Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Bahamas Historical Society -- January Meetings

The Bahamas Historical Society has an exciting line-up of meetings and speakers for the new year. Please join us for the following presentations:

1. Thursday, January 15th, 2009 – Ward Minnis: “National Identity, Tourism and the Fergusons of Farm Road, 1970-74.”

When majority rule came to the Bahamas in 1967 the black population was in an exuberant mood. Despite their newfound pride though, blacks were still working to serve whites because of the country's economic dependence on the tourism industry. Reports of tourist harassment were soon on the increase and the new government worried that low levels of tourist satisfaction would have dire economic circumstances.

Enter "the Fergusons of Farm Road." This radio soap-opera was designed to educate Bahamians on the importance of tourism to the economy and to thus encourage them to improve their attitudes towards white vacationers. The show started in 1970 and became immensely popular. Thus the show exists on the cross-roads between tourism, economic policy, national identity and cultural production, and as such is worthy of study. The show sheds light on the tensions existing in Bahamian society in this crucial phase of its history. Tensions between the government and the governed, between blacks and whites, and between the tourist and the native, issues of gender, race and the potential for black leadership are all there in the surviving episode scripts. The show also raises questions about the media as a form of social control.

2. Thursday, January 22nd, 2009 – Dr. Munir Rashad, Secretary of Jamaat-ul-Islaam of the Commonwealth of the Bahamas: “The History of Islaam in the Bahamas.”

By inviting Dr. Rashad to talk about the history of Islam in the Bahamas, we hope to illustrate that Bahamian history and culture is indeed rich and multi-facetted. May this be the first in a series of lectures to include groups that are often “overlooked” in the Bahamian mainstream.

3. Thursday, January 29th, 2009 – Dr. Peter T. Dalleo: “‘That Boasted Land of Negro Liberty’: Afro-Bahamian Sailors and the Union Navy During the U.S. Civil War.”

Dr. Dalleo has identified 62 sailors about whom he will present a group profile that includes their place of birth, occupation prior to enlistment, age at enlistment and where enlisted, names and types of vessels on which they served. He has chosen a few of them to highlight as examples of types of actions in which they were involved and an assessment of their contribution to the war effort. He will also speculate about the reasons that they enlisted in the Union Navy.

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Wednesday, December 24, 2008

¡Feliz Navidad!

El Ayuntamiento (City Hall), Higüey, Dominican Republic.

Plaza de la Hispanidad, Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic

El Ayuntamiento (City Hall), Higüey, Dominican Republic.

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Bahamas Watch

The Bahama Journal reports that "An early morning fire gutted one of the holding dorms at the Carmichael Road Detention Centre on Monday, leaving immigration officials scrambling to place 21 illegal immigrants in new quarters."

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Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Victims Families Call for Halt to Death Penalty

Recent protests to resume the death penalty in the Bahamas have prompted a member of Murder Victims' Families for Human Rights to write a letter to the Tribune arguing that killing murderers is not the solution to murder.
Twenty years ago, two shotgun blasts took my father's life in the doorway of our family home, right in front of my mother's eyes. That day changed my family forever, and as a result I feel a unique solidarity and kinship with anyone who has suffered the devastating loss of a family member to murder. I share the grief, outrage, and desire for recognition felt by the victims' family members who marched in the streets last month. Where we differ, however, is in regard to whether the death penalty is the best way to address our pain, our loss, and the injustices we have experienced.
Read the rest of the letter here.

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Monday, December 15, 2008

Women in Ministry: Cheryl Allen

Ethics Daily has recently run a compelling and inspirational series of articles (see here and here) on the Rev. Cheryl Allen, who is believed to be the only female Baptist senior pastor in all of Africa. She is the former pastor of Berea Baptist Church, which is located in one of the roughest, highest crime neighborhoods in Johannesburg, South Africa. Presently, she serves on the executive board of the Baptist Union of Africa. She is best known for her work with Door of Hope, a ministry that she founded to save abandoned HIV-infected infants, nurse them to health, and put them up for adoption.

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Saturday, December 13, 2008

R.I.P., Amparo Palacios, 1939?-2008

In memory of Amparo Palacios, Baptist peacemaker extraordinaire:

Peace Activist Amparo Lopez Palacios; Fought U.S. Aid to Salvadoran Military

By Patricia Sullivan
Washington Post Staff Writer
Thursday, December 11, 2008; B05

Amparo Lopez Palacios, 69, a Mexican-born peace activist who fled El Salvador in 1989 under armed guard and then lobbied Congress to stop U.S. aid to the Salvadoran military, died of lung cancer Nov. 14 at the Washington Home hospice.

Mrs. Palacios and her husband, the Rev. Edgar Palacios, had worked to stop the 1980-92 civil war in the Central American nation, actions that landed them on the military junta's death-squad list.

