April 03, 2012
Edmund Moxey's contribution to the social, cultural, economic and political advancement of Bahamians found magnificent expression in Jumbey Village. The new documentary on the creation and destruction of Jumbey Village chronicles some of our post-independence history.
Some of the dreams of Ed Moxey became manifest. Still, many of his dreams were deferred, like a raisin in the sun, calling to mind the memorable poem by Langston Hughes. In his book-length poem suite, "Montage of a Dream Deferred", Hughes asks, What happens to a dream deferred?
"Does it dry up like a raisin in the sun?
Or fester like a sore- And then run?
Does it stink like rotten meat?
Or crust and sugar over- like a syrupy sweet?
Maybe it just sags like a heavy load.
Or does it explode?"
Many of the progressive dreams of Edmund Moxey and others were interwoven with the struggle for majority rule and became synonymous with the early Progressive Liberal Party (PLP). It is telling, therefore, that the majority of those elected in 1967 as a part of the first PLP government eventually left the party, including Ed Moxey.
Over the years other progressives left, including Dr. B. J. Nottage who later returned to the PLP, and Hubert Ingraham who did not. The PLP today is a shadow of its progressive roots. Its core leadership is non-progressive and reactionary, constantly stymieing the progressives in the party.
The National Committee for Positive Action (NCPA) was formalized in 1959 as a pressure group within the PLP to bolster the party's progressive agenda and the struggle for majority rule. The NCPA proved successful in its efforts, playing a pivotal role in the electoral success of the PLP.
Yet, the group's ambitions were greater than winning an election. With the majority secured they intended to transform life for the mass of Bahamians. Some of their ideals were secured by the PLP, such as independence, the creation of various national institutions and early strides in areas such as education.
Still, many of the progressives in the PLP, including much of the core of the NCPA, became quickly disillusioned by the cult of personality emerging around Sir Lynden Pindling, which was antithetical to their vision of collegiality. The progressives were also troubled over the foot-dragging on urgent needs such as the urban redevelopment of Over-the-Hill.
Jumbey Village and other community projects were a part of Ed Moxey's dream for the economic, social and cultural self-empowerment of Bahamians. The physical demolition of Jumbey Village was emblematic of many other progressive dreams which were destroyed and denied by a once progressive PLP that lost its bearings and became enamored of power for its own sake.
It is one of those twists of history that some progressive movements which uproot the reigning oligarchy begin to mimic the very system they replace. The PLP began mimicking the culture of economic and political entitlement of the Old Guard. Today's PLP Black Knights are in some ways yesterday's Bay Street Boys. They constitute the new oligarchy.
The rump of the old UBP did join the nascent Free National Movement (FNM). But the core leadership of the FNM were among the more committed progressives and even so-called radicals who sacrificed much to bring about Majority Rule.
The departure of the Dissident Eight left the PLP less progressive, more reactionary, and engulfed by Sir Lynden's cult of personality. One prominent observer and politician remarked at the departure of the Dissident Eight that the party was losing its soul.
The brain trust of intellectually-gifted individuals who left the PLP included men with impeccable progressive credentials and commitment to the movement like Sir Cecil Wallace Whitfield, Warren Levarity, Sir Arthur Foulkes, Dr. Curtis McMillan and Carlton Francis. The haemorrhage continued with the culturally-inspired Edmund Moxey and peaked with the departure of Hubert Ingraham.
Over the course of its 25-year rule the PLP became stagnant in terms of its intellectual culture, policies and programs. The dream of the urban redevelopment of Over-the-Hill died. This included the innovative urban and infrastructural plans by Columbia University and others, as well as the urgent need to upgrade the sewerage system Over-the-Hill.
Much of today's urban plight and blight is the consequence of the failure to act by successive Pindling administrations. There were some efforts, but no real plan for transforming the urban landscape of traditional grassroots neighborhoods. When Sir Lynden left office after a quarter century there were residents Over-the-Hill still relying on outside toilets.
