MNASSAU, BAHAMAS — The Junkanoo performance on Bay Street throughout the Royal visit has come under fire over the choice to play a song that glorified Britain’s slavery and colonial past.
The song “Rule Britannia” may very well be heard blaring from the trumpet section of the Junkanoo groups as they rushed into Rawson and Parliament Squares for the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge last week to have a good time Queen Elizabeth’s Platinum Jubilee — marking 70 years since her accession to the throne.
The choice of the song comes as debate intensifies over whether Caribbean countries should remove the queen as its head of state with Jamaica signalling to the Crown that it’s able to “move on”.
The song was released in 1745 during a time when the British nation sought to expand its empire through the transatlantic slave trade and the colonisation of nations the world over.
It’s one of the popular patriotic British hymns, even regarded as the second national anthem for the UK after “God Save the Queen”.
The chorus of the song reads: “Rule Britannia, Britannia rule the waves. Britons never shall be slaves.”
In an interview with Eyewitness News, nationalist Rosemary Clarice Hanna decried the performance of the song as a “disgrace”.
“I believe it was really totally inappropriate and that’s putting it mildly,” Hanna said.
“…I believe now we have an issue here because we don’t understand and know our history. Bahamians don’t know their history.”
She charged that it shows that “too a lot of us have a serious inferiority complex”.
Hanna recalled the times when she was a bit girl when 1000’s of faculty children would go right down to Fort Charlotte and they’d be singing “Rule Britannia, Britannia rule the waves” and waving the Union Jack.
“There we were, children of dependents of slaves talking about ‘we will never, never, never, be slaves’. That makes absolutely no sense, none in any respect,” she said vehemently.
“And I believe it was a gross insult for them to play that song during these celebrations.”
Hanna doubled down on that position insisting that using the anthem was “deplorable” and a “disgrace”.
“I believe it’s an insult for black children to be learning that song or for our people to be dancing and gyrating to that song in front of “royalty”.
Chairman of the JCNP Dion Miller said the song has been traditionally played in Junkanoo for a few years when there’s a British theme or presentation.
“It’s an ode to the past, our connections with Britain,” he said.
“I do know some individuals are offended by colonialism…but for Junkanoo we don’t are likely to look that deep into those facets. It was just roughly a nod to British and British customs and traditions.”
Miller acknowledged nonetheless the necessity for groups, who select their themes and music, to be more mindful of the present climate.
“I believe throughout the research of all of those things, special care and a spotlight should be paid to what’s happening by way of the social means and what’s happening in society. Attention must be paid to that just so that you don’t offend individuals and you would like to ensure it’s inclusive and nobody is offended.”
But Hanna insisted that together with being more careful with those decisions, Bahamians must also learn their history.
“We want to get in there and teach our youngsters our history so that they can appreciate where they arrive from,” she said.
Support for the country’s shift to a republic stays mixed, with one former minister insisting on the country’s readiness while one other former representative called it “dead talk”.
During his visit, Prince William expressed his support for The Bahamas’ decision about its future.
While acknowledging the country’s upcoming 50 years of independence, Prince William said: “We support with pride and respect your decision about your future. Relationships evolve. Friendship endures.”