Ladies and gentlemen, distinguished guests, and fellow compatriots,
Good evening and a warm welcome to the 2nd Annual Bahamas Diaspora Summit Awards Gala Dinner!
Tonight, we gather here with hearts filled with pride and gratitude as we celebrate the theme of the night: “Working Together to Empower the Diaspora while Committed to Nation Building.”
It is an honour to be among such a remarkable group of individuals who exemplify the strength and resilience of the Bahamian diaspora, a community that continues to grow and make significant contributions to their adopted homelands.
Your achievements and commitment to embracing and promoting our Bahamian heritage and culture are a testament to the bond that unites us, regardless of geographical borders.
As we stand here tonight, we reflect on the journey that led us to this point. The Bahamas Diaspora Association was born out of the vision to harness the strength of our global community to support our beloved nation.
This gathering, a collaborative effort with the National Association of the Bahamas and the Curtis Foundation, holds special significance as we commemorate our 50th year of independence. It is a time to acknowledge the past, celebrate our present accomplishments, and look ahead to the bright future we are building together.
Tonight, we pay tribute to the extraordinary contributions of Bahamians from the Diaspora who have shown immense dedication to their local communities abroad. Your impact transcends borders and serves as an inspiration for all Bahamians to strive for excellence and to be global citizens making positive change.
We also take this opportunity to recognize and applaud those who have rallied to support The Bahamas during the challenging times, particularly during Hurricane Dorian. Your generosity, compassion, and unwavering spirit have reminded us that the Bahamian spirit knows no boundaries. It is through solidarity and unity that we emerge stronger, ready to face any obstacle that comes our way.
As we celebrate the history of the Bahamian diaspora, we cannot overlook the pioneers like Alexander Lightbourne and countless others who, in the late nineteenth century, set foot on the mainland USA and helped build the foundation for our community’s growth. Their determination and hard work laid the groundwork for the Bahamian presence in Florida and the Southern United States. Their legacy lives on through all of us, as we continue to forge new paths and create history in the places we now call home.
The story of Coconut Grove symbolizes the deep-rooted history of Bahamians living and working abroad. It serves as a reminder that we have a long tradition of making significant contributions wherever we find ourselves. Our ability to adapt, thrive, and preserve our cultural identity is what makes us truly unique.
Today our diaspora is a proud, adaptable, and ambitious group, made up of professional athletes, skilled actors, brilliant professors, and staunch activists. You are motivated individuals and communities broadcasting the rich cultural heritage of our islands.
As a relatively small, young nation, The Bahamas’s diaspora has achieved asymmetrical success at the international level. Sir Sidney Poitier, a son of both Florida and The Bahamas, is but one example of the heights to which Bahamians in the diaspora have soared. From a rural, illiterate boyhood, Sir Sidney became the first black actor, and first Bahamian, to win an academy award in 1963 for ‘Lilies of the Field’.
Our country can also boast that the first black mayor in Britain, Allan Glaisyer Minns, was a Bahamian, that the prominent US civil rights activist and leader of the NAACP James Weldon Johnson was a Floridian of Bahamian descent, and that countless Bahamians have gone on to excel in the NBA, MLB, and other sports leagues across North America and beyond.
Just this past week, in the ambit of athletics, Steven Gardiner produced a world-leading time in the 400m, clocking in at 43.74 seconds. Also shattering records in track is Florida resident and two-time Olympic 400m champion, our very own Shaunae Miller-Uibo.
There just seems to be a tendency, my friends, for Bahamians to excel on the world stage.
Let me say that I am proud of each and every one of my fellow countrymen and women, who have dared to chart a new path for themselves, in lands that see them as little more than a stranger. It is not easy to leave home, especially if you have only known the length of a small island.
And so, I encourage all members of the Bahamian diaspora to continue to pursue their passions with limitless spirit, strength, and stamina. Continue to break barriers, summit mountains, and sail to new horizons.
But never forget those subtropical isles, that West Indian archipelago, the favoured Bahamaland from which you came.
As members of the diaspora, you play a crucial, often untapped, role in nation-building. In living and working abroad, you have acquired novel expertise and innovative practices which can be shared, remotely or in-person, with your fellow Bahamians.
Beyond facilitating knowledge and skill transfer, the diaspora also serves as a powerful voice on the international stage, advocating for our interests and raising awareness of pressing issues. Your influence defies geographic boundaries, my friends. You possess a unique platform to lobby for positive change. Seize the day, and make a difference.
Acknowledging and harnessing the power of our diaspora is not an opportunity we can afford to waste. It is a decisive and urgent undertaking, one which can lead to enhanced development, progress, and prosperity for our Bahamas.
My brothers and sisters, we need your support. Your assistance will be key in our efforts to build a stronger, more sustainable Bahamas in the years to come.
And so, tonight, let us remember that though we have achieved great things over the past 50 years, our journey does not end here. Together, we hold the key to unlocking a future filled with prosperity, innovation, and mutual understanding. We must continue to bridge the gap between our homeland and the diaspora, fostering connections and collaborations that empower both sides. Our success as a nation relies on the collective efforts of every one of us, regardless of where we reside.
In closing, I invite you all to envision a future where the Bahamas diaspora and our nation stand hand in hand, united in purpose and driven by a shared commitment to progress. Let us work together, bound by the same dream of empowering our diaspora while building a stronger, more prosperous Bahamas.
Once again, I extend my heartfelt gratitude to each one of you for being a part of this grand celebration. Let us toast to the brilliance of the Bahamian spirit, both at home and abroad, as we embark on this journey of growth, development, and lasting friendship.
Thank you, and may this evening be filled with joy, camaraderie, and hope for a brighter tomorrow.