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Bahamas Ambassador discusses impact of US civil rights movement
  
Friday, 26 February 2010 13:31

Bahamas Ambassador to the United States Cornelius A Smith talks with an audience member following his talk on how the US civil rights movement impacted The Bahamas. The Ambassador from St Kitts and Nevis, Izben Williams, joined Ambassador Smith on the panel.WASHINGTON, DC -- Bahamas Ambassador to the United States CA Smith led a panel discussion on “The Global Impact of the US Civil Rights Movement” at the University of the District of Columbia (UDC), Wednesday, February 24, 2010, as part of UDC’s celebration of Black History Month. 

During his opening statement, Ambassador Smith said The Bahamas’ journey to internal self-rule was not undertaken in isolation, but linked to a larger process of political modernization and change.  

“In fact,” he said, “that change was largely informed by the responses of Bahamians to the decolonization movement in Asia, Africa, and the Americas and the related struggle by Black Americans for civil rights.” 

“Most significantly, the decision by Martin Luther King Jr. to shun violence found an echo in The Bahamas. Dr King propounded a non-violent revolution; in The Bahamas, the answer was what we call “the Quiet Revolution.” 

Joined on the panel by Ambassador of St Kitts and Nevis Izben Williams and Paul Nehru Tennassee of the UDC Office of International Programs and Exchanges, Ambassador Smith pointed out that the location of The Bahamas so near to the US made it almost natural that “the sea change taking place just next door would be studied closely, and would have some influence.” 

The Ambassador stressed, though, that just as the US Civil Rights movement influenced The Bahamas and the Caribbean, that movement was itself heavily influenced by The Bahamas and the Caribbean. 

“As we examine that unique confluence of time, place and personalities that led to Bahamian self-rule and independence – which is what we mean when we say the Quiet Revolution – we see clearly the effect of the US civil rights movement on The Bahamas. And in fact, the two movements are indelibly linked,” he said. 

“As Bahamian anthropologist, writer and College of The Bahamas professor Dr Nicolette Bethel points out, in many cases The Bahamas has influenced the US movement; African-American intellectuals like James Weldon Johnson and W E B DuBois have roots in The Bahamas; a Bahamian minister, Dr J Robert Love, inspired Marcus Garvey, and a Bahamian, Joshua Cockburn, captained one of Garvey’s Black Star Cruise Line ships. 

During his remarks, Ambassador Williams of St Kitts and Nevis expanded on this point, and said the influence of the Caribbean on the US Civil Rights movement was greater than the influence of the US movement on the Caribbean. In fact, he asserted that many of the “movers and shakers” in the US movement had strong ties to the Caribbean, where he said there was “an inbred propensity for resistance, expressed in various ways.” 

Faculty and students of the University of the District of Columbia attended the panel discussion, an institution where at least 15 per cent of the students are international. 

 

Photo: Bahamas Ambassador to the United States Cornelius A Smith talks with an audience member following his talk on how the US civil rights movement impacted The Bahamas. The Ambassador from St Kitts and Nevis, Izben Williams, joined Ambassador Smith on the panel.
 
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