In 1965, an African-American playwright by the name of Douglas Turner Ward wrote a play he called Day of Absence, which told the story of a small town — any small town — in the Deep South in which the white inhabitants discover on a particular day that all the black people have disappeared.
When this fact becomes general knowledge, the establishment comes to the brink of chaos. Without its black labor force, the town is paralyzed because of its dependence on this sector of the community.
Part of the reason I agreed to take the job of Director of Cultural Affairs, and much of the reason I left, was that, in many ways like African-Americans in the 1960s USA (and black Bahamians, and people of African heritage the world over), cultural workers in The Bahamas — artists, musicians, writers, actors, directors, dancers, designers, craftworkers, you name it — are marginalized, disrespected, and taken for granted in our nation.
Thirty-six years after independence and forty-one years after majority rule, creative workers in our country are unable to find work in the areas in which God has gifted them. There are virtually no avenues in The Bahamas to enable creative people to develop and hone their talents, or to enable them to make use of them when they are developed. Our greatest brain drain is arguably in the area of the arts; like Sidney Poitier over sixty years ago, Bahamians who want to exercise their talents in the cultural industries are faced with the choice of pursuing their callings as hobbies at home, or of leaving home to make a living by their gifts elsewhere. And we are all the poorer for it.
That we appear to be unaware of the absurdity of this state of affairs in a nation which welcomes several millions of tourists to our shores annually is indicative, to my mind, of our abject conviction as a people that Bahamians, and particularly Bahamians of colour, are congenitally unable to produce, behave, or perform at any level that could possibly be considered world-class, and that it is a waste of time, money and effort to believe anything else.