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Arts & Culture Last Updated: Feb 6, 2017 - 2:32:04 PM

Bahamas Represents at the March on Washington 50th Anniversary
By Antonio Saunders
Sep 6, 2013 - 2:25:18 PM

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Junkanoo Commandos on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial Photo: Antonio Saunders

The White House grounds came alive last week, when the Junkanoo Commandos visited Washington DC for the 50th anniversary of the March on Washington and Dr. Martin Luther King’s “I Have A Dream” speech.  

Bahamian culture was in full display with elaborate costumes, parading, and of course, the sound of goat skin drums and cowbells reverberating through the walls of the Lincoln Memorial.  

Angelique McKay, Junkanoo Commandos project manager and group leader, along with Trelion Stuart, lead builder, rallied their team to rise to such an auspicious occasion, despite the fact that they had just returned from a power-packed performance at the popular CARIBFEST in Virginia.  

“It was an out of this world feeling, having seen the Lincoln Memorial in movies and in the news “hundreds of times,” said Coddy Cash, JC member.  “Being here in person, it was truly larger than life, and knowing that history was made here 50 years ago, as a young black person I felt proud to be a part of this historic occasion.”  

Rehearsing the day before the big event, Photo: Antonio Saunders

Not only did the visit to Washington DC awaken new inspiration for the group, it also allowed them to bond even more deeply.  They all realized the magnitude of the event, its historic significance, and “the amount of work that has been done and still needs to be done to make all men equal”.

The group got several invitations for future performances while in Washington based on its dynamic performance.  Junkanoo has an electric effect on people, and according to McKay, it is the perfect icon of Bahamian Culture, playing on all the senses.  

“The Junkanoo Commandos is not just a performance group,” she said.  “We conduct workshops and we do cultural and Junkanoo presentations around the world.  This is what we were formed to do and what we will continue to do because we all have that passion for sharing the culture of The Bahamas.  We are even more thrilled for the remainder of the 2013 and 2014 calendar year for The Junkanoo Commandos.”

When asked if the group had the opportunity to meet US President Barak Obama, member Chares Cooper laughed and replied:  “No, we did not, but I am sure that he watched every second of our four minute and thirty seconds performance.  We played a Junkanoo rendition of "Lift Every Voice and Sing”, then – “Bonefish”, “Man in Da Boat”, “Wade in The Water” and ended with Junkanoo."

Junkanoo Commandos with Forest Whitaker, Photo: Antonio Saunders

Member Khambrel Seymour said:  “Being there to represent The Bahamas made the performance even more special. I got a chance to show the world that Junkanoo is really the greatest show on earth. I was happy that as a young black man I was able to represent my country on the world stage.”

Dr. Martin Luther King’s “I Have A Dream” speech has resonated worldwide with young people as a chant of encouragement that we all should strive to achieve the goals we have set in life.  It’s the encouragement that drove Kenny Laing to do his best while performing his favorite art form in Washington.  He said he performed while being ever mindful that it is the Bahamian people that had the faith in him to propel him to represent his country internationally.

Being an ambassador of culture for the Bahamas is a part of the reason why Devia Wilson became a JC member.  “It feels wonderful to be in a position to represent the culture of my country,” she said.  “It gives me an opportunity to get close and personal with many persons who would normally just read about The Bahamas; but I get to give them a personal touch, a more intimate inside look into the culture of the Bahamas and they appreciate it.”

Laquint Levarity gives Hollywood actor and singer Tyrese a Bahamian flag, Photo: Antonio Saunders

For James Frazer, it was his time to be a part of world history.  “Being able to perform at that event was unbelievable!  We got to be a part of world history, an opportunity to continue to help in realizing the dream of a great leader like Dr. Martin Luther King.  We realized that only Americans were on that stage other than a group from a New Zealand church and us… Bahamians!”

Bahamian Prime Minister Perry Christie speaking on the steps of the White House, with the giant statue of Abraham Lincoln in the background., Photo: Antonio Saunders

Junkanoo Commandos with Jamie Fox, Photo: Antonio Saunders

In the holding tunnel at the bottom of the steps of the Lincoln Memorial, Photo: Antonio Saunders

Junkanoo Commandos with Isiah Thomas, Photo: Antonio Saunders

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