Plea for ‘three wise men’ to bring some sanity to Valley Boys dilemma

AS a rift continues to divide the Valley Boys, GARY CHRISTIE has written an open letter urging senior figures to step forward to try to bring a resolution. The full letter is below.

EDITOR, The Tribune. 

Open letter to 1958 Valley Boys, Doyle, Perry, Willie.

Dear Doyle, Perry and Willie. As octogenarians with a proud history of Junkanoo involvement, we can regard you in biblical parlance as “The Three Wise Men from the East “ of our beloved Valley Boys. As we move to celebrate our 51st Independence anniversary with the traditional Junkanoo rushout, I implore you to bring some sanity and reasoned judgement to the dual Valley Boy groups that will likely participate at the Independence celebrations. Rather than putting focus on the mighty Saxons who are preparing to bark our backsides again, we find ourselves in the middle of a contest between two passionate Valley Boys sides who in a colloquial sense are fighting to prove who gat the biggest Zu Zu. By doing nothing, we facilitate long-term friendships and families being split between the two competing sides for direction of the group. It distresses me.

I grew up waiting for my time to rush with the Valley Boys. I watched my two brothers Percy (Smokey) and Perry participate in the Valley Boys Junkanoo Group, reflecting their different personalities. Smokey was quite happy blowing his fog horn in the middle of the group. Perry could only be happy up front where the cameras were, as he considered himself the best dancer in the group. He still feels that way.

My time came, and I can remember the mad rush to get patterns by walking to Doyle’s house in the Valley. Doyle was a forceful and direct speaking young man and still that way as an old man. Perhaps I was being pushy in trying to jump the line to get costume patterns, but Doyle slapped me. He is lucky that I did not go and get my two big brothers to slap him back.

As I became more involved with the group, I developed a very strong working relationship with our iconic leader Gus Cooper. If Gus needed extra funding for the group, he called me. When he needed food and beverage for the group, he called me. When it was time to reveal and publicise our Boxing/New Year’s Day costumes to the Junkanoo Committee, he called me to write the costume descriptions and do whatever I thought was necessary to publicise interest in our selected themes.

Early in each new year, we would gather at my house to review the past parades over home cooked boiled and stewed fish. He invited whoever he considered his “team players”. I was the gracious host. I have shared this brief history of my group involvement as no one, absolutely no one, can question my legitimacy to speak about the Valley Boys.

The Valley Boys originated in 1958 which puts us among some of the oldest operating institutions in the country. The governing Progressive Liberal Parry was formed in 1953. We have built a rich and enduring legacy that we must nurture and protect if we are to reach the golden milestone of 100 years in Bahamas cultural leadership. That is a mere 34 years in the future and while it is unlikely we will be here, we must ensure the philosophy, culture and modus operandi of the group so they can withstand the challenges that time will bring. Our group members today are not the Valley Boys of 1958. Our members in 2058 will not be today’s Valley Boys. Your role “Three Wise men” should be to ensure that a structure and coherent group philosophy is in place to accommodate “changing times”.

Through a local business that I own, we support all junkanoo groups with our “Warm the Shacks” annual Christmas promotion. I personally visited each shack and gifted them with our signature Cuba Libre drinks. It was a revealing exercise. I found it refreshing to converse with the female Leader of One Family. I was most impressed with the tour of Colours Shack. Their leader showed me His and Hers bathroom facilities, a kitchen and the site where they intend to put a stage to attract and engage visitors to The Bahamas in a Junkanoo Experience. I was equally enthralled with my visit to the Junkanoo facility of Barabbas.

I toured his costume museum, souvenir store, and his Junkanoo Showtime facility. I teased Roots on my visit that they are The Valley’s B group as their navel strings are in the Valley. I found out about their show at Atlantis on Paradise island and went to see it. The venue was packed with locals and tourists which made me reflect on, “who is the world famous Junkanoo Group”? My description of my visitations is reflective of Gus Coopers vision for his Valley Boys on which we as a group have made no progress. Gus saw his Claridge Road shack as being a centre of activity year round – retail shop for Valley Boys memorabilia, entertainment area for group socialisation and, of course, functioning bathrooms for his female and male members. Today, it remains a dilapidated shack. Gus would have been disappointed that his historically dominant Valley Boys was not the originating group for a New York broadway-styled production that highlighted the junkanoo art form and music to the world. This would have supported the label “world famous”.

Valley Boy members are confused. I met one in a local restaurant who is very supportive of Brian Adderley’s leadership as he said it is his understanding that Gus Cooper “willed” the group to Brian (and Gus’s sons presumably). In brief, a “divine inheritance”. Gus and his family made great personal sacrifices during many Christmas holiday periods for our Valley Boys. I would take him bottles of red wine to the shack and his sons, Cisco in particular, would be right there toiling with him. Incidentally Perry, Cisco was the best free dancer in the Valley Boys before he got fat. Gus and his family, which includes Brian who grew up with them, should always be imbedded in our minds and extended the courtesies and respect for their contributions to our group over so many years. In a 2024 Bahamas, the reality is that an “inherited divine right to lead” is an alien concept in the minds of Bahamians. If we believed in that, we would still have a Pindling sitting in the Office of The Prime Minister. Perry, in your tenure as PLP leader, you had to fight five times to obtain and maintain your leadership. Doyle, we cannot forget the recent clash between two titans of the Free National Movement who both felt that they were the best man for the job. Bishop Willie, as a leading Baptist you witnessed two of your esteemed colleagues rise to challenge the sitting President, who inherited the office.

You “Three Wise Men”. The Valley Boys when viewed in the context of our political parties, churches and, yes, our Junkanoo Groups can be considered an anachronism. Our structure, philosophy and modus operandi is not suited for this time. Our job is to sustain and build on Gus’s legacy. While Gus was tough, he was politically astute and committed to having a strong unified group. He would certainly ask me and some others to “get this sh… fixed”. I have come to the conclusion that for continuity, orderly growth and to realise Gus’s broad vision, the Valley Boys must undertake a cleansing process. Bishop Willie, the churches call it, “a renewal of purpose and spirit”. Brian Adderley and those who feel they have the talent, personality and vision to prepare the Valley Boys for “The March to 100 years”, must figuratively speaking shed their clothing and trappings and bare their souls to members of the Valley Boys to make a determination on who we wish to lead us at this time. We all have a claim to the 1958 Valley Boys. “Three Wise Men”, in the words of Dr Off, another iconic Valley Boy, Get Involved, Get Involved and let us save our Valley Boys. In a contest for leadership there is always a winner and a loser, but life goes on. As we celebrate our rich democracy this 51st Independence Day, in a broad political context, Pindling, Ingraham, Christie and Minnis all woke up one morning and experienced the words of Lord Tennyson’s classic poem “Morte d’ Arthur”, “The old order changeth yielding place to the new”. Our democracy was tested and strengthened and catapulted us into a great, little country. It is now time for our Valley Boys to live by the same principles.


A 1958 Valley Boy

July 2024.


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