What is the real hard history of majority rule day?

 P. Anthony
(For The Punch – 10 January 2013)
by P. Anthony White

Today, 10 January, just over eight months since the “new” Progressive Liberal Party again became the government of The Bahamas, all is not well as prime minister Perry Christie and his administration face some worrisome challenges, particularly with regard to the embarrassing fiasco at the National Insurance Board.

Today, 10 January, also marks the 46thanniversary of this date back in 1967, when the PLP first became the government, in coalition with Labour and an Independent, with the late Sir Lynden Pindling as premier.

That event ushered in majority rule in The Bahamas, and all modern Bahamian history and sociology take relevance and significance from that happening.

Indeed the late Sir Randol Fawkes and Sir Alvin Braynen were grudgingly though sweetly part and parcel of the revolution had to be recognised and acknowledged for their roles as independent accommodators of that historic people’s achievement.

Nineteen-sixty seven was a year of some marked movements and occurrences on several diverse fronts.

That was the year surgeons began experiencing problems with the new technology of heart transplants, and when a short war broke out between Arabs and Israelis, with Israel emerging as a regional power.

In this region Donald Sangsterwas Acting Prime Minister of Jamaica, and Vere Bird, Sr became premiere of Antigua.

In the movies in 1967, “In The Heat of The Night” was rated best picture and “Bonanza” was the most-watched television show.

In New York City, The White Boy was winding up his educational odyssey.

Yet in the region and around most of the free world, what had happened in the small British colony of The Bahamas caused a stir.

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Although independence was not to come until 1973, sections of the international press insisted on likening the outcome of the 1967 elections to those activities in African territories resulting in freedom from colonialism.

At home that perception was fine with many, many people, since it attracted international sympathy and rendered the local leaders of the revolution somewhat greater champions.

Indeed it must be admitted that both at home and abroad, the 1973 independence mood and celebrations paled by comparison to the drama and the hoo-ha on 10 January 1967.

The adoption of the musical them from the movie Exodus (“This land is mine, God gave this land to me”), coupled with the analogy of the new premier to Moses and the Biblical significance of The Tenth Day of the First Month (10 January) had conspired to render the PLP’s 1967 victory a matchless national wonder.

And indeed it was. Only a fool would balk at that reality. Only political paranoia would cause rejection of that momentous item of Bahamian history. Yet history is a continuously evolving affair. Like time, it marches on, and new developments, new technologies, and new human perspectives require wise men and nations to keep apace.

The sad alternative is to become stuck in time, to become a slave to an irrelevant time or period, and as a result to be rendered almost useless to the real, modern, today world.

Progressive from 1967 the PLP, as the government until 1992, much to the credit of the late prime minister Sir Lynden Pindling, moved with the times, letting in new light and technologies, and embracing many opportunities for advanced national development.

If there were shortcomings and negative commissions and omissions which led to the party’s defeat in the 1992 general elections, they stand beside the accomplishments like National Insurance and the College of The Bahamas, but can never in honesty erase them.

However, when that political wheel turned in another direction with that unforgettable election of 1992, which ended the quarter century rule by the PLP, a new political, historical and developmental era descended upon The Bahamas. A new culture and a new generation of modern Bahamians began to dominate The Bahamas.
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The country sensibly faced those new challenges with modern tools and new and modern political and developmental ideas. The clear indication was that under the new government of the Free National Movement and its leader Hubert Ingraham, the promise of a new culture would indeed become reality, even at the expense of the prime minister’s popularity inside his own FNM enclave.

Those Bahamians who were still unemployed, those citizens who safety was jeopardised by criminal elements, and those forward-looking local entrepreneurs seeking economic break-throughs all wanted to be presented with a new, modern set of plans for relief based on that refreshing new culture.

They all appreciated the historical and historic significance of what happened in The Bahamas in January of 1967, even, in the case of the youth, if they had only read about it or had been lectured on it.

Yet they understood well that their needs could not be met, their problems solved, or a bright future guaranteed by a nostalgic step backwards through the looking glass into the wonderful memorabilia of 1967.

When the Free National Movement captured the government in 1992, it was primarily because the Bahamian people were reacting to the difficult and dark realities of the time. Back in the late 1970s, for example,

The White Boy was forced to take the decision to relocate with his family to the Cayman Islands and then to the Seychelles, because politics had, deliberately or otherwise, prevented his economic progress in his hometown. But leave that there.

When the government changed in 1992 after 26 years of PLP rule, the voters had shelved the magnetic wonder of 1967, had stripped off the rose-coloured glasses, and had seen life fully and seen it whole.

When in 1992 the people voted overwhelmingly for the FNM, it was out of utter necessity and common sense, and not because anyone thought any less of the significance of 1967.

That was why, when another election came in 1997, it was difficult to understand why so many responsible figures in the then opposition PLP, led by Perry Christie who is the present prime minister, would have wanted again to attempt using the dram and the glory of 1997 as any pivotal part of any serious election campaign.

