LOUIS Farrakhan, controversial Nation of Islam leader, was here for a few days last week, saw a narrow section of Nassau life, and departed, leaving behind his usual racially devisive comments.
“I was in a place last night,” said Mr Farrakhan, “that was magnificently beautiful and there were all these black people that came past the gate because Mr Nygard wanted them there on that piece of ground that most black people just keep driving by, they make it a gated community. And they don’t want no riff-raff. You come, you do your work and get out. When night time come, go. And there is always somebody to ask you what you doing here? In your land. Did you hear me.”
Yes, Mr Farrakhan, we all heard you. If you lived in a crime-ridden land as Bahamians now do, you too would be happy to be behind gates in a secure community. But to refer to staff who work behind those gates as “riff-raff” is not only demeaning, but untrue. Most staff — unless they are live-in staff, as many of them are — usually leave a premises, gated or not, when their work is done.
Anyone arriving after those hours — unless they inform the security at the gate that they have been invited by an owner within those gates — are not allowed in. And, for Mr Farrakhan’s information, the colour of one’s skin has nothing to do with who goes past those gates once they have an invitation.
Apparently, Mr Farrakhan was invited to make the trip to Nassau by Mr Peter Nygard’s lawyer, Keod Smith. And, according, to Mr Farrakhan, he was flown here from Miami in Mr Nygard’s aircraft.
While here — particularly as he was not interested in the glitter and entertainment on the Nygard estate — it is a pity that Mr Smith did not make more of an effort to show Mr Farrakhan the true Lyford Cay. Was Mr Nygard told that many successful black Bahamians live behind those gates in the relatively secure comfort of Lyford Cay? If he would have visited in the early morning, he would have seen black and white neighbours taking their morning walks, or playing a game of golf or tennis, or relaxing around the pool together.
There are property owners — both black and white — who live behind the Lyford Cay gates. There are also Lyford Cay members, who do not necessarily live at Lyford Cay, but have full access to all of the amenities of the club as would those members who live on the property. Some of them are even honorary members. They are lawyers, doctors, businessmen, politicians — all successful black and white Bahamians.
Not one of them wants “riff-raff” hanging around — just as ordinary citizens who cannot afford life at Lyford Cay want “riff-raff” around their premises. In the context of today’s Bahamas, “riff-raff” means trouble. Usually it results in a crime story on the next day’s front page of the newspaper. We are certain that if Mr Farrakhan lived here, he too would be behind a high gate.
And then Mr Farrakhan challenged — presumably those to whom he referred as the ”riff-raff” Bahamian — with these words: “Now either this is your land or you’re not the owner anymore of this. But you paid a price and the land is being sold right out from under your foot.”
Obviously, Mr Farrakhan does not know the history of this land. The Lucayans were the indigenous peoples of the Bahamas, not the Europeans or the Africans. The Lucayans were wiped from the face of the earth when they were transported in Spanish slave ships to work the fields of Hispaniola.
On July 9, 1647, in the 23rd year of “the reign of King Charles, King of England, France, and Ireland”, the island of Eleuthera and adjacent islands were ceded to the Eleutheran Adventurers to work as plantations for the Crown. Eventually, these islands were populated by the white man bringing with him his black slaves. So — with the Lucayans wiped out — we really do not know what indigenous owners Mr Farrakhan refers to.
The Bahamas belongs to Bahamians — black, white and brown. Throughout history, they all made sacrifices to make the islands what they are today. No one group can claim ownership. However, once our elected government gives an outsider permission to make the Bahamas his home, whatever piece of property he purchases and gets clear title to is his. However, should he break our laws, he puts himself in the category of the undesirable.
And so, Mr Farrakhan, each piece of property in Lyford Cay is owned by whoever has purchased it, be he white, black, Bahamian or foreign.
As for selling the land under the black Bahamian’s “foot”, maybe Mr Farrakhan should be informed by Mr Smith that without the foreign investor, the Bahamas would not be where it is today.
Daily, the Bahamian is praying for the tourist and the foreign investor. Everyone is now holding their collective breath should either or both of these turn their backs on these islands.
Mr Farrakhan is noted for his inflammatory language. Many Bahamians should remember the sensational headlines at the time of the murder of Malcolm X, leader of the Black Panther movement. For those interested, they will find a report on Wikipedia under the biography of Louis Farrakhan.
Wikipedia reports, among other things: “In a 60 Minutes interview aired in May 2000, Farrakhan stated that some of the things he said may have led to the assassination of Malcolm X. ’I may have been complicit in words that I spoke,’ he said. ‘I acknowledge that and regret that any word that I have said caused the loss of life of a human being.’ A few days later, he again acknowledged that he ‘created the atmosphere that ultimately led to Malcolm’s assassination’.”
Should Mr Farrakhan again visit our shores, we would appreciate it if he would refrain from meddling in the affairs of our islands — particularly as he seems to be so ill-informed about our history and way of life.