with a population of 350,000 that had Academy and Emmy Award winners, numerous Olympic Gold Medalists, NBA champions, world champions in track and field, tennis, boxing, sailing and baseball, scientists and academics leading Universities and the space program, you would want to know what they have in their water. It is therefore sad to hear the pleas for attention from our children, the desperate need to “save our culture” and the promise that one single event will somehow create that “breakthrough” to international stardom. It simply confirms that we have not told our children that WE ARE ALREADY INTERNATIONAL STARS!
Successive governments, especially since Independence, have failed to institutionalize the telling of our story to our children. It is not their fault they are ignorant. We have given them computers, cars, school buildings and degrees. What we have not given them is a mirror. Museums, art galleries and monuments are not built for the benefit of the outside world. They are part of the infrastructure the community builds to help its children know their value. Theatre is not mere entertainment. It is the opportunity to hold up a mirror to the society so it can know where it is and decide where it wishes to go. Yes, these are the devices through which we also share our stories with the outside world, but it is the community’s opportunity to discover itself that is their greatest benefit. Cultural activity is where the society dreams dreams and crafts its vision for a future.
Because we have neglected to tell our children who we and they are, they fear everything. No amount of money in their pockets will change that.

Pat Rahming
February 7, 2015

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