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Whilst there might indeed have been pockets of fairly senior citizens to whom the PLP which brought majority rule and the Square Deal and free high school education would have been considered a sacred cow never to be repudiated, that lot would have been a quaint minority.

Even today a majority of modern, intelligent PLPs are not sheepishly impressed with the 1967 razzmatazz. They are certainly proud of their PLP, and most probably will continue to vote or the PLP because they believe a new PLP order, especially that launched last year as a platform Charter for Governanceis still possible. However, they ought sensibly to leave the 1967 PLP on the historical shelf.

Political parties and movements and causes and personalities change. They change because the people and the communities they serve are ever evolving. Any political organisation or personality stuck in a time and mentality frame is doomed, like the ghost of Jacob Marley, forever to walk the night.

The Free National Movement which contested the general elections of 1972 and 1977 would not at all have been expected to have captured the polls in 1992, except that those Bahamians who voted FNM in 1992, and who became admirers and supporters of the party understood completely what had happened in 1972.

They had come to appreciate and applaud those original eight dissidents who had walked away from power and glory to found a political three which would not bear fruit for a full twenty years.

Indeed even now, when the PLP is the government, if they have not yet done so, the present leaders and frontliners of the ruling PLP could still learn a valuable lesson from a study of the FNM, why the party kept losing, and how and why the party won in 1992.

For four elections after the 1967 revolution which brought majority rule, a majority of Bahamians voted PLP because – coupled with the fact that they could see change and development taking place around them and they were politically trained to believe that the opposition FNM was the white man – the glowing spectre of 1967 was forever emblazoned before them.

That corporate vision was shattered in 1992, even though, in 2002 and again last year in 2012, the new PLP under leader Perry Christie was able to reach deep into the political consciences of old and new PLPs, and not doubt of others among the populace willing to go again with the party that brought majority rule.
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Today on the 46thanniversary of majority rule, it is almost vulgar to involve that singular glory in the mud and the mist of partisan politics. Rather, wreaths should be laid to the champions like Clarence Bain and Milo Butler and Uriah McPhee and Carlton Francis and Doris Johnson and remember how they always kept things in perspective.

Of course today’s new PLP and prime minister must lead the way in that new direction . . . for what it’s worth.


Farewell to PAW


A young P. Anthony, ready to take over the world in his debonair style.

P. Anthony White passed from this human world on the night of 26th November 2013. His family deeply mourns his passing and so we ask for your consideration as we take time to go through Dad’s works and update this site.

Thank you to everyone who ever visited PAW’s blog. We will be posting more and upgrading this website this year, so please feel free to keep visiting.

Visit the Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/pages/P-Anthony-White/164631210228066?fref=ts

The gay issue is right in our face. Let’s deal with it.

This past weekend a local website commenting on the current furore over the gay, lesbian and same-sex controversy sweeping the land, had this to say:

“All around us, the walls on this subject are collapsing and The Bahamas should not live in isolation removed from reality . . .  with the church teaching a code of no adultery, the births out of wedlock over seventy per cent, with murders out of control, violence against women at an epidemic proportion, we are to be condemned because some people want to have the right to equality and freedom for their lives.”

The point was extremely well-taken, and we wonder how many Bahamians – particularly those forever preaching against what they see as an erosion of freedom and assaults on democracy in this Bahamas, now almost forty years old.

Obliquely on the same subject, few weeks back Chief Justice Sir Michael Barnett, in addressing the National Judicial Council of the National Bar Association, included in his remarks a view on the issue of same sex marriages, noting that eventually The Bahamas will have to deal with that situation. This is what he said.

“I have no doubt that it is only a matter of time when the courts of The Bahamas will address the issue of same sex marriage. 
“I also have no doubt that in deciding the issue we will have respect for the decisions that emanate not only from Commonwealth countries like Canada and Australia, but also to the decision of the courts of the United States of America.”

Well, that comment by the chief justice in a community which has long looked at the gay issue with jaundiced eyes caused quite a stir in several areas, as Bahamians through the years have attempted to look the other or swiftly to change the subject when the issue of gays and lesbians arose.

Many perhaps felt the subject should not have been raised by someone in the high office of chief justice, particularly when he was addressing primarily an audience of American lawyers. Yet in Sir Michael’s defence, and as a matter of common sense, perhaps the time has come when the issue needs to be given official airing.

Not long after Sir Michael’s address a young Bahamian journalist now residing in Canada admitted that he has married a male lover and that because of this country’s strong aversion to gays, he will never return to The Bahamas.

A number of church leaders such as Anglican bishop Laish Boyd, pastor Cedric Moss and Bishop Simeon Hall have expressed varying views on the subject, and in the air there has also been suggestions for the issue of same sex marriages to be put officially to the Bahamian people in the form of a referendum question.

Every decade or so, especially on different governmental watches, there is a firestorm over this needlessly vexing issue of gays and lesbians, and of same sex marriages. Where will it all end?