It was a violent time -- in March 1980, Archbishop Óscar Romero was shot during Mass, a month after publicly asking the U.S. government to stop military aid to the government. At his funeral, bombers and snipers massacred 42 mourners.

A National Guard death squad raped and murdered three American nuns and a laywoman in December 1980. The El Salvador government killed tens of thousands of civilians during that decade.

David R. Nagle, then a Democratic member of Congress from Iowa, was the couple's guest during a fact-finding trip to El Salvador in the late 1980s. He recalled visiting a prison where thousands of people were crowded into cells meant for 400, and how activists would suddenly disappear after irritating the military.

"She and her husband were just fearless," Nagle said. "It was intimidating enough to go there once, because bombs were frequently placed in buildings where opponents to the government were gathered. I remember going back to Washington, and it wasn't like I'd been in a foreign land, but on a foreign planet."

The couple ran the National Debate for Peace, which Nagle described as a "middle way" group between the opposing forces of government and rebel fighters. But after six Jesuit priests, their housekeeper and her daughter were killed in November 1989, the Palacios left El Salvador under the protection of United Nations troops.

Mrs. Palacios began working as executive director of the Washington office of the Debate for Peace in El Salvador. She also began walking the halls of congressional office buildings, urging an end to U.S. aid to the military in her country.

"Ultimately, she was successful," Nagle said. "No one could have been as effective as she was, because she had been there."

She and her husband sat in the front row at the United Nations General Assembly when the peace treaty was signed in 1992.

Mrs. Palacios was born in Guadalupe Victoria, in the north-central Mexican state of Durango. She graduated from the Hispano American Baptist Seminary in Los Angeles and married in 1969.

After coming to Washington, she joined Festival Church, a small, multicultural, ecumenical church in the Adams Morgan neighborhood, where she was ordained in 1993 and served as an outreach pastor. She also belonged to Calvary Baptist Church in Washington, where her husband is pastor of a Spanish-speaking congregation and the minister of education.

Since 1996, Mrs. Palacios had been a caseworker at the Family Place, a drop-in center serving pregnant women and young families. She taught prenatal and parenting classes, ran support groups for victims of domestic violence and accompanied people to court, hospital and school conferences. Her home in Washington became a refuge for destitute women and children over the years.

Besides her husband, survivors include three children, Edgar Palacios Lopez of Navojoa, in Mexico's state of Sonora, Amparo Palacios Lopez of Washington and Ana Xochitl Palacios Lopez of San Salvador; three brothers; and six grandchildren.

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Friday, December 12, 2008

BHRN Celebrates Human Rights Day

The Bahamas Human Rights Network (BHRN) celebrated Human Rights Day at the HUB in Nassau this past Wednesday December 10th. The celebration was in observance of the 60th anniversary of the adoption of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. It also marked BHRN's second anniversary since it was publicly launched in conjunction with Human Rights Day 2006.

Prof. Michael Stevenson, head of the law department at the College of the Bahamas, led a discussion on the topic of human rights and the Bahamian constitution. The discussion was followed by a reading of the Bahamian constitution which then flowed into Express Yourself--the HUB's weekly open mike poetry, spoken word, and other performed arts night.

Appropriately, the past week has also marked a significant milestone for human rights in the Bahamas. The Bahamian government has announced its intention to repeal the law permitting corporal punishment during the upcoming legislative term, a move that has been applauded by BHRN as well as Amnesty International.

Sadly, we were also reminded that much still needs to be done to confront religious bigotry and human smuggling.

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Tuesday, December 02, 2008

Haiti Watch

Amnesty International is calling on the Haitian government to do more to tackle the widespread rape of girls, often by gangs of armed men. Amongst other things, Amnesty reports that 55% of the 105 rapes reported so far this year were of girls aged under 18.

Read a BBC report on the situation here or, better yet, read Amnesty's extensive report on the subject here.

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Quote of the Week

"Like Bush's 2000 campaign slogan, Compassionate Conservatism, Word of Faith preachers often give lip service to their church's community service projects yet worship at the altar of hyperindividualism and unregulated capitalism. Many of these televangelists spend millions of dollars of church funds on luxury jets, take huge salaries out of church coffers to build themselves mansions, and treat themselves to other luxuries like clothes, vacations, and high-end dinners. They use the free advertising of their churches and television shows to sell countless books, tapes, and DVDs of their sermons, raking in millions that go into for-profit church-related enterprises that line their own pockets. All of this activity is rationalized as obeying Jesus' command to spread the Gospel throughout the world. Yet it is all possible precisely because there is virtually no oversight of the preachers' activities. Tax-exempt churches do not file tax returns and are under no obligation to divulge their finances to donors or the public. Where profit-driven church meets the cornerstone of conservative economic ideology, televangelists have been enriching themselves in an unregulated marketplace trading on God, the cult of personality, and American dreams of riches and success."

Sarah Posner
Author of God's Profits