What patriotism is all about
Almost 34 years ago, newspapers across Britain told sensational stories of Prince Charles' visit to The Bahamas to enjoy the archipelago's last day as a British colony.
Prince Charles represented the current Queen of England at all of the major festivities of that day, which would symbolize the beginning of a nation's rebirth after over 300 years under British rule.
With its rebirth now an historical event, The Bahamas is no longer a new nation struggling to establish its own identity. Over the years, the country has built its own schools, churches and businesses, as well as a reputation as a promising place to be. As the anniversary of independence approaches, several Bahamians opened up on why they are proud to claim this nation as their own.
"I'm proud to be a Bahamian because we have all these opportunities that are available to us; we have choices, not like other parts of the world where you're restricted to certain areas," explained Michael LaRoda. "Right now we can choose to be anything we want to be and hopefully, for most Bahamians, that would be something positive."
While some Bahamians stay at home to take advantage of the variety of opportunities that exist, many are explorers at heart and their life-long journeys carry them all around the world. Yet wherever they travel, most Bahamians seem to find their way back home.
"It's the best country in the world. I've lived in several others and I wouldn't trade this for all the tea in China," said Joan Bowe, a proud Bahamian who has lived in both the United States and England.
Another reason many natives of the 700 islands and cays are bubbling with pride is the stability of their small country versus others that have fought for independence and, after their battles were won, their economies soon deteriorated.
"We have beautiful land, seas, oceans and everything. We're a better country, we're more stable than other countries in other parts of the world," said Bahamas resident, Kevin Parker.
Celebrations will take place all over the country on July 10 as the people of The Bahamas celebrate all things authentically Bahamian. For Grand Bahamians, the climax of Independence Day is the historical parade on Independence Park.
Over the past 30 years, the parade has been the ultimate symbol of patriotism and appreciation for residents of the Grand Bahama community. It features members of the Royal Bahamas Police Force, the Defence Force, Bahamas Customs and Immigration marching pro-udly after several weeks of preparation; it often closes with an extravagant display of fireworks.
"I'm very patriotic. I try to attend all the parades. I'm definitely going to go down to the Independence Parade." said former Defence Force Officer, Don Forbes.
Forbes emphasized that having viewed the parade as both a spectator and participant, he understands what all the fanfare and spectacle truly represents.
"Being a participant you really learn what patriotism is about. Basically it's doing it for love and duty to country," he explained. "I don't think spectators really know the importance of what we do because they just see it as people performing and a place to go; they don't understand that it's who we are and it represents what we are."
While hundreds of Bahamians can't wait to line up and enjoy the festivities, some are still unsure if they will attend or have simply created their own ways to celebrate.
"I want to spend it with my family; I might go to the parade," LaRoda said.
At midnight on July 10, 1973 the Union Jack flag was lowered for the last time at its locations in Nassau and the 22 other inhabited island. In its place now stands Bahamian flags of black, gold and aquamarine, symbolic of a nation all its own.
"I'm proud to be born in a fortunate place, a place where you have freedom of religion, good climate and opportunity," Forbes said proudly. "You have the freedom to be anything you want to be once you put your mind to it. It's the freedom!"