My father has been dead for twenty-one years. Is there a day when I don't think about him? Probably not, as I sit in his chair and attempt to restore the work that he did in the heady early years of our life as an independent nation. Certainly not, when I survey the land that he worked hard to plant seeds in, to create Bahamian citizens who were proud and free and self-aware.During the heady years leading up to Independence, when people were waxing patriotic, my father wrote music. The most famous of his songs, of course, is "When the Road Seems Rough". But my favourite, I think, is the anthem "Praise". Here it is, being sung by the CARIFESTA Chorale in 2006 at the closing ceremonies of CARIFESTA X.So the reason I'm thinking about my father today lies in the words to that hymn:
Praise to God the Almighty Creator,We render thanks to you in humble prayer.Guide us as we make these fair isles our homeland,Keep us forever safe in thy care.We will establish, guard and cherishFreedom from tyranny, freedom from fearGreat God, Deliverer, we praise Thee, we thank Thee,Bless us, Thy servants, forevermore.
And the reason that they come to mind today is that more and more often we're hearing stories -- apocryphal perhaps, but perhaps true -- that, thirty-five years after my father wrote those words, Bahamians are not living free from tyranny or fear.I don't think it matters who the tyrants are. At the moment, they're faceless. Sometimes they're the agents of the state, as was the case with the Millar's Creek incident -- which we haven't heard anything officially about. Sometimes they're outlaws, as was the case with the men who shot the tourist on Cable Beach, or the people who spent time spraying the former Prime Minister's house with bullets.Sometimes they're the thought police, who want to stand between us and our words. There's a controversy going on in writing circles these days. It's specifically to do with the Wednesday night spoken word celebration Express Yaself; one of the regulars has been banned from attending, and has allegedly had her poetry turned over to the authorities by her parents. I don't know enough about that incident to follow it up. It was published in the Tribune last week, but as that paper doesn't publish online, I can't link the story for you. What I can do is link to the commentary that it provoked, or post that on this blog.At any rate. I don't know what more to say on this topic, given that I don't know enough. But let me say that this morning I woke up feeling as though there was a thick gummy layer of gelatine over my head -- something too thick and yielding to ever push through -- and I began to think about my father's song, "Praise".Let us all work towards creating a homeland in which we are free from tyranny and fear. If we don't, we will have no home at all.