The Urban Renewal program of the Christie government included a number of good elements. Still, the program was a hodgepodge of ideas dating to the administrations of Sir Lynden and Mr. Ingraham. Mr. Christie's efforts were welcome. But they were neither groundbreaking nor truly transformative.
Perry Christie has not proven to be a progressive. Worse, he has demonstrated a reactionary worldview. He is an ardent supporter of the death penalty. In terms of economic policy Mr. Christie seems stuck in the past with an outdated mindset for economic development.
He advocated the large-scale anchor project concept of a by-gone era including the outrageous Mayaguana land giveaway. He agreed to give Baha Mar far more concessions than any Bahamian government should have countenanced.
Mr. Christie successfully campaigned to defeat the proposed constitutional amendment to secure equality for women in terms of automatically passing on a certain right of citizenship. Yet when he had a chance to make this right he did not reach for a legacy.
And he failed to introduce National Health Insurance. It would have been a landmark accomplishment for him and the progressive movement. Though Mr. Christie once served as minister of health, it was an Ingraham administration that significantly advanced access to free pre- and post-natal care for pregnant women.
Nor did Mr. Christie advance any major infrastructural projects Over-the-Hill. Following the recent massive water works a lower income senior citizen in her 70s remarked favorably about the clear water gushing out of her pipes. She has lived in Grants Town her entire life and has always voted PLP.
She never thought she would live to see the day when she would get that kind of water pressure and clean water in Grants Town.
She is thankful to the government. But she will never vote for the FNM. Better said, she will never vote against the PLP.
The pull is visceral, almost religious in nature. It combines the iconography of Sir Lynden as Moses and the theme of liberation from Exodus in the Hebrew Scriptures.
For some, the idea of voting against the PLP is a betrayal of their self-identification as a black Bahamian. This individual and social psychology is not only a Bahamian phenomenon.
It is a mindset that behavioral and social psychologists as well as political scientists and sociologists have studied in many cultures. It often involves a cycle of dependency and strong identification by some with a strongman leader, powerful organization or power structure.
In failing to transform Over-the-Hill during its 25 years in office, the PLP in significant ways betrayed many of its core grassroots supporters. It is an observable fact that both Sir Lynden and Perry Christie failed to significantly improve conditions in South Andros, and Centreville and Farm Road respectively over the many years they represented these constituencies.
This, despite serving in government for decades, and as prime minister. It is in marked contrast to the work Prime Minister Ingraham has done to dramatically upgrade the public amenities and services throughout Abaco.
Though the PLP created important national institutions, it generally failed to do likewise when it came to national cultural institutions. In the post-independence period when Bahamians were forming a greater sense of national and cultural identity, important cultural institutions were absent.
Such centers of critical consciousness and cultural expression are necessary for nation-building. Their absence during that formative period helped to retard our national development.
It was not until the FNM came to office that core institutions such as the National Art Gallery, the Antiquities, Monuments and Museum Corporation, the National Museum, and the Centre for Performing Arts were launched. There is much work to be done to advance the missions and the reach of these institutions. But they represent impressive strides.
So too are ideas recently advanced by Mr. Ingraham including a heritage tourism initiative, a public arts project, a parks and recreation authority and an oral history project, 'Our Bahamian Stories'.
These all contain elements of Edmund Moxey's dream. But his dream is bigger still. He understood early that a place like Jumbey Village could help us to raise our children and uplift the Bahamian people.
There is planned for Big Pond a regional park. Might the plans for that park include elements of the original concept for Jumbey Village? The best way to honor Edmund Moxey is not solely in tributes. The better way would be to revitalize and institutionalize his dreams.
Though the fruits of some of his dreams were destroyed, the seeds of his vision are still alive and can bear fruit. It is possible to transform a dream deferred into realized hopes. But it is too bad that we had to wait for so much to explode around us before we remembered the vitality and the urgency of the dreams of patriots like Ed Moxey.
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