By: Andrew Coakley
Minister of Youth, Sports and Culture, the Hon. Mario Bowleg told junkanoo leaders in Grand Bahama that at the end of the day, Grand Bahama needs to establish its own Junkanoo committee, in order to advance its culture in that city. And that committee, the Minister said, must be selected and appointed by local Junkanoo leaders and not the Cabinet of The Bahamas. He pointed out that the government put a steering committee in place with the hope that Grand Bahamian junkanooers would organize themselves, so that when they approach the NJCP, they would be in accord.
“The Grand Bahama Junkanoo committee will be responsible for Grand Bahama,” said Minister Bowleg We don’t come in Grand Bahama and tell them which parade they should have; Grand Bahama should tell us that.”
“It is not the Minister’s job or place to control Junkanoo and dictate what happens with Junkanoo. Yes, my ministry is the largest and greatest sponsor of Junkanoo, and while we have the greatest investment in you, at the same time, in order for your product to be seen at the highest level, it’s up to you to lead and guide and direct the minister in the way we should go so that we can all be successful.”
Minister Bowleg was in Grand Bahama over the weekend and met with Junkanoo leaders in Grand Bahama on Saturday, February 12, at the Ministry of Youth conference room. Leaders from all of the Junkanoo groups on the island were in attendance.
The Culture Minister said that he wanted to meet with the Junkanoo leaders in Grand Bahama to hear their concerns and to see how best he could address those concerns and work together to take Junkanoo to a whole new level. Minister Bowleg pointed out that he was not sure if Grand Bahama had set up a board, but said the Cabinet appointed a board because Grand Bahama was taking too long to do so. However, one of the things Minister Bowleg said he wanted to correct right away was the issue of having two Junkanoo committees, a practice that had taken place in the past.
“That can’t happen, because we’re one Bahamas,” explained Minister Bowleg. “To me, it makes no sense to have a national committee in Grand Bahama and a national committee in Nassau. We’re not two separate countries. So, I did away with that right away.
“There is only one National Junkanoo Committee and Grand Bahama has its representative on that committee, which is supposed to be your chair and two others.”
The local Junkanoo leaders said that they were awaiting the legal work to establish their committee and promised the Cultural Minister that they would deal with the issue as early as this coming week. Minister Bowleg invited all of the representatives of the junkanoo groups in
Grand Bahama to present their concerns or offer some advice on how to make Junkanoo better in the second city. Speaking on behalf of the entire body of Junkanoo groups in Grand Bahama was Thomas Curry Junior, leader of the Platinum Knights Junkanoo group, who presented the Minister with a list of concerns expressed by all in Grand Bahama.
Among that list of concerns was the issue of a virtual Junkanoo parade and the fear that the event would not happen for the Grand Bahamian groups. However, Minister Bowleg informed them that in the last conversation he had with the Director of Culture, she was waiting on Grand Bahama to give her a date to have the virtual Junkanoo recorded.
There was also the issue of seed-funding for Junkanoo in Grand Bahama. It was pointed out that because the economy in Grand Bahama is struggling, trying to find funding and sponsorship for a Junkanoo parade is almost impossible. They’re hoping to get more funding from the government through seed funding.
“You need to give me something in writing for that proposal,” said Minister Bowleg. “Not that it can’t happen, but I have to have something concrete for when I go to Cabinet to tell them that I have to increase my Junkanoo budget in order for you to get some extra money. I have to sell that for you, but I need to have some bullet points.
“I can’t promise you that it can happen, but if it can happen, I assure you that it will. But send me that request as soon as possible to Mrs. Leary, and I can promise you that I will look at it.” It was also expressed that there is no fair assessment of groups from Grand Bahama when it comes to junkanoo groups representing The Bahamas on an international stage. Curry said he would like to see some junkanooers from
Grand Bahama have the ability to travel with a national group that travels abroad to perform.
In fact, the leaders in Grand Bahama would like to be able to perform on Bay Street so that the Junkanoo groups on the island can gain the respect of their peers in Nassau. Minister Bowleg agreed.
“Here’s an idea,” said Minister Bowleg. “You know we celebrate our 50th Independence anniversary next year and there have been some things in the pipeline for Junkanoo, so if it’s possible, I would like to see an all-star Junkanoo group come to Bay Street in Nassau at Christmas. Or maybe we have an Independence anniversary rush out and you guys can be a part of that.
“I believe that you guys should have an opportunity to rush on Bay Street. But I think we need to start at the base and that’s establishing yourselves in a committee. But I can pitch the idea of an all-star rush out. But you guys have my full support.”
Minister Bowleg pointed that this very issue is why he established a cultural commission, which by the way, is supposed to have five representatives from Grand Bahama who will represent the various aspects of culture.
“The reason it was established was to ensure that there is equal and fair opportunity for all in every aspect of culture,” said Minister Bowleg.
“When there is representation of The Bahamas, it should not be just individuals from Nassau; it should always be The Bahamas.
The Cultural Commission is there to ensure that when the country goes abroad to represent the country, there have to be people there from every island of The Bahamas and that includes Grand Bahama.”
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