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September 05, 2007

Comments

Bob Knaus

Yes, governing a town need not be a thankless task, as this famous speech on "honest graft" by New York's Senator Plunkitt of Tammany Hall illustrates:
http://www.panarchy.org/plunkitt/graft.1905.html

But that was 1905. I think the politics of New York, and of the Bahamas, have matured considerably since then.

Haven't they?

C.Lowe

Hi Larry, the Comment by Bob Knaus is worthy of another, as the Hawksbill Creek agreement has a clause for the creation of
"a local authority" (clause 4)
Remember, being written in 1955, this far preceeds the actual creation of local government in the family islands, including Freeport in the prior FNM term, 1992-02. In fact is has been argued that the local government in Freeport as it exists is in contravention of the Hawksbill Creek Agreement.
Anyway, add that thought to the pot, and keep digging.

Donald M. McCartney

This is not a comment but an article that was presented at the Rotary Club of Freeport on 18 September.

Repairing the Breach in The Bahamas
By
Donald M. McCartney, MPA, MSc.Ed. (Hons.), B.A., T.C.
“….Mark, if you please, the fact, for it is a fact, an ominous fact, that at no time in the history of conflict between slavery and freedom in this country has the character of the negro as a man been made the subject of a fiercer and more serious discussion in all the avenues of debate than during the past and present year. Against him have been marshalled the whole artillery of science, philosophy, and history; we are not controlled by open foes, but we are assailed in the guise of sympathy and friendship and presented as objects of pity.”
Frederick Douglass

On 16 April 1889, while speaking on the occasion of the 27th anniversary of the abolition of slavery, Federick Douglass attempted to harness and clarify the defining questions that were of importance, at the time, with respect to Black men and boys.
As we celebrate the 200th anniversary of the abolition of slavery, the same questions, regarding Black men and boys, are being raised again.

These questions are being revived because many, too many Black men and boys are not a part of the economic structure or the body politic. Upon close examination, it becomes clear that many of them are not in community with their ethnic group.
For the most part, Black men and boys live in isolation, better yet, they are marginalized. They find it difficult to connect with society in general and the significant persons in their lives in particular.
The spiralling murder rate and other acts of violence (particularly against young men and the elderly), makes it clear, that many Black men and boys in The Bahamas, pose a serious and critical problem of interpersonal violence in every corridor and thoroughfare that Bahamians and residents must cross. Consequently, Black men and boys in the Bahamas are feared, demonized and vilified.

When Frederick Douglass spoke in the late 19th Century, he raised the following crucial and defining questions:
(1) How does one protect a group from public dissection as if it existed as a mere aberration in the society?
(2) How does one create for that group a group concept so that it is able to sustain itself as a self-respecting group within (the Bahamian) a society, which views it as an aberration?
The answers to these questions must be sought as we search for a way out of the morass in which we, as a people, find ourselves.
The answers to these questions must be found; so that we can save our Black men and boys.
The answers to these questions must be found; so that we can free those Black men and boys who have become slaves to violence and crime. We must come to the realization that, that which impacts Black men and boys impacts all Bahamians and those who reside among us.
The answers to these questions must be found as we continue to celebrate the 200th anniversary of the abolition of slavery.
Unless and until the answers to these questions are found, we will continue to be a people in a quandary.
There is a breach within the fabric of the Bahamian society, which has led to a breach in the lives of Black Bahamian males. A serious attempt must be made to repair this breach at all cost.
All Bahamians, who are concerned about the state of The Bahamas in general and the fate of the Black Bahamian male in particular, need to ponder, take to heart, and act upon Isaiah, chapter 58:9-12.
“Then you shall call and the Lord shall answer; you shall cry, and He will say, ‘Here I am.’ If you take away from the midst of you the yoke, the pointing of the finger, and speaking wickedness, If you pour yourself out for the hungry and satisfy the desire of the afflicted, then shall your light rise in darkness, and your gloom shall be as noon day. The Lord will continually guide you and satisfy your desire with good things. You shall be like a watered garden, like a spring of water whose waters fail not, and your ancient ruins shall be rebuilt. You shall raise up the foundations of many generations and you shall be called the repairer of the breach, the restorer of streets to dwell in.”