Today a fairly liberal media in The Bahamas, including a somewhat militant army of private radio broadcasting stations which came into effect since 1993 – and don’t forget the so-called social media – both advocates and objectors are daily assured of wide and varied avenues for their views on the subject.

Yet freedom and democracy are streets – avenues, nay, superhighways – broad enough to accommodate all travellers, no matter their direction of motives, just as how, six or seven years ago, the objectors to the film“Brokeback Mountain” were assured an open and unencumbered lane in that highway, except, of course, in The Bahamas.

There are in existence laws of decency which cannot be breached with impunity, and most intelligent Bahamians know well what those laws are and strive to respect them.

We must be extremely careful how and what we censor or control in a society in which full and total measure of freedoms is still in pretty much an experimental stage, and indeed in which basic democracy yet awaits some fundamental Constitutional amendments.

Importantly, those of the intelligentsia and others who simply have a gut feeling for what is right and what is wrong must not, for fear of being mistakenly identified or of other reprisal fail to stand up and shout for right and condemn wrong.

We remember about three and a half decades ago when The White Boy wrote a stage play,“God and the Naked Nigger”, based on the story of Thomas Becket, Henry II’s Archbishop of Canterbury.

Staged at the Dundas Centre for the Performing Arts, the play was was produced by the University Players, directed by Fritz Stubbs, and which starred now attorney Anthony Delaney in the lead role.

Thomas Becket, before ordination to the priesthood and consecration as a bishop and enthronement as archbishop, had led a life of debauchery and profligacy, often in the company of his dear and trusted friend, his equal in debauchery, King Henry.

God and the Naked Nigger” zeroed in on that salacious aspect of Thomas Becket’s life, and the Plays and Films Control Board, then under the chairmanship of the late Archdeacon William Thompson, forbade the University Players to stage the production.

The objection was primarily because the young Becket was meant to be having sex onstage with a lady, a white lady, albeit ought of sight behind a sofa, because the play contained harsh language, and because the Board objected to the us of the word “Nigger” in the name of the play.

The official censorship came near to opening night, and the play, unchanged, went on, to a huge, applauding audience, and was staged again and again to delighted patrons, even whilst the cast, the author, the director, and the producers stood under threat of prosecution for disobeying the Plays and Films Control Board.

They were determined and unafraid Bahamians standing up firmly and defiantly and saying a resounding NO!

More than anything else, the patronage and enthusiasm of the vast audiences at “God and the Naked Nigger” demonstrated overwhelming endorsement of that defiance by the case, author, director, and producer, and the Control Board and the government fell into a thunderous silence.

Today the question of gays and lesbians, and of same-sex marriages, whilst it might well offend some areas of the church, is still a question of personal freedom, of choice, and as retired Archbishop Drexel Gomez preached long ago, one must be disposed to “hate the sin but love the sinner.”

The bottom line is that those in this community who are gays and lesbians, some of whom might desire same sex marriages, are Bahamians with fundamental constitutional rights, and are privileged to enjoy the same freedoms of the straight sisters and brothers.

The difficulty in this too-selective community and perhaps pother such pastoral communities is that the aiming of the guns of outrage are too often at pre-determined areas of society.

So in The Bahamas back in 2006 they banned a movie because it dealt in graphic detail with homosexuality. What they would have been the next step? What today is the next step, especially as the chief justice has indicated that the law must at some point deal; with the issue?

Will the population deal with this issue, as America was forced to do back in the late 1950s, go into the libraries and rip up volumes of Lady Chatterley’s Lover and Fanny Hill?

Will this society, led by the church, go through the Bible and excise the story of Onan spilling his seed upon the ground, or the whole scenario of Sodom and Gomorrah in which men were sleeping with men and the drunken Lot’s daughters were having their way with their father?

Will the society stand silently by, idly, unresisting as a puny congregation of paper saints take The Bahamas backwards, backwards, BACKWARDS to a time when a whole village had to gather around a crackling radio and only a handful could read and write?

On this issue of gays, lesbians and same-sex marriage, the quoted website noted, “the walls on this subject are collapsing and The Bahamas should not live in isolation removed from reality.”

The issue is with us in all its flambouyant reality. We can deal with it legally, sensibly, and effectively, or, alternately, we can simply pray . . . for what it’s worth.

The Shark Lady

As Regatta nears, memories of the Shark Lady abound
 by P. Anthony White
As the 60thrunning of the National Family Island Regatta nears, we recall in this space some interesting vignettes of former regattas in George Town, Exuma which today lend expansion to the merriment and the mystique of sloop racing which is today truly the national sport of The Bahamas.

In particular, much of that mystique surrounding the regatta has been the assortment of characters, visiting and local Exumians, who have played little and major roles in the growing popularity of the regatta.

We recall some time ago – perhaps in the late 1960s – when the late prime minister Sir Lynden Pindling attended what was then the Out Island Regatta in George Town, and ran into the late Gloria Patience, who was competing in one of the races, along with her traditional “crew” ex extremely attractive, scantily-clad ladies.

