The 40th Anniversary Co-Chair Bethel responds to FNM writer Sharon Turner

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BETHEL: “…co-chairmanship of the committee to remind our political leaders of the need to put their money where their mouths are, and to show their belief in Bahamians in tangible, Bahamian-centred terms.”

Dear Editor,

I should be grateful if you would publish the below, which is an expansion of what was originally written in response to Sharon Turner’s op-ed, “AFTER 40 YEARS, BEING BAHAMIAN STILL ISN’T GOOD ENOUGH – AMERICANS TO STAR IN OUR 40th INDEPENDENCE CELEBRATIONS”, widely published in the print and online media earlier this week.

Nicollette Bethel

I commend Sharon Turner on making her discontent with the proposed event honouring Sir Sidney Poitier known. I commend her also for sending her letter to the print newspapers as well as posting it on Facebook and other online locations, as it is important that decision-makers understand the impact, whether intended or unintended, of their actions.

I should like to point out that this initial celebration did not emanate from the independence committee, but was presented to the co-chairs as the first in a series of activities in honour of our Fortieth.

A couple of points need to be clarified, as they were not presented in this way on the news.

1) The renaming of the bridge and the concert in Sir Sidney’s honour are Atlantis’ initiatives, not the Government’s. The Government of The Bahamas has accepted Atlantis’ offer to honour Sir Sidney and has decided to use it to kick off the 40th anniversary celebrations.

2) What was being referred to as “priceless” was not the renaming of the bridge or the Jennifer Hudson concert, which is Atlantis’ contribution to our independence, but the cost of building a new performing arts complex downtown on the waterfront, which is an investment in Bahamians and Bahamian artists and performers that is being proposed by the Bahamas government as its contribution to the honouring of Sir Sidney Poitier.

I wish to add a third clarification. I am given to understand that several people believe that the current National Centre for the Performing Arts is to be re-named in honour of Sir Sidney. That is not the case as far as I am aware. It is my understanding this government plans to build an entirely new arts complex which will receive the name. Such a plan was outlined as early as 2004 by the EDAW plans for the development of downtown Nassau. No plans were announced for the current Centre on Shirley Street. However, given the fact that the ZNS and other reports showed an image of that Centre while the announcement was being made, the confusion in this regard is understandable.

That said, I understand and support the concern that this initiative and its focus on American performers and on a Bahamian hero whose public contribution was to the USA and the world and less tangibly (though no less real) to the Bahamas sends the message that our governments do not believe in Bahamians. This is why I encourage individuals to send the message back to our decision makers that we want to see as much investment and faith in our indigenous, home-based activities and artists, or more, as there is in this event.

I also understand, and share to some extent, the public’s unease with what seems to be a tourist-centric, Americanized kick-off to OUR fortieth celebrations. I have chosen, however, to take inspiration from this event and use it to set a standard for our going forward into 2013. I call on the government who invited me to serve as co-chair of the independence committee to do the same.

Speaking for myself, I will have no problem at the end of 2013 with the government’s support of this event IF and WHEN we see that investment exceeded in our own Bahamian celebrations over the course of next year. If we are given the best firework display for Sir Sidney, I trust we will provide an even greater display in July 2013. I agreed to take on the co-chairmanship of the committee to remind our political leaders of the need to put their money where their mouths are, and to show their belief in Bahamians in tangible, Bahamian-centred terms. This commitment I hope to witness not only in 2013 but also in the years leading up to our fiftieth celebrations in 2023. I need not state the obvious; that I expect that commitment to continue no matter who wins the elections of 2017 and 2022.

But one voice is not enough. Once again, I congratulate Sharon Turner on her stand. I wish to remind the public, however, not to overlook the facts that I’ve provided above — that this celebration is Atlantis’, not the committee’s, and that what is “priceless” is the investment in the proposed theatre.

All the best,

Nicolette Bethel