Bahamian Family Day combines culture, history, and family fun all in one day
Bahamian Americans representing eight generations gathered in one big family reunion celebration at Oswald Park on Sept. 26, 2015 for their first Bahamian Family Day in 40 years. (Photo by Norman’s Photo Land)
By Charles Moseley
Families representing eight generations of Bahamian heritage gathered for the first time in over 40 years to celebrate “Bahamian Family Day” on Sept. 26, 2015 at Oswald Park in Fort Lauderdale.
One would be remiss not to include the many accomplishments of Bahamian immigrants regarding the integral role they played in the growth and development of South Florida from its inception. It is fairly safe to say that without the efforts of Bahamian settlers, South Florida would not be what it is today.
South Florida has a rich Bahamian cultural heritage which stems back to the beginning of the 20th century. Bahamian immigrants settled in South Florida over 100 years ago; then as now like every other immigrant people, Bahamians came to America in search of “The American Dream.”
Driven by the hope of greater opportunities for their families, they came by the thousands, one family after another, pro-viding a willing and able work-force in the agricultural industry. Bahamian pioneers were instrumental in developing the land which provided the foundation for cities throughout Broward, Dade, and Palm Beach Counties. This is particularly true in the Broward municipalities of Dania Beach, Pompano Beach, and Deerfield Beach.
Bahamian Americans from near and far, all walks of life, representing the old and new enjoyed a festive afternoon of island cuisine, Caribbean music, and family commodore. Many who attended were surprised to find out that folks they had known for years turned out to be family members. Such was the case of Fort Lauderdale Chief of Police Frank Adderley, who recounted some of his family background.
“My family is originally from Long and Cat Island, Bahamas. I’m the descendent of the Adderley and Burrows family. Florence Adderley and Celeste Burrows were my two grand-parents from Long Island. My father George was the youngest of 12 siblings. I have three sib-lings; Sam, George and Galvin.”
“I’ve seen people here that I’ve known for many years and just never realized that we were related. For me to have lived here in Fort Lauderdale to come here in contact with people like Gary Jolly, who I’ve known since high school, and find out that we were related, definitely was an eye opener, “added Adderley.
Mackinley Smith who was born in Fort Lauderdale and raised in Pompano Beach, knows a little bit about making history firsthand. He served on the City of Fort Lauderdale Police Department for 21 years be-coming its first Black sergeant and Captain.
“Our plan is to hold this event annually. We’re just one big family. Today we’re from all over including Deerfield Beach, West Palm Beach, Miami, Fort Lauderdale, and Pompano Beach.”
The event was historically significant in that family members were able to share first-hand accounts of their rich family history; which essentially helped to carry on their Bahamian heritage from one family member to another all during the course of one after-noon. Some who gathered ex-pressed the hope of carrying on this tradition for years to come.
Edna Elijah’s grandfather was Tom David Smith, a patriarch of the Smith Family. Elijah shared her vision as one of the organizers of the family reunion.
“I’m one of the Smith’s Clan that helped organize this family gathering. We have about seven or eight different generations represented here today. This is the first time we’ve done this in nearly 40 or 50 years. We hope to do this event annually so that our young children will be able to succeed in keeping our roots alive for future generations to come.”
Adderley’s nephew Garvin put things into perspective as he recounted what made this event so special to those in attendance.
“Today’s event represents a gathering of our heritage, our culture, and our roots. This has been an exciting as well as a fascinating experience.”
Emerson Blatche represented a contingent of senior citizens partaking in the afternoon’s festivities. His father was James Blatche and his mother was Bernice Poitier. Emerson left Broward County when he was 18 years old. He owned a successful grocery store business with two stores in Hart-ford, Conn. and one in Spring-field, Mass. He know resides in Boca Raton, Fla.
“Today was very exciting for me because I didn’t realize I had so many family members. I left here when I was a kid. I’m very happy that I made this affair and I plan to continue coming back every year as long as the Lord let’s me live.”
For those interested in learning more about the history of many of the families in attendance author Laura Lucas has compiled a historic over-view.
Roots, Branches and Twigs is a collection of historical records for the entire African American community in the city of Deerfield. It includes the names of settlers and pioneers, census images from 1900 thru 1935, many Declaration and Petition for citizenship, WWI and WWII images and photographs, the second book You Must Be Dreaming is the oral history and biographies from the early pioneers and the community of Deerfield 1940 US Census images as well as photographs and family pictures.
Both books are available on Amazon.com and are dis-counted through the end of the year.