Sir Lynden greeted her warmly, asking, “how are you doing”, since Gloria was at the time well past the 60-year mark.

In response, Gloria stooped slightly, picked up the prime minister, and grinned in his face. “That’s how well I’m doing.” She said.

That was vintage Gloria Patience, “The Shark Lady”of The Ferry, Little Exuma who over the years led a charmed and matchless life, daring to do what others shunned, challenging most of the restrictions and limitations of orderly society, and, quite frankly, consistently doing her own thinglong, long before than expression became chic.

Gloria died in 1986, when she was 85 years old, and had she been yet been alive for this year’s regatta, Gloria Patience would have been 95. However, in terms of years of what over the years she brought to the Exuma table, she was unforgettable and irreplaceable.

Ah, it was truly a festive occasion when she turned 80 back in October of 1997, and the cream and the simple folk of Exuma came together in rambunctious co-minglement to celebrate the occasion.
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At that time, reminiscences abounded as person after person spoke of Gloria’s various escapades which often tentacled far beyond the borders of her home in The Ferry, and indeed far beyond Exuma and The Bahamas.

A few years before that, for example, when the United States took the position to remove the special detection balloon near the old airport ((which has been used to help in the interdiction of illegal drug smugglers) Gloria decided she had to do something.

She telephone the American ambassador in Nassau to complain about the impending removal, but apparently got little satisfaction, so she politely kissed him off, saying she would call Washington instead.

Gloria then proceeded to telephone the White House in Washington, saying that The Shark Lady wanted to speak with President Bill Clinton.

The President came on the line and she complained about the balloon removal, saying that it was of great assistance in keeping the druggies out of the area. The U.S. Chief apparently started gong into some winding explanations.

“That’s beside the point, Buckie Boy,” she was heard to say, then reminded the President that instead of spending billions in an elaborate space programme, the United States should spend the funds on solving problems right at home.

That was the daring, devil-may-care style of the feisty barefoot lady from The Ferry who in her diversified lifetime bore nine children, all of whom dutifully attended that celebration of her 80thbirthday, along with 23 grandchildren and 25 great grands.

Up to that time Gloria Patience hadn’t worn shoes on a regular basis for many, many years, and although elegantly bedecked in a long white dress with a high sequined waistline, he feet were still decorated simply with coloured beads which sparkled against the light as she danced with her son, Joey, who, understandably, thought the world of his most extraordinary mama.

She was born of Long Island parentage in The Ferry back in 1917, the year the United States entered World War I and the year Tsar Nicholas abdicated the Russian throne.

She migrated to Nassau and upon marriage became Gloria Lewless, giving birth to the proud nine. Her husband passed on, and she eventually met and married George Patience.
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Gloria moved back to The Ferry, and took a special interest in the sea. She used to fish for sharks, and sold the jaws and teeth to Americans who used them for chains, or to mount on mantleplaces.

That was how she came to be known as The Shark Lady.

But Gloria Patience was also known as The Barefoot Lady, and that’s quite a different story.

She began entering her boat, “The Barefoot Gal”, in the Out Island Regatta, mostly for the fun of it. Then in the early 1970s she would take on an all-girl crew of four or five Americans who came just for regatta.

The difficulty was that once the race in which she entered got underway, a number of the other entered boats inevitably seemed to lose direction and turned to follow the “Barefoot Gal”, which often seemed to be going in the opposite direction.

Apparently in the heat of the afternoon and way out yonder on the sea in Elizabeth Harbour, Gloria’s crew would divest themselves of the top half of their swimsuits.

Whilst the sailors tried to catch up with the “Barefoot Gal” for a closer look, dozens of spectators on the shore peered at the scintillating scene through binoculars quickly passed from hand to hand.

To Gloria, fully suited at the helm, it was sailing business as usual, and if some guys wanted to run off the course just to ogle, well . . .

At the birthday party, old timer Reggie Rolle, who had survived two wives and was not earnestly seeking a “youngish” bride, spoke of Gloria with a special kind of delicate warmth and tenderness reserved for people proud to be octogenarians.

With small bright eyes set deeply into his jet black face, he recounted occasions when he would be at sea “fishening” and would spot Gloria fighting with the sharks.

Back then the young Father Peter Scott, only recently installed in Exuma, spoke with traditional eloquence of Gloria, a member of his flock, and the retired Catholic priest, Father George, himself past 80 eulogised the Shark Lady in knowing terms.

Yet perhaps it was Elliot Lockhart, at the time the Member of Parliament for Exuma and who had known Gloria Patience all his life, summed her up most appropriately:
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“You are a woman of depth, a woman of character. We shall continue to honour you, to revere and respect you as an example to young women and men of Exuma. The family will never be the same without Gloria Patience.”

The late Howland Bottomley, “Mister Regatta”, who had at that time lived in Exuma for 41 years, spoke thus of Gloria:

“There is a hunger for where you come from,” meaning poetically that the woman in bare feet who was so excited by the sea, who spoke her mind with a lusty determination, and who really didn’t give a tinker’s damn if somebody disagreed with her, personified what real Bahamian womanhood should be all about.