The message from Isaiah is powerful. It tells us that the only way to create a genuine community is to become repairers of the breach, restorers of safe streets in which to dwell.
Becoming repairers of the breach and restorers of the streets are the foundations for assisting Black men and boys who are in trouble to move from trouble, to engage their families and ultimately build solid citizens.
In this regard, ALL Bahamians must become repairers of the breach and restorers of the streets. Our future depends upon it! It is the imperative of now!
There must be a national response with respect to the issues confronting Black men and boys in The Bahamas. This is no time for throwing up our hands as a gesture of capitulation, (posing the useless question: “What is wrong with these young men?) and rolling our eyes. It is time for action…serious sustained, positive action!
Those who become engaged in this national response must be individuals who are prepared to make a difference in the issues of Black men and boys in their communities. To this end, The Bahamas must move towards the establishment of a National Task Force on the State of Black Men and Boys in The Bahamas.
The work of the National Task Force on the State of Black Men and Boys in The Bahamas should and must be a joint venture between the Government of The Bahamas and Corporate Bahamas.
The National Task Force on the State of Black Men and Boys in The Bahamas must be appointed post haste and without reference to political affiliation.
The National Task Force on the State of Black Men and Boys in The Bahamas must come from a broad spectrum of concerned citizens and residents from the public and private sectors.
While these persons should be qualified for the task at hand, the National Task Force on the State of Black Men and Boys in The Bahamas must be comprised of men, women and young persons who are committed to the task repairing the breach and restoring the streets.
The purpose of the National Task Force on the State of Black Men and Boys in The Bahamas will be to provide ideas that Government, organizations and individuals in The Bahamas can use to CHANGE the lives of Black men and boys, CHANGE communities, and by extension CHANGE the nation.
The primary aim will be to create a long-term structure of sustained intervention for Black men and boys who find themselves in trouble. The emphasis of the National Task Force on the State of Black Men and Boys in The Bahamas will be on systemic change that will bring together a multiplicity of ideas in an effort to reduce violence and crime, thus making The Bahamas’ social life whole again.

The National Task Force on the State of Black Men and Boys in The Bahamas must not shape itself around the issue of violence. Violence, in The Bahamas, has been painted with a broad brush because Black men and boys are looked upon as the face of the violence. This violence appears to have immobilized law abiding citizens into a state of panic and fear.
It must be understood by the National Task Force on the State of Black Men and Boys in The Bahamas that simplistic approaches and stereotypes are not the way forward in rendering assistance to men in general and boys in particular.

The National Task Force on the State of Black Men and Boys in The Bahamas must be mindful that there are other forms of violence that are the precursors of the violence that is perpetrated by some Black men and boys. Among these forms of violence are violence of the heart, violence of the tongue, political violence, religious violence and racial violence. These forms of violence have created in some of our Black men and boys the culture of violence that The Bahamas is experiencing today.

The National Task Force on the State of Black Men and Boys in The Bahamas must understand that violence is a symptom of a deeper and pervasive problem. The members of the National Task Force on the State of Black Men and Boys in The Bahamas must understand that finding a cure or attempting to cure violence does not of itself cure anything.
Even though the question goes far beyond Black men and boys, it is directly related to our young men in particular and their inability to participate and develop within the body politic and the economic structure of The Bahamas.

Mindful of these broad concerns, the National Task Force on the State of Black Men and Boys in The Bahamas must seek answers to the following questions.

First: How do we bring relief and assistance to communities and families that are experiencing the great hurt and harm of violent behaviour?

Secondly: How do we find a way to reestablish community and make inroads into violent behaviour, the major social problem of the day?

Thirdly: How do we expect to engage Black men and boys in constructive dialogue and participation within the Bahamian society while, at the same time, refurbishing the image that has now been unfairly placed upon the entire population of Black men and boys?

These men and boys suffer as a consequence of media and political short-sightedness, stereotyping and the actions of those who commit violent acts without regard for society.

The National Task Force on the State of Black Men and Boys in The Bahamas must endeavour to frame a public response to The Bahamas’ difficult policy issues regarding Black men and boys, while at the same time laying the groundwork for sustained approaches to put these issues to rest.
This could be accomplished by repairing the many breached relationships in our nation, communities and families. Members of the National Task Force on the State of Black Men and Boys in The Bahamas must acknowledge the fact that ALL of us have a role to play in the process of repairing the breach and restoring the streets. By this inclusiveness, Black men and boys will be restored to their rightful places in The Bahamas.

The National Task Force on the State of Black Men and Boys in The Bahamas must give consideration to THREE broad areas, which can assist in the transformation of The Bahamas, and by extension Black men and boys.

The first of these is the human condition and human development. Consideration of the human condition and human development will give clarity to the common good as a working principle and establish a connection with one human to another.
The idea of the human condition and human development embrace the concept of fair play, expanded opportunities and the necessity for each person to be able to contribute to development of The Bahamas.
Secondly, the ancient concept of polis states that members of a society have to honour their rights and responsibilities. One cannot have rights without responsibilities.

Thirdly, the concept of public works or the important contribution everyday people can make to the commonwealth, which is best exemplified (illustrated) by telling stories of common work, and celebrating our common life and heritage and our efforts in creating citizenship.

