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News : Bahamas Information Services Updates Last Updated: Jul 27, 2021 - 8:53:37 PM

Cultural stars align for Urban Renewal’s Cultural Icons Awards
By Matt Maura
Jul 27, 2021 - 3:45:24 PM

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Minister of Social Services and Urban Development the Hon. Frankie Campbell (front row, centre), with the honorees at the conclusion of the inaugural Urban Renewal Commission’s Independence Cultural Icons Awards Ceremony. (BIS Photo/Matt Maura)

Nassau, The Bahamas – The Urban Renewal Commission hosted its inaugural Independence Cultural Icon Awards Ceremony at Salem Union Baptist Church Hall, Taylor Street, as a key component of the Commission’s Independence anniversary celebrations.

Held under the theme: “Our Culture, Our Foundation” the Icon Awards were divided into National and Community categories and celebrated the cultural contributions/achievements of Bahamians at the national and community levels in the fields of the Arts, Music and Junkanoo.

(Entertainment for the evening was provided by the Urban Renewal Pop Band. Bahamian recording artist, entertainer, Lady E also gave a performance. The event adhered to all of the health and safety protocols established by the Ministry of Health to prevent the community spread of COVID-19.)

The honorees read like a Who’s Who list, and included “national” icons such as Percy “Vola” Francis (singer, songwriter, junkanoo legend and founder of the Junior Junkanoo Programme who is entering his 57th year as the Leader of the Shell Saxons Superstars), Isaiah Taylor (Leader of the internationally acclaimed, and Grammy Award-winning group Baha Men), Jamaal Rolle (nicknamed the Celebrity Artist for his life-like portraits of world celebrities including former United States President, Barak Obama, and television mogul Oprah Winfrey), Valdino “Dino” Higgs (proprietor of Dino’s Gourmet Conch Salad, Gambier Village), Martha Smith (Author, and President of The Bahamas Network of Rural Women Producers, an organization that aims to empower women through education, training and cultural exchanges), and Ronnie Armbrister (well-known and respected Bahamian singer, performer, entertainer, who has performed in key cities across the United States and Canada, in addition to the region).

Minister of Social Services an Urban Development, the Hon. Frankie A. Campbell, (second left) congratulates Miss Christina “Muffin” Fernander, an employee in the Secretariat of the National Commission for Persons with Disabilities, who was among the honorees at the Community Level during the Urban Renewal Commission’s inaugural Independence Cultural Icons Awards Ceremony. Miss Fernander is Chairperson of the One Family Junkanoo and Cultural Organization. Also pictured (at far left) is Ms. Phedra Rahming Permanent Secretary, Ministry of Social Services and Urban Development, and (at far right) Mrs. Desiree Clarke, Deputy Secretary, Secretariat, National Commission for Persons with Disabilities. (BIS Photo/Matt Maura)

The honorees at the urban community level, representing the ten Urban Renewal Centres in New Providence, were: Christina Fernander (Bain and Grants Town), Johnny Edward Lee (Centreville), Jane Collie (Englerston), Wayde “Pumpkin” Robinson (Free Town), Kenyon “Ancient Man” McDonald (Fort Charlotte), Philip Carey (Nassau Village), Gerald “Boy” Lotmore (St. Barnabas), Eric “Scrap” Knowles (Pinewood), Trevor Pratt (Fox Hill), and Arilee Glinton (Flamingo Gardens).

Minister of Social Services and Urban Development, the Hon. Frankie A. Campbell, applauded the Urban Renewal Commission for the undertaking, adding that the launch of the Cultural Icon Awards is just another way of Urban Renewal leading the way in the promotion of social development at the urban level by honouring the many Bahamians from those urban communities for their contributions to their communities, and by extension, the country.

(The Commission has also undertaken a series of events to honour such persons, including the naming of Computer Centres at the various Urban Renewal Centres in New Providence. The practice is expected to be expanded into the Family Islands.)  

“The ceremony lived up to its expectations,” Minister Campbell said. “It was dubbed the Cultural Icon Awards and it was representative of that because when you mention the names of some of our honorees at the regional and international levels, these are names that are recognized in those arenas. Jamal Rolle’s name, for example, is in the Vatican, it is in the White House of the United States of America, it is in palaces and fabulous mansions around the world because of the great work he would have done in completing portraits of some of the world’s most rich and famous persons. Then there is Dino Higgs, ‘Mr. Conch Salad’, persons travel to New Providence to enjoy his world-famous conch salad.

“What can we say about Ronnie Armbrister, about Percy “Vola” Francis who, in addition to all of his many other accomplishments, revolutionized junkanoo dance, junkanoo performance, with the ‘Vola Shuffle,’ and then, there are the Martha Smiths of our Bahamian communities, who was born and raised in Delectable Bay, Acklins; went to school at the Pompey Bay All-Age School, worked to earn herself a three-year scholarship to the University of the West Indies, authored a book (Bush Medicine in Bahamian Folk Tradition) portions of which have been used as comprehension passages in the BJC and GLAT Examinations.

 “They, along with our honorees at the community level, are indicative of the many heroes we have residing in our urban communities and so I am proud, as the humble Minister of Social Services and Urban Renewal, to have been a part of this event. We have much to be proud of; we have much to preserve; we have a whole lot that makes us who we are, but we must cherish it and so we have a responsibility to recognize it, to document it, to preserve it, to talk about it, so as to ensure that our children appreciate it so that they too will carry it around.

“It is said that ‘To whom much is given, much is required.’ It is required of us then, that we uphold, that we upkeep that which is Bahamian and continue to be proud. I congratulate each and every honoree this evening. It is my fervent prayer that God will grant you the strength to continue in your craft.”

Minister Campbell said the establishment of the URC’s Cultural Icon Awards is expected to have a “domino effect” on younger persons residing in the various urban communities.

“The domino effect for us will be that the presentation of these awards at the urban level will inspire our young people residing in these communities, and let them know that if they take a positive route, that their efforts will not be forgotten, that their efforts will not go unnoticed and so this is about recognizing persons who have contributed in order to inspire others who may be contemplating contributing to their urban community in a positive way, to go ahead and do so because of their talent,” Minister Campbell added.

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