Many years before that in El Toro Restaurant in Nassau after work, Pam Smith sat in a corner of the bar smoking and sipping rum and coke.

Those were times of hectic political intrigue, when the beautiful people of the world were in their hey-dey, and when The White Boy was fresh out of Manhattan with hefty afro, Lord & Taylor continentals, and filtered cigarette holder.

Gene Toote was there, as well as Napoleon McPhee and Box Weeks as Pam stressed her particular point.

“I appreciate a woman of strong convictions,” The White Boy said.

Pam laughed. “You should meet my mother,” she responded.

Pam was there at the birthday party as more than 300 people from five different countries sang Happy Birthday to her mother, the thoroughly delightful and unforgettable Gloria Patience.


Bill Cartwright: A last farewell to a nation’s hero

For more than four decades in The Bahamas, stretching back to 1968, successive governments have failed properly to recognise and pay tribute to nationals who have contributed significantly to the development first of the colony, and then of the Bahamian nation.

Back in June 1972 as the Progressive Liberal Party government had set out the terms of independence the following year, the government caused the House of Assembly to pass a Special Resolution honouring and acclaiming the late Sir Milo Butler as a National Hero.

Independence came on 10 July 1973, and on 1 August that year Milo Butler, having been knighted in the queen’s 1973 Birthday Honours, was sworn in as the first Bahamian governor-general.

All that was quite fitting, yet at the time there were yet alive three Bahamians whose early vision, defiance, and revolutionary spirit had initially set the stage for majority rule, and for independence.

They were Henry Milton Taylor, Cyril St. John Stevenson, and William Wilton Cartwright. The three had established the Progressive Liberal Party in September 1953, twenty years before independence.

All three, to one degree or another, had suffered deprivation and dispossession because of what they had dared to do blatantly in the face of the oligarchical regime then governing the colony, yet, quite frankly, successive new peoples’ governments had failed to go again to Parliament with a proposition of new Special Resolutions to designate the three as national heroes.

A new government of the Free National Movement came to office in 1992, serving until 2002, when the PLP again became the government for a single term. This was succeeded in 2007 by the FNM, which served until May of 2012, when the PLP again became the government.

By May of this year two of the three founders of the PLP – Sir Henry Taylor and Cyril Stevenson – had already passed on to another kind of glory, but the third founder, the final keeper of that original revolutionary flame, William Cartwright, was still barely alive, in a home for the aged, cared for, literally, by good Samaritans.

That was until one month following this year’s general elections. In a way, the chronicle of Bill Cartwright continues to be a sort of neverending story in The Bahamas, and perhaps rightfully it ought to be, all things considered.

Finally this past Monday we laid William Wilton Joseph Cartwright to rest in Sacred Heart Roman Catholic Cemetery on Shirley Street, following a two-hour funeral service at the Anglican Church of St. Gregory the Great on Carmichael Road.

Bill Cartwright, as noted, was one of the three founders of the Progressive Liberal Party. He passed away on 7 June, four months short of his 90th birthday.

The funeral, if one may be forgiven such a description of such a traditionally sad and mournful affair, was a splendid occasion upon which leading representatives of Church and State spoke of the departed social and political revolutionary in quite fitting terms, with family members and others in the church nodding in quiet acknowledgement.

Among those in attendance was the Roman Archbishop Patrick Pinder, no doubt in recognition of the fact that William Cartwright had for most of his life been a practising Roman Catholic.

 There were no tears shed.

Regardless of the disconsolate condition of his final years, when Bill Cartwright was forced to lean so heavily on the care and kindness of strangers, there was a diverse number of Bahamians who could relate to several stages of his life, either directly or else through tales told by their elders.

For example, one such was a fellow named Samuel Alexander Miller II, who was about 13 years younger than Bill Cartwright, but who was funeralised at Bethel Baptist Church on Meeting Street on Saturday 16 June this year, two days before Bill.

They used to call him “Bodyguard”, and he hailed originally from Knowles, Cat Island. In his final years he resided in a building at the corner of West and South Streets, opposite the gas station.

Even when Bodyguard’s health began to fail, he would sit inside the door of the residence, watching the world pass by unless and until some friend stopped by to say hello and spend some caring, quality time with him.

Each day a few years back he used to make his way slowly down West Street to sit and chat with regulars at the Bethel-Robertson bar near to Meadow’s Street, and often he would move across the street under the fig tree where he sat on a bench or box and impart pearls of wisdom to the eager, thirsty souls who desired to know, such as The White Boy.

Bodyguard delighted especially in relating old time stories of Cat Island, and we vividly remember his versions of some of the things that happened back in 1949 when Bill Cartwright was making his first bid to become an elected Member if the House of Assembly for that district.

That was about four years before the establishment of the PLP, and Cartwright was at the time an enterprising relatively young Bahamian in the real estate business, with an office on Bay Street.

