Revolution In Education, Culture And National Development
Following the successful and exciting symposium on the life and works of Frantz Fanon at The College of The Bahamas Fanon Symposium 2011 this past December, College of the Bahamas professors Craig Smith and Keithley Woolward are ready to establish the framework for year-round critical conversations open to the public.
Their Critical Caribbean Symposium Series for the spring, which kicked off last month and will continue into March, will continue with a series of three conversations that further certain topics touched upon in their Fanon Symposium.
“Initially we were planning on doing a totally different event for the spring, but because we got such positive feedback, we thought why not extend the conversation?” explains Craig Smith. “It was so rich and addressed so many aspects of issues that people wanted to talk about so we came up with three themes for three sets of conversations.”
The talks expand upon one particular panel in the day-long symposium that applied Fanon’s theories to modern-day post-independence Bahamian politics and culture – “Dis We Ting Too: Fanon and Contemporary Bahamian Experience”.
During this panel, Ian Strachan placed important aspects of Fanon’s work in the context of a post-independence Bahamas, while Ian Bethel-Bennett examined the gradual criminalizing of the black Bahamian male in the past few decades through modern day global discourses, and Woolward himself touched upon what makes up Bahamianness and Bahamian culture in a post-independence Bahamas.
So many participants responded to the lectures that these three subjects, essential to Fanon’s work—national development, education and culture—will be revisited in the spring lectures, explains Woolward.
“Those three conversations came out of that panel of looking at the contemporary Bahamian experience,” he says. “We wanted to anchor those conversations more concretely in the Bahamian experience; so we’re inviting a range of local participants in panels and gearing the conversations to be about the contemporary Bahamian experience as it pertains to national development, education, and culture.”
The first lecture in this Critical Caribbean Symposium Series, focusing on National Development, attracted a wide audience to the Harry C. Moore Library and Information Center on January 27.
Ian Strachan led the discussion with a look at the current state of politics which, through its election tactics and promises, creates shortsighted and detrimental five-year cycles of national development plans.
Meanwhile, Olivia Saunders issued a challenge to the audience by asking them to define the language of “development”, and Nicolette Bethel presented a Voter’s Manifesto that turns the act of political promises on its head with a list of political requirements from the people.
“I think one of the things the panelists put out there was this idea of personal responsibility in terms of this idea for national development, instead of just sitting by waiting for something to happen,” says Smith. “They inspired these students to take this initiative which I think was important for them to hear in terms of personal responsibility as citizens as a part of a nationally developing country as well.”
The students, in turn, responded with their own concerns for national development, says the pair.
“They are looking for models so there was a passionate call on the side of the students that we need models, we need to have a sense of how do we go about doing this, where do we get this info and how do we apply it?” points out Woolward.
This creates an exciting prescindent for the following two conversations that they will indeed be two-sided, allowing the Bahamian community to talk their way to a better understanding of themselves and their future. With subjects in education and culture, such conversations may prove critical to the community.
On February 24 between 5-8 p.m. at Popopstudios, the CCSS will hold “Education for Liberation” which will examine the need for educational reform in the country in order to liberate and advance its people.
The list of panelists – representatives from the afterschool education program The Indaba Project; Reverend Livingston Malcolm, the superintendent minister of the Methodist church in Nassau; human rights activist Erin Green; UWI Representative Michael Stevenson; and scholar Niambi Campbell whose work examines education in fostering a sense of community – is a reflection of just how far these conversations can go.
“We’re really hoping this conversation is as diverse as the people on the panel. It’s purposely diverse because we want to have more than Ministry of Education representatives talking about what it is we’re doing in terms of education,” says Woolward.
“And more than just the College of the Bahamas professors as well because there are many ways to be educated,” adds Smith.
“The idea is education and liberation and some people would argue the modes of education we have now aren’t liberatory at all; they actually serve to maintain the status quo. So what we wanted was different voices who offered different perspectives outside of the traditional institutions of learning – what other ways can we think of learning and education that is liberatory?”
The final conversation on March 30 from 7-9 p.m. at The Hub will also present a varied panel from the creative community to address “Revolutionary Cultural Engagements and Practices”.
With a panel made up of such distinguished guests as Bahamian filmmaker and director Kareem Mortimer, marketing and branding specialist Royann Dean, National Art Gallery of The Bahamas Chief Curator and COB Assistant Professor John Cox, abstract artist Tony Lunn and Smith himself, the conversation will definitely redefine culture by the end of the night.
“This looks at how we think about culture and how we can think about culture in revolutionary ways,” explains Smith. “When we think about culture in The Bahamas, we think peas and rice and Junkanoo. There’s nothing wrong with that but I think we are a diverse people and our culture is made up of all sorts of different things, so we’ll think about ways we can engage in culture and expand it.”
For the pair it is important to hold these final two conversations outside of the academic walls of the College of The Bahamas in order to encourage all members of the Bahamian community to come together and to strengthen the ties between COB and its community.
“We want to take the conversations into the community after the Fanon Symposium had taken place on campus. One of the things that came out of that was the questions of what we are doing as a college, a university, for the community,” explains Smith.
“So we wanted to make sure we got into the community with these conversations so it’s not just about academics speaking about these ideas amongs themselves; hopefully we’ll be able to get community members out as well and share their ideas with us .”
Indeed it is a fitting model to hold the CCSS in Fall within the college and then continued lectures to deepen these conversations deeper into the community. For the 2012 Fall CCSS, the pair are planning to examine theater as cultural expression in The bahamas and in The Caribbean – exciting since little research into theater has been conducted in The Bahamas in twenty years.
The symposium will not only examine the way theater has progressed in the past two decades with new theater groups and festivals and a slew of young playwrights but also examine how theater can apply to other cultural practices like Junkanoo.
Further still in the Fall 2013 CCSS, they hope to examine the life and work of the Caribbean writer, thinker and philosopher Kamau Brathwaite. Indeed their big plans are just indications of how much they believe in expanding the critical consciousness of the Bahamian people in order to move the country forward.
“It’s about creating a culture of critical engagement where academic or critical thinking that is usually associated with academic institutions is not uncommon to The Bahamas,” explains Woolward. “We think critically, we theorize, we question, we come up with ways of living and existing in the world, and that is also a part of how we produce culture.”
For more information on the upcoming panels for the Critical Caribbean Symposium Series, call 302-4381 or visit www.cob.edu.bs.
The Nassau Guardian
Arts & Culture
Published: Saturday, February 4, 2012