As it relates to The Bahamas, what do Jehovah’s Witnesses, Rock Concerts and Ziggy Marley’s Band all have in common? Well, at some point in Bahamian history, they were all banned from being anywhere in the islands.
1948 Jehovah’s Witnesses Sect Banned From Incorporation in The Bahamas
In March 1947, a group of Jehovah’s Witnesses arrived in Nassau but were denied entry into the Bahamas by immigration officials. Considered an undesirable fundamental sect, they were stopped at the border, awaiting deportation on the next flight, which could accommodate the group. While at the airport, they petitioned Governor Sir William Lindsay Murphy, KCMG (1888–1965) who was the British Governor of the Bahamas from 28 July 1945 to 1950, for leniency. Governor Murphy granted the group, a one-year stay in the Bahamas. The group used their one year to try to solidify their position in Nassau by spreading their Watch Tower witness message.
By early 1948, the Jehovah’s Witnesses group decided to petition the House of Assembly for incorporated status, in the Bahamas, much like the Anglican, Catholic and Baptist Churches. This move would give them a permanent foothold in the islands.
Of course, this did not sit well with the religious or political powers of that era. It was more than obvious that the House of Assembly was at odds with what Governor Murphy had permitted to happen in 1947. Giving the sect a one year religious holiday in the islands only allowed the group to spread their particular brand of Christian doctrine.
Established churches in the islands were already competing for a limited number of eager parishioners. Opening the country to another religious group, could only result in one thing. It would end up in a competitive scramble for souls to fill the pew benches and collection coffers across the islands.
In the end, the Bahamas House of Assembly denied the incorporation petition made by the Jehovah’s Witnesses.
(The Gazette, Montreal, Canada, 11 February 1948)
1970 – Bahamas Bans Rock Concerts
Long haired hippies and ballon sized Afros decorated with a garland of flowers.
“Peace man,” drawls a bleary eyed rock festival goer, as he puffs on a marijuana joint, inside his smoke filled tent.
In 1970, rock music festivals were associated with everything conservative communities, across the United States dreaded. It was safe to say, the Bahamas was taking an equally narrow approach to this music genre as well.
Scores of rock concerts were being banned across the United States. Communities absolutely did not want what was seen as drug fuelled debauched days and nights, with the sharp twangs of high pitched electric guitars, anywhere near them.
It wasn’t long until some clever person figured that The Bahamas, so perfectly close to the Florida coast, would be an ideal place to hold the raunchy type of rock concerts which were being banned across the United States in 1970.
(The Bee, Virginia, Monday August 3, 1970)
Banned US Rock Concert Rescheduled For Bahamas Unbeknownst To The Bahamian Government
In September 1970, after a rock concert was banned in Sparta, North Carolina, Sid Luft then the ex-husband of the late actress Judi Garland, announced the banned concert was to be held in the Bahamas. The rock concert was scheduled for Thanksgiving Day 1970.
The decision to hold the festival in the Bahamas must have been a unilateral one, without the express consent of the Bahamian government.
(The Index-Journal, Greenwood South Carolina, Tuesday September 8, 1970)
By December 1970, the Bahamas had officially banned all rock concerts on the grounds that very publicity of them could very well adversely affect tourism in the islands. The unruly behaviour and widespread drug use was not something the Bahamas government wanted the reputation of the country to be associated with.
(Edmonton Journal, Saturday 12 December 1970)
1987 – ZIGGY MARLEY’S BAND BANNED
Although reggae was not a new music genre to the Bahamas by 1987, it was however looked upon, by many, as a catalyst to larger more destructive social problems among the youth of the country. This was seen as especially prevalent among scores of impressionable, young black men from poorer socioeconomic backgrounds.
By 1987, the Bahamas was a fighting a deadly war on drugs which had already claimed untold numbers of