Bodyguard told of how Cartwright had gone ahead as an independent and nominated to run for one of the two Cat Island seats. At that time Cat Island was pretty much a political stronghold of the powerful Harold G. Christie, but apparently that did not faze Bill Cartwright.

On the last night of his campaign, Bill Cartwright took along his old friend, Dr. Claudius Roland Walker, who was one of the candidates for the Southern District of New Providence, and who was considered a man of great persuasion on the campaign trail.

Cartwright especially wanted Dr. Walker to help him convince the patriarch of The Bight settlement, Sammie Swain, that for the first time he should consider voting for a black man.

Cat Island was a two-man constituency, and Dr. Walker appealed to Sammie Swain to try at least to convince the people to split their votes. Later Bill Cartwright was to tell of how greatly impressed he was with the powerful argument advanced by Dr. Walker, who had already won his New Providence seat.

The Cat Island candidate then put to Swain the plain question concerning the way the patriarch would vote the following day, and persuade others to vote.

Sammie Swain, after thinking deeply, informed Bill Cartwright that he, Swain, was fond of both Bill Cartwright and Harold Christie, so what he planned to do was to vote for Christie, and pray for Cartwright.

Both Christie and Cartwright won the Cat Island seats, and four years later he went on, with Taylor and Stevenson, to establish the PLP. In 1972, the bulk of the political movers and shakers in the new Free National Movement had actually been at the heart of the PLP before disenchantment had set in.

In fact at the outset, the original members of the Free PLP used to boast that they were indeed the “keepers of the dream” – the dream of freedom and social and political development initially advanced back in September 1953 when Bill Cartwright and two other Bahamian visionaries look that quantum political leap.

Now Bill Cartwright is gone, but his and how two valiant founders of the PLP will be a neverending story in the modern Bahamas, and beyond . . . for what it’s worth.

In today’s Bahamas, who truly deserves a happy Father’s Day?

This week, five and a half months into the year 2012, The Bahamas recorded its 66th murder, that record outdistancing any in any year thus far in modern history.

A few of the murder victims were women, but by far they were men, a good number of them “known to police” as persons with criminal backgrounds, some of them mowed down by criminal opponents.

Some of the male murder victims were fathers, young and middle aged, which means there exists children, perhaps hundreds of them, who will grow up fatherless, as thousands of others through the years before have been forced to do.

But that is the way it is, and the mournful way it will continue to be through the end of this year, and beyond, save for dramatic social or moral reform, or, of course, divine intervention.

This Sunday The Bahamas, along with most of the western world, will observe Father’s Day, an idea born in Spokane, Washington just over a century ago, and made official in 1972 by former U.S. President Richard Nixon, who declared that the third Sunday in June each year should be set aside in tribute to fathers.

In that declaration Nixon explained that the Father’s Day observance ought to be “in honour of all good fathers that contribute as much to the family as a mother, in their own way.”

For many years that American tradition of Father’s Day has been followed by countries all over the world, including The Bahamas which cannot truly boast of any superabundance of good fathers that contribute as much to the family as a mother, in their own ways.

This Sunday across the bothered Bahamian landscape, in churches and at lavish lunches, thousands of Bahamians will fete fathers, good, bad, indifferent, gone missing, or simply, as the late Archdeacon William Thompson used to describe them, “worthless and good-for-nothing”.

Yet over time this country has had its share of caring fathers who tried their best, but who far too often find themselves, as they grow nearer the grave, neglected by offspring who know, but who simply do not give a tinker’s damn.

Far too many once caring fathers are left to lean heavily on the Christian charity of strangers.

Not many blocks south of Mount Fitzwilliam down Blue Hill Road, where the Governor-General resides, there exists a graphic reflection of what we truly are in this nation of nearly 39 years.

At that somewhat famous crossroads Over-the-Hill, there exists an historic church stretching back before emancipation, and atop of which there is a concrete cross stretching high into the heavens, as if beseeching special intercession for God’s dispossessed.

That is the point of conjoinment with Grant’s Town and Bain Town where in the faces and in the lives of so many in the surrounding area there is on the ground the pained and wounded, a sad and sorrowful reflection of the real Bahamas.

Morning after morning there sit a tiny congregation of elderly, obviously indigent Bahamian men, now and then accompanied by who seems an equally depressed and disadvantaged old lady in need.

They sit on boxes,makeshift benches, and sometimes one or two perch with a kind of decrepit elegance in wheelchairs, seeking alms from the stream of motorists who must stop at the juncture waiting for the light to change from red to green.

Those waiting there at the corner, like others long before them sitting at the Bible’s Gate Beautiful are proud and no doubt prideful fathers and grandfathers and perhaps even great grandfathers who no doubt wonder what happened to human and familial gratitude.

We remember well how about five years back there was a funeral service for an elderly dear departed lady, and the young woman reading the Epistle or New Testament Lesson was so consumed with deep grief as she made her way through the scriptural passage.

The departed was the “grandmother” of the young lady, the quiet and almost fragile Sabria Armbrister, and the surrounding story was one of caring and concern which could have taught the Bahamian nation volumes about caring and concern, despite the indifference and neglect of blood relatives. 

