On Friday The Bahamas will recognize Majority Rule Day as an official Bahamian holiday. By doing so, we give this historic event the honour and significance it rightly deserves alongside landmark events such as the abolition of the transatlantic slave trade in 1834 and the attainment of independence in 1973, both of which are memorialized as local national holidays.
Many local historians believe that these three events are the three most significant events in the evolution and development of The Bahamas and especially the evolution of the Bahamian people of African descent. To fully appreciate Majority, one has to know the chronicle of events that culminated with Majority Rule so with your kind leave, I will take readers on a short trip down memory lane. For Bahamian history buffs, this is just mere revision.
1942 – Burma Road Riot. This event was the first instance of political and social awakening and increased awareness among our people where American workers were paid more money to carry out the same work as their Bahamian counterparts. This was an important event that demonstrated how Bahamians stood up for their rights and demanded equality.
1949 – The start of the suffrage movement when Rufus Ingraham lost his seat in the 1949 general elections and said to his wife Mary that perhaps if women had the right to vote, he could have won his Family Island seat of Crooked Island and Acklins.
1950 – The formation of the Citizens Committee to overturn the ban on Sir Sidney Poitier’s film, “No Way Out” in local theaters. I invite you to google this movie on youtube or access it on Netflix to appreciate its message of equality, forgiveness and how the central character played by Sir Sidney was able to overcome bigotry. The government of the day feared that this movie would educate Bahamians about how to stand up to and overcome bigotry and stir up social unrest.
1953 – The birth of the Progressive Liberal Party, the first and oldest political organization in The Bahamas. The PLP ushered in the era of party politics. Majority Rule is no more about the PLP than the civil rights movement in the United States was about Dr. Martin Luther King or the social revolution in South Africa was about Nelson Mandela. They were simply divinely chosen players in a larger and historic cause.
1958 – General strike over denial of work to taxi cab drivers by the hotels who provided transportation between the airport and hotel for their guests, effectively shutting out the taxi cab drivers from earning a living.
1962 – Women voted for the first time in history. Ruby Ann Cooper, later Darling was first to register to vote and Ms. Ivy Mackey was first woman to cast her vote. I personally wish Ms. Mackey was more prominent in the discussion on the suffragette movement.
1965 – Black Tuesday. Sir Lynden Pindling threw the Mace out of the window of Parliament in protest over gerrymandering of seats. The Mace is the symbol of authority and power in Parliament so Sir Lynden said that since power belonged to the people, then the Mace should be outside with the people.
1967 – Majority Rule Day on January 10th. It represented one man, one vote and for the first time the expressed will of the people was realized. This symbolized the promise of equality, a level playing field and fair play.
1973 – Independence on July 10th. This was the birth of our nation and when we formally acquired a national and unique identity. We became a Bahamian sovereign state and not just a British territory and protectorate.
Majority Rule shattered the proverbial glass ceiling that prevented too many Bahamians from realizing their full potential and ushered in the era of possibility where you could realize your full potential based purely on merit – that is, if you dream, properly prepare yourself through education and training, and apply yourself through the din of hard work, you could realize your dreams, achieve and succeed. Some call it social promotion.
There are many Bahamians who embody the spirit and promise of Majority Rule. Bahamians such as Sir Lynden Pindling, our first Prime Minister from East Street; Arthur Foulkes, our current Governor General; Cynthia “Mother” Pratt, our first female Deputy Prime Minister from Coconut Grove, and A.D.Hanna from Acklins – all people of modest means and from humble beginnings elevated themselves to occupy the highest offices in the land just by first aspiring to succeed, then educating themselves and applying themselves through hard work. They all possessed an indomitable spirit and an unshakable faith in the promise of The Bahamas and by extension, the Bahamian dream.
In the field of business, Franklin Wilson, who slept on the floor in a house in Ross Corner as a child and Sir Albert Miller, who started off as a policeman in Grand Bahama, became two of the most successful businessmen in the country. Mr. Wilson is the Chairman of Arawak Homes and Mr. Miller, who was the former Chairman of the Grand Bahama Port Authority is one of the driving forces behind the development of the city of Freeport. Their wonderful stories of overcoming the odds, their personal circumstances and adversity teaches us that the spirit and promise of Majority Rule are real, alive and well in the lives of Bahamians.
And if they can do it, so can any Bahamian who dares to dream and act.
So in a nutshell, that is the message of Majority Rule.
In 2014 and beyond, those of us who represent the next generation of leaders must properly prepare ourselves to meet the challenges facing the country. The challenges of crime, expanded economic opportunities and strengthening our social fabric.
We must not squander the hard fought freedoms and opportunities our forebears secured for us through great personal sacrifice, pain and self-denial. It is our responsibility and challenge to agitate for a better Bahamas, do our part to make it better, then safely deliver it to the next generation in a better, safer and stronger condition than our generation inherited. This is the challenge the spirit of Majority Rule issues to each generation going forward.
Make this holiday a constant reminder of that challenge and personal responsibility. We must make our personal life story a living testament to the legacy, the spirit, the initial intent and the promise of Majority Rule as we make a solemn commitment that regardless of our station in life, if we believe, we can achieve.
We must be the bridge to your future and pass on the legacy of Majority Rule so that the journey continues.