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(New Columnist) Some Things Just Have to Be Said…
May 20, 2011 - 1:45:26 PM

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Joey Gaskins is a graduate of Ithaca College, Ithaca, NY with a BA in Politics. He is currently studying at the London School of Economics and Political Science (LSE) where he hopes to attain his MSc in Race, Ethnicity and Post-Colonial Studies and go on to pursue a Doctoral Degree.

The Bahamas Weekly is pleased to welcome our newest columnist, Joseph Gaskins:

It may be best to start with a little about me. My name is Joseph Gaskins Jr., but just about everyone calls me Joey. I was born in Freeport, Grand Bahama on February 6th, 1986. I am the progeny of Wilchcombe and Charlton lineage, and that coupled with my nationality as a Bahamian makes me very proud. As a measure of my parents’ hard work and dedication, I was schooled at Mary Star of the Sea and (the institution once known as) Freeport Anglican High School. I left for college in 2003 at 17 years old and I haven’t lived at home since, for reasons which I’m sure will make their way into my writing. I studied Politics at Ithaca College and I am close to finishing a Masters in Race, Ethnicity and Post-colonial studies at the London School of Economics and I’ve been accepted as a PhD student at the same university.

I’ve always conceived of my absence not so much as a journey away from home, but a journey toward a better home; a process of gathering—mostly tools and perhaps even answers. I don’t want to suggest that I have these answers (yet), but my journey has made me aware of two things and it is these two things that form the premise from which I write.

First, despite my lineage and place of birth I am not like other, “authentic” Bahamians and I don’t think I am alone in this. Amidst the traditionalist discourse of chauvinist nationalism and the lazy punditry of old men and their dusty ideas, beyond the regulations of Bahamian identity by the church, the parliament, schools and barroom, barbershop conversations, there are “new Bahamians” and new ways of being Bahamian that are revealing themselves. I invoke here Alain Locke’s seminal work, The New Negro, which was considered to be the definitive text of the Harlem Renaissance, and detailed the magnificent work of those who stepped out of the monotony of an ascribed “negro life” to aspire to something beyond it. I use “new” instead of “different” because I do not make this argument with an assumption that there is a standard from which the “new Bahamian” deviates. Rather, if there ever was a figure that was “purely” Bahamian—embodying an untainted Bahamian existence—he was likely a figment of the national imaginary, never existing but not exactly unreal, and in the face of globalization, now obsolete.

Second, I am acutely aware that my country is in desperate need of something, and I want to argue that it is not what’s being bandied about as the radical solution. To put it simply, we don’t need a new political party…we need a new politics and those two things are distinctly different. Our independence in 1973, while a momentous occasion, should have been an ongoing project. The story we tell is that after the mace went through Parliament’s window, the colonial hold on our country shattered with it. We were independent! The Bay Street boys high-tailed it out of here, and where we (and by we, I mean blacks) were once held at bay from the reins of power, they were ours now to determine our collective destiny. My apologies for the simplistic recounting of this history, but my point is that we only inverted the equation, we never changed the math.

Our country operates within the bounds of the same bureaucratic and governmental structures pre-dating our independence, with politicians relying on the same misdeeds perpetrated by their colonial predecessors to make their own fortunes. Our top two industries—tourism and banking—depend primarily on the patronage of Americans, Europeans and now the Chinese on both ends of the business model, and our “leaders” are so bereft of imagination they’ve yet to suggest an alternative. Meanwhile, these remnants of our colonial past, which we are told is but a faint history, have begun to unravel under the weight of new diversified forms of capital, late-modernity and the heterogeneous needs of the Bahamian people.

Understandably, this may seem a grim rendering of our current state, but I’ve never been one for telling fairytales. In fact, perhaps its best I provide fair warning about what you can expect from me going forward. I intend to challenge—as radically as possible—Bahamian business as usual. Some of the things I’ve written about thus far will be as new for you as they have been for me, but I think it’s time we expand the analysis of our post-colonial condition if we want to get to the crux of the matter. Personally, I am tired of the theatrical prayer breakfasts, the empty political rallies and the valueless partisan infighting of a few privileged men (and even less women) that amount to nothing but hot air in an empty room. The same Bahamians, and facsimiles of these same Bahamians, have been speaking for all Bahamians for the last 40 years almost. I won’t assume here that I’m speaking for all Bahamians, or even a significant fraction of them. It is quite possible that I’m speaking for just myself, but eventual someone is going to have to say something.

Joey Gaskins is a graduate of Ithaca College, Ithaca, NY with a BA in Politics. He is currently studying at the London School of Economics and Political Science (LSE) where he hopes to attain his MSc in Race, Ethnicity and Post-Colonial Studies and go on to pursue a Doctoral Degree. Joey also writes for the Nassau Liberal  www.nassauliberal. webs.com . You can reach him at j.gaskins@lse.ac.uk ]

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