National Heroes Day Observances – Remarks by Fred Mitchell

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National Heroes Day Observances 

Botanic Gardens 

12 October 2015

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This is  special honour for me to speak here this morning, having been a part of the genesis of the national lobbying effort and the eventual legislative passage that created this holiday in substitution for what was then called Discover Day. 

The time has come of this observance and ceremony to be adopted formally by the state so that it is properly inculcated into the national calendar.  We have to avoid just remembering that the day comes up at the last minute and scrambling around to put something in place. 

Nevertheless let me congratulate Rev Canon Sebastian Campbell, Freddie Munnings and all the members of the team who have once again put this together and are still holding the baton and preaching the good news of National Heroes Day. 

Canon Campbell will no doubt share with you his views and what we ought to be doing next but I would like to remind those here and the wider audience about some more general things. 

First this day came about by the lobbying effort which was started by myself and Loretta Butler Turner now MP for Long Island way back in 1989.  We were lobbying for a day to mark the life of her grandfather Milo Butler.  That morphed into two ideas: a holiday for 10th January to mark Majority Rule Day and a holiday to mark National Heroes Day.  National Heroes Day came on this day because we believed that we did not want to create another holiday and Discovery Day had become less relevant to the modern Bahamas and it was time for us to put our stamp upon the era by substituting one for the other. 

As the late Rex Nettleford, the late Jamaican intellectual, put it with regard to so called Discovery Day, 12th October was the day when the aboriginal inhabitants of The Bahamas came up to their usual beach and discovered some Europeans lost who did not know where they were and they helped them find their way. 

The Cultural Commission then headed by the Winston Saunders now deceased  urged the government to rename the holiday and instead rebrand 12 October  and for those who wanted to mark the so called discovery of the new old, the for them could be an encounter day and observances could  be held for those who wished to do so. 

For us though it is now National Heroes Day and I am glad that it is so renamed and rebranded. 

It is the day set aside to pay tribute to all those men and women who helped to create the Bahamian state as we know it. 

The Nobel Laureate Toni Morrison says that one of the privileges of power is to be able to name things.  We in this generation have been provided with the privilege of political power for the time being and so we have chosen to name this day National Heroes Day. 

We remember many of them: Sir Lynden Pindling, Sir Clifford Darling, Sir Henry Taylor, Sir Randal Fawkes, Arthur Hanna and Sir Arthur Foulkes. Dame Doris Johnson, Mary Ingraham, Albertha Isaacs and Georgiana Symonette.  It is a long list. 

I leave you with this story 

A Sunday School teacher at one of the churches in Fox Hill told me that she was discussing National Heroes Day and asked the children to name who was in their view a National Hero.  Answer Fred Mitchell. 

That caused me to smile because I don’t qualify but what it tells you is that who is a hero depends on your perspective.  In their world that is who they know.  In neighbourhoods all across the country, I am sure there are similar answers about people who have made a difference in their neighbourhoods. 

What I want the younger ones just behind us to understand is that we have a nation that is going to be handed on to them.  I urge you to be keen observers of the present processes.  I urge you to understand the uses of power.  Political power should be enabling .  It is important  when you have power to know how to use it, to use it and not hesitate to use it. 

It is important when the time comes to use it when the time comes.

Who does qualify today are the thousands of men and women throughout the country who are helping to recuse those who lost their homes and suffered during the most recent hurricane.  They are certainly the heroes of our country today. We remember them all today and pay tribute to all they are doing to rebuild the country and comfort those who have lost.

We bury Alexander Maillis in a few hours.  He served in the Senate and many people may not remember  but when the time came, a white man stood with the black men and women of the country.  He did the right thing. 

Or Gerald Cash who though a darling of the establishment, when the time came said no I do not agree with the majority that this resolution will do anything to stop racial discrimination in public places. 

I want the next generation to know  also of the limits of power. That you can be in power and not be able to do what you thought you could do. 

Today I find myself in the ironic position of power in powerful position, one my best friends is wrongly in a jail cell in a place where the Commissioner of Police complains that murderers are let out on bail but yet a lawful way cannot be found to release someone who is at no risk to the state.  That is an irony of being in  power. 

We are still building The Bahamas.  I was somewhat surprised when at a public service on the weekend, one of our public advocates said that because he perceived that  there had been a failure by public authorities to provide security, i. e. to stop  the crimes of murder, that he would volunteer to go to Britain and seek to return us to the status of a colony.  He said that if that failed if he would then go to the US and ask President Obama to make us the 51 st state. 

The irony of this is that Bermuda which is a colony of Great Britain has a had a  problem with gang murders which they could not solve.  Each day we are shown  killings at random throughout the United States which their president cannot  solve. 

Independence did not mean a panacea for all ills.  It meant simply we are the captains of our own fate, our own decision makers.  It lies to us to deepen our democracy and fight to make our land peaceful and strong.  It is a never ending battle. The answer will surely not be to go back to Egypt. 

Those National Heroes we salute today did their part.  It does not lie in our mouths to give up, give in and surrender. 

I thank you all very much indeed. 

God bless the Commonwealth Of The Bahamas