Bahamians on social media have propelled the story of the girl
who went to prom by ambulance to instant fame. However it seems now, the same
social media users, are lamenting the result of their activity since the story has
gained international exposure. Some claim it is a source of embarrassment
for them as Bahamian citizens, and for the country itself. It's interesting to see the same people who called for immediate action against the responsible
parties at Public Hospital Authority (PHA) completely ignore the role they played in putting this event on
the global stage.
When the story first broke on Facebook, many Bahamians let their
opinions be known, convinced, as usual, of their own rightness. The
overwhelming majority of commenters expressed concern about real emergencies
that could have occurred while an ambulance was being used for a prom entrance.
This concern led to the complete metamorphosis of ordinary Bahamians into
surrogates of rage for the loved ones of hypothetical people in need of an
ambulance during the time it was in use for the prom entrance.
Social media, outrage, and criticism have become entwined,
serving to shape the Bahamian experience. Power outages, resignations,
scandals, and prom season all send us running to our social media platforms of
choice. For many, Facebook is the mainstay, providing quick access to the
latest official and unofficial news stories, complete with the comments we
crave to make us laugh, seethe, argue, and share, share, share.
In The Bahamas, there is a repugnant disdain for young people. We
find it difficult to celebrate them, lift them, and give them opportunities to
express themselves. The idea that “children should be seen and not heard” is
still alive, ruling our behavior. We find it easy to ridicule our students as,
year after year, we read about the unsatisfactory national average. It is too
difficult it would seem, to examine the educational system, or to closely
evaluate curricula alongside the BGCSE examinations upon which we base this
national average. We don't like asking the tough questions. It’s
easier to believe young people are unmotivated and destined to be failures than
to recognize that the average is reflective of the system itself.
It appears as though the national average has given us license to
treat every young person we encounter as inferior. This was made clear in the
responses to the prom entrance by ambulance. It wasn’t long before name
calling ensued. Eventually, the question of the young woman’s
academic performance was raised. Assertions flew wildly as people insisted that
her GPA couldn’t possibly be very high. When it was noted that the young
woman was the Salutatorian of her class, people immediately assumed that she
just happened to be one of the higher performers in a class of
under-performers. For some reason, we find it difficult to give credit where it
is due, or to admit that our arguments have fallen flat.
Nations suffer from the dearth of ideas, and people to execute
them. People suffer from the inability to express their creativity.
Bahamian groups and pages on Facebook are populated by questions
and assertions concerning crime, youth, and the intersection of the two. It is
shocking that no connection has been made between the crime rate and youth
delinquency and the public attitude toward young people. We silence the voices
of our youth and stifle their creativity, then wonder what went wrong when they
take the wrong path. We ridicule and criticize them for deviating from the
norm, making minor mistakes, and not reaching undefined, ever-moving standards
we set for them. We don’t create a world that is easy for
young people to inhabit, navigate, or master. We expect them to conform, become
clones, and play the roles we’ve always played as cogs in a giant,
turning wheel that isn’t taking any of us anywhere.
We were introduced to a creative young woman with a love for
fairytales. We saw her create a stage for herself, reenacting a scene from one
of the most popular stories known to humankind, bringing it to life before the
eyes of all those present. It was immediately recognized as a play on Sleeping
Beauty. We witnessed her use of the resources available to her to make the
story fit the current day. We can imagine the reaction of the crowd, and even
reacted ourselves. It’s too bad that most of us missed the
merit in this performance, preferring to focus our intention on the misstep,
assign blame, and demand recompense.
The misuse of the ambulance became a dark cloud, hindering our
view of the skills a young Bahamian woman put on display for us. In those few
minutes, she was a storyteller, scriptwriter, casting director, wardrobe
specialist, actress, and producer. She showed her resourcefulness in accessing
the equipment she deemed appropriate for her entrance. She made an exceptional
prom entrance, stealing the show, and her ingenuity went largely unnoticed.
Instead of celebrating her creativity and encouraging her to continue to
express herself and share her ideas, we focused on the one thing that could
have been done better. Not only did we put the focus there, but many of us
assigned the blame to her - a young creative entering a new world - rather than
the people who should truly be held responsible. Which is the greater
How many high points do we miss because we’re busy focusing on
the low? How many students make it through twelve years of formal education
without a single person taking note of their talents? How many times have
teachers, guidance counsellors, and principals missed opportunities to engage
young people in meaningful activities instead of punishing them for small infractions? What would The Bahamas look like if students caught having
freestyle rap battles during class time were invited to write a new school song
or cheer, or invited to perform at the next assembly? What if students who tell
the most intricately woven lies were given the time and space to write stories?
What if it became as popular and Facebook-worthy to see the good and build
people up as it is to see the bad and tear people down? What if we started treating
young people like they truly are the future?
Maybe accomplishing these things could actually lead to a “Stronger
Bahamas” where Bahamian musicians could be the first choice for
headlining events we desperately want to pass off as Bahamian. Maybe then we
could fill local art galleries, film screenings, and theaters the way we fill
churches, bars, and prison. Maybe we’d have more time and space for
critical dialogue on issues of national importance. Maybe we’d
have happier, higher-performing youth in areas that include the arts and
continue to challenge the way we think about our resources, tangible and
Maybe that’s not what we want at all, because
criticism - particularly on social media - has become the national sport. It’s
one no one can truly excel in, but we can all believe we won.
Wallace is a Bahamian writer, blogger, and social and political commentator. She
holds a Bachelor of Commerce degree from St. Mary's University,
Halifax, NS. She is a women's rights activist, passionate about public
education, community engagement, and the empowerment of women and girls.
Alicia is the Director of Hollaback! Bahamas- part of a global movement to end street harassment - and Co-founder of the Coalition to End Gender-based Violence & Discrimination. She serves
as the Youth Ambassador for The Bahamas to End Sexual Violence, and is one of 60 recipients of the Queen's Young Leaders Award in 2015. Alicia lives in Nassau, Bahamas. Connect with her on Facebook.
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Bahamas ambulance prom entrance goes viral