Sabria was at the time not even 30, and for a long time back in the 1990s she used to grieve over the death of her own grandmother, finding herself often at the graveside in St. Joseph’s Cemetery, putting down flowers and reflecting with a lingering, relentless fondness.

There was no blood relationship between Sabria and the departed matron over whom she grieved with a kind of beautiful sadness at St. Agnes Church that Saturday afternoon, and therein existed a tale of compassion, amazingly exuding from a lovely young Bahamian with apparently little time for discos and the cataclysm of the fast lane.

Sabria had played a major role in what, in the late 1990s became the Grandmothers and Grandfathers Association up at the Geriatrics division of the Sandilands Rehabilitation Centre, where a good number of the elderly residents were in need of caring relatives.

In the programme, caring members of the community, like The White Boy, were prevailed upon to “adopt” a grandmother or grandfather, paying visits from time to time, remembering birthdays, and on occasion taking their “grandparent” for an outing.

It was a wonderful testimony of true caring and outreach, and strong bonds were formed between grandparent and “child”. As one of those “children”, The White Boy was at the time nearly 60.

Of course time would eventually overtake a grandparent, and death, the inevitable, had to be faced. That death came to Sabria’s grandmother, and the girl was completely distraught, so entirely connected she had become with the old lady.

Why is there today such a dearth of Bahamians who care so deeply for the elderly of the land, even when the elderly is a flesh-and-blood mother, father, grandmother, grandfather, or even an old aunt, uncle, or cousin?

Indeed why is there so little carting or compassion, like the gentle Sabria’s, simply for the withered old woman who years ago used to live down the street in the old neighbourhood?

Many, for whatever reason, do not find themselves ensconced up at the Geriatrics Hospital where at least there is orderly and efficient care, even if close, personal love is missing. Instead they fend for themselves in the outside world, often living alone, never quite knowing what the next day will bring.

Incredibly, the children and grandchildren of some of them, both up at Sandilands and in that outside world, are fairly prominent citizens of the community, some of them, well, economically comfortable. No one, except perhaps God, knows the whys and wherefores of their indifference and disregard.

What is indeed known in this community, however, is that there are far too many elderly folks sitting at crossroads, some who are blind led by children or other guides, as they make their way to regular and familiar places and people where there is a reasonable assurance of a hand-out.

And all this in a land where, despite the effects of the recession, there is often yet the boast of economic success and prosperity, where, it is said, there is a greater percentage of of landed, middle class, and wealthy blacks than there has ever been before.

Well, if truth be told, many of those sitting and waiting patiently at the crossroads daily are the forebears of some of that same fortunate ebony, wealthy, not a small number of whom find themselves present to prayers in church, raising their hands to heaven.

Yes, they raise their hands and their voices, but perhaps dare not raise their eyes, fearing they would eyeball God.

Yes, this Sunday the fathers of the land will be gaily feted and showered with praises and prayers and thanks, and that is well, especially for those who, as the stained Nixon put it, contribute as much to the family as mothers.

However, in the days and weeks following, there will continue to be at the various crossroads, corners, junctures, on porches and roadsides all over the modern and successful Bahamas, the elderly, forgotten, and dispossessed.

They, except for the love and caring of such as Sabria Armbrister and such as her revolutionary Grandparents Club would, in the words of Robert Frost, have, “nothing to look backward to with pride, and nothing to look forward to with hope.”

Nevertheless, a Happy Father’s Day to all, especially the worthy . . . for what it’s worth.

THE WHITE FILE How will the PLP treat its illustrious founding father?

Lord now lettest thou thy servant depart in peace, according to thy word,
\for mine eyes have seen Thy salvation.”

LUKE 2:29

A few weeks back in this space we wrote of William W. Cartwright as the only surviving member of a trio of gallant Bahamians who, back in 1953, founded the Progressive Liberal Party as a political organisation purposed and propelled by what at the time seemed an impossible dream.

That purpose was to leave no stone unturned in an arduous and ambitious mission to lead the struggle for social and economic justice and equality for all Bahamians.

For the past few years Mr. Cartwright had been residing and cared for at Good Samaritan Home in Yellow Elder Gardens, where, less than a month ago he had been paid a visit by Governor General Sir Arthur Foulkes, a journalist who was employed at the Nassau Daily Tribune at the time of the establishment of the PLP.

An astute Sir Arthur, who eventually became news editor at the Tribune. would have been thoroughly familiar with the revolutionary feat carried out by Bill Cartwright and the other two co-founders, the late Sir Henry Taylor and Cyril St. John Stevenson.

In fact before long Sir Arthur went on to become a member of the PLP.

At the time he co-founded the PLP, Bill Cartwright was an independent Member of the House of Assembly for Cat Island, having been elected in 1949, and served for a single term. In the 1956 elections, the PLP nominated Arthur Hanna and Samuel White, father of The White Boy.

