A report from The Caribbean National Weekly.
The Bahamas government has postponed the National Junkanoo Parades for the 2020-21 season, inclusive of the New Providence Annual Boxing Day and New Year’s Day Junkanoo Parades, “until or unless it is safe for group gatherings” as a result of the coronavirus COVID-19) pandemic.
Junkanoo is a street parade with music, dance, and costumes of mixed African origin in many islands across the English-speaking Caribbean every Boxing Day and New Year’s Day. These cultural parades are predominantly showcased in the Bahamas where they are performed on Independence Day and other historical holiday.
The government also announced that all parades normally hosted on the Family Islands have been postponed.
“The advice of the Ministry of Health’s COVID-19 Emergency Operations Centre (EOC), by memorandum dated 9th October 2020 is that the Junkanoo preparation and parades are “super spreader events” and the EOC can “neither support nor endorse” the hosting of Junkanoo events,” the government said in a statement.
It said due to the lingering presence of the coronavirus throughout the islands of The Bahamas, with the number of infected cases being 7,323 and death toll at 163 to date, are factors which indicate that the environment is neither safe nor conducive for the preparation or hosting of the Annual Junkanoo Parades. The coronavirus cases have been reported on all the major islands including New Providence, Grand Bahama, Abaco, Eleuthera, MICAL, Andros, the Berry Islands, Bimini and Cat Cay, Exuma, Inagua, Long Island, Cat Island, Acklins, Crooked Island and Mayaguana.
The government said it is “working assiduously to reduce the coronavirus cases and eliminate the virus.
“However, this is a pandemic, and nearly every nation of the world is taking the necessary measures to implement health protocols and safety standards to keep people safe and save lives. Hence, the decision to postpone this year’s Junkanoo Parades is made out of an abundance of caution.”
The government said that it had made substantial efforts to consider viable alternatives for the hosting of the native Junkanoo Parades in alternative forms including a ‘Virtual Platform’ that would have required smaller numbers.
“However, due to the recent exponential increase in cases and clusters that sporadically appear throughout our islands and communities, it is evident that the Ministry of Health’s advice is based on the empirical data and made in an effort to protect the members of the public.
“We recognize that the National Junkanoo Parades is the premiere cultural programme and most supported national event in the Commonwealth of The Bahamas. It provides for the ongoing celebration of the liberties the Bahamian people enjoy, the raw expression of their talents in music, song, the arts and dance; and is the most spirited event that unites Bahamians of all demographics, social class and backgrounds.
“Additionally, the Parades have served as a hallmark of Bahamian culture and Christmas Holiday tradition for decades, and represents an indigenous cultural display for Bahamians and tourists year around of who we are, where we came from and where we are going as a people. Moreover, the traditional gathering sends a collective message of peace, unity and hope for the upcoming year,” the government statement added.
It said while the decision is a difficult one, the government has an overriding responsibility to ensure the health and safety of the people of the country and that based on the Emergency Powers Orders, the resumption of parades will be subject to the guidance of the Ministry of Health.