Its rich cultural history:
During my trip, I had the opportunity to visit the Educulture Center and learn about Junkanoo, a festival that takes place on December 26 and January 1 of each year. Junkanoo stretches back to the days of slavery and took place the day after Christmas, when slaves were allowed three days off from their duties. During that time, the enslaved Bahamians would dress up in shredded paper costumes and masks and dance in the streets to celebrate their humanity. Today, the celebration continues, only this time the outfits have become a lot more elaborate. (Sticking to tradition, they are still made of paper.)
While I was at the Educulture Center, I met the center’s founders Mrs. Arlene Nash Ferguson and her husband, who taught our group to play Junkanoo music. Fired up by their energy, we beat leather-skinned drums, feverishly rang cowbells, blew our whistles, and yelled, “Who we is? Junkanoo!” until we were all ready to hit the streets and march in the parade. When you visit the Bahamas definitely visit the Educulture Center and get in the spirit with the Fergusons.
Though the beaches are pristine and relaxing, the food is absolutely delicious, and the drinks are free flowing, what I loved most about the Bahamas were its people. Everyone I met, either on our various tours or just out and about, was warm and welcoming and open to showing a Yankee like me a good time.
One of the most pivotal moments of the trip was our People-to-People visit. The People-to-People program matches tourists with local Bahamians in order to give the tourists an inside glimpse at the real Bahamas. During our People-to-People visit we not only got treated to a magnificent home-cooked dinner (I mean, it was delish!), but I also got to learn about the current political climate, some of the concerns of the local Bahamians, what islands to see on my next visit, and how they really feel about living in paradise. During our exchange our gracious hosts made sure we had a wonderful time and our group of Bahamians was so diverse and varied that you couldn’t help but click with them.
Another treat during my visit was that I met the newly elected Prime Minister of the Bahamas Perry Christie while he was hanging out in the hotel bar. Unlike other heads of state who travel with overbearing security, Prime Minister Christie was simply watching the basketball game and was open and gracious when I was introduced. Being welcomed by the leader of the country was emblematic of my interactions with the local Bahamians — welcoming, gregarious, and very, very nice.
Although I had just a few days, my trip to the Bahamas changed me forever. I was able to see the country through the eyes of some of its people, not just from the deck of a cruise ship or the balcony of a hotel. Moreover, visiting a country where everyone from the president to the day laborers look like me made a huge impression and ignited the need to travel to other nations where black folks are the majority.
Between its culture, its natural beauty, and its exquisite cuisine, the Bahamas is the perfect spot for a quick trip or a longer excursion.