Cartwright, Taylor and Stevenson, all mulattos, suffered greatly at the hand of Bay Street for having dared to spearhead an organisation of largely black Bahamians whose common and greatest enemy was Bay Street, but Cartwright, an enterprising realtor, probably fared better than the rest through his sheer tenacity for survival.

In fact in 1952, even before the birth of the PLP, he had founder the Bahamian Review, the Bahamas’ first monthly new magazine which flourished, again despite the deliberate efforts of Bay Street to withhold vital advertising.

In the meantime in 1954, recognising the party’s need for an effective communications medium, and no doubt pressed by Cyril Stevenson in that regard, Bill Cartwright furnished the funds for the purchase on The Herald, a weekly tabloid that had been established in 1937 by Jack Stanley Lowe.

The paper, edited by Cyril Stevenson who had resigned as a senior reporter for Bay Street’s Nassau Guardian, became the major mouthpiece for the Progressive Liberal Party, and was to remain that important communications medium for the party almost up to the critical 1967 general elections, by which time both Stevenson and Taylor had been edged out of the party.

Throughout the years, however, Bay Street in its determination to hold on to political supremacy in The Bahamas, was relentless in its machinations to maintain that control in the face of the swelling popularity of the PLP.

Eventually as the economic screws were tightened and for other pressing reasons, Bill Cartwright stepped back from the front line of PLP politics, and was for years to remain but an avid and fully understanding observer of the passing political scene he had been fundamental in changing.

In fact for a long time following the advent of majority rule when the PLP was the government of The Bahamas, Bill Cartwright, for his own very good reasons, preferred that he not be publicly identified as one of the founders of the PLP, and in that regard personally sought the cooperation of some local publishers.

For years Bill Cartwright sought in one way or another to continue in the publishing field, and as late as 2001 had grandiose plans to publish a comprehensive book, Builders of The Bahamas, in which he intended to capture vignettes of the lives of dozens of Bahamians who had figured with some prominence in the process of making The Bahamas what it is today.

On that ambitious project he had solicited the partnership and assistance of The White Boy, who marvelled, quietly, that Bill Cartwright had not included himself in that list of builders, despite the fact that he had been one of three architects of the modern Bahamas.

On that publishing mission just over a decade ago, Bill Cartwright could be observed walking about town, primarily in the Palmdale, Village Road, and Shirley Street areas, with a knapsack containing the elements of his dreams, offering a cherry “morning” or “afternoon” to friend and stranger alike.

In his time Bill Cartwright when he operated his real estate business on Bay Street downstairs the Psilinakis Building, was a fairly short, freckled-faced natty dresser with an infectious smile who in fact had his way with the ladies, having stepped down the aisle more than once.

He had fearlessly played his historic revolutionary role as a political reformer, setting the stage for others to grasp the baton and run with equal fearlessness to the finish line. Then he stepped back from that front line leaving it to successive generations to continue on that mission.

He did not stick around like a political anachronism, standing selfishly in the way of other, young Bahamians like Lynden Pindling and Cecil Wallace Whitfield and Orville Turnquest, overlapping their moments in time, and in stepping back as he did he was providing an example for others who stubbornly hang on when time is clearly up.

Bill Cartwright passed away last week at the age of 89, three and a half weeks after the Progressive Liberal Party had gained its eighth general election victory in The Bahamas. In all the years since he had dropped out of the political limelight, this is what he said with regard to the PLP’s May 7th win:

“Now I can go. I can leave now. I wanted to make sure the PLP won the election.”

It was, in modern political poetry, a sentiment taken almost straight out of St. Luke’s biblical account of the occasion upon when the young Jesus was brought to the aging Simeon for a blessing. The old man held up the child and uttered, “Lord, now lettest Thy servant depart in peace, for mine eyes have seen Thy salvation which Thou has set before all people; a light to lighten the gentiles . . . ”

Opposition deputy leader Loretta Butler-Turner noted in Parliament last week that “We are where we are today as a nation in terms of our democratic heritage in no small measure because of William Cartwright. . . He is in his own right a founder of the modern Bahamas. We owe him a deep debt of gratitude.”

Also in Parliament prime minister Perry Christie, describing Bill Cartwright, said: “He was always at pains to play down the historical role he had played in laying the foundations for party politics in The Bahamas. Although he personally suffered a great deal for that, and for his courageous battle against the racial and economic injustices of his day . . . he was a man of enormous goodwill, and a spirit of reconciliation was deeply embedded in his character.”

Mr. Christie announced that the government will accord Bill Cartwright a state-recognised funeral, which means essentially that the government will through the cabinet office provide the printed funeral programmes and the necessary protocol arrangements at the church, perhaps with such other assistance as police escorts.

Yet a state recognised funeral means also that the family of the deceased must bear the essential costs of the funeral. It is widely believed that Bill Cartwright was far from a wealthy man.

The nation will wait to see whether in the circumstances the Progressive Liberal Party steps up to the plate and bear the expenses of the burial of the party’s final illustrious founding father.