The concepts of the human condition and human development, polis and public works will provide the basic framework for the report of the National Task Force on the State of Black Men and Boys in The Bahamas.

The human condition and human development, polis and public work are the keys to strengthening families, restoring our streets to safety, and rebuilding civil societies in our communities. These concepts must be embraced by communities, expanded upon, and put into practice in order to create safe havens for our children, the elderly, Bahamians and residents generally.

The themes that should be detailed in the report of the National Task Force on the State of Black Men and Boys in The Bahamas should include polis, the common good, civic storytelling, grassroots civic leadership and restoring community institutions.

The concepts of the human condition and human development, polis and public work can be accomplished if civic, social, religious and professional organizations, as well as business, government and the philanthropic sector work together.

The National Task Force on the State of Black Men and Boys in The Bahamas should appeal to individuals and organizations to join in the effort to rescue The Bahamas and preserve it for ALL of its citizens and generations yet unborn.
The National Task Force on the State of Black Men and Boys in The Bahamas must see the need for wide ranging National Conversation and Dialogue if solutions are to be found.
As a part of this exercise, a National Conversation and Dialogue on Race, Ethnicity and Nationality must be a central part of the agenda. This is a major tool for assisting Black men and boys since public opinion is most vital when advocating change. Bahamians can engage each other by learning to talk to each other and finding common cause.
This Conversation and Dialogue should take place over a period of several years. These facilitated discussions will begin with the National Task Force on the State of Black Men and Boys in The Bahamas members talking to neighbours, friends, peers and others in their homes, town halls, schools, churches and workplaces.
Boys and men in trouble or headed toward trouble have to decide for themselves that they wish to change. After all you can take a horse to water, but you cannot make it drink.
Men and boys must assume personal responsibility and be held accountable for their actions. Parents must be prepared to parent so as to give young men a chance to succeed.

This is the light in which the National Task Force on the State of Black Men and Boys in The Bahamas ought to frame its recommendations and responses. It is anticipated that this new way of looking at how to bring violence under control, to be repairers of the breach and restorers of the streets, brings with it a spiritual, a practical, a pragmatic and political element. ALL of these elements must work together if we are to create a better society for these men and boys and their families as well as for ALL Bahamians.

In order to accomplish the goal of creating a better society for ALL stakeholders,
there must be an integrated plan of action. For example, the loss of a social centre in some neighbourhoods, settlements and cities requires that all civic, social, religious and cultural organizations act with a sense of urgency to plan from the local to the national levels, to study their individual areas jointly, to combine their efforts in programming, and to cooperate in long-range planning; so that damaged or lost infrastructure can be repaired or replaced. A coordinated approach to these activities will develop a sense of organized companionship toward the goal of restoring our social and economic future.

A general discussion of the goals, missions and aspirations of those affected will determine agenda building and planning. Our civic, social, religious, and cultural organizations must develop themselves into a working network. This would give impetus to a new National Dialogue, thus adding voices to existing organizations. This new dialogue will focus on the bridges that must be built based on study and a sense of community mission.

National Task Force on the State of Black Men and Boys in The Bahamas will have a life of eighteen (18) to twenty-four (24) months after which it will be expected to make its final report. There will be interim reports every six months.
The National Task Force on the State of Black Men and Boys in The Bahamas will be expected to make a number of recommendations in its interim and final reports. These reports will be designed to keep the Government and people of The Bahamas abreast of its findings.
The information gathering meetings, of the National Task Force on the State of Black Men and Boys in The Bahamas, will be open to the general public, while its deliberative meeting will be held in private.
The recommendations of the National Task Force on the State of Black Men and Boys in The Bahamas will form the core of a ten (10) to twenty (20) year plan which will enable the Government and Corporate Bahamas to begin to assess and ameliorate the problems faced by Black men and boys in The Bahamas.
Discussion, of the issues laid out in this presentation, will go a long way in introducing the concept of polis, a comprehensive idea with respect to values, manners, morals, and etiquette that are required for structuring public life on both the social and political levels.
These areas present a broader and tougher vision of community. The term community, as it is presently used, is indeed overused and has little meaning. It does not have the kind of force of intent that is now needed to rectify and restore our homes, communities and nation.
This concept, of repairing the breach and restoring the street, will give Black men and boys much more room to determine how they will participate actively in the social and political life of The Bahamas. They must not be alienated from a society that their parents, grandparents, and great grandparents helped to build and develop.
There is allowance made for a discussion about how one becomes a whole individual and citizen participating in the Bahamian society under the rubric of both polis and community, and the dependent social contract that polis implies.

In order to commence addressing the many issues facing and surrounding Black men and boys in The Bahamas in the 21st Century and beyond, public policy and activity must become aligned with the work of the repairers of the breach and restorers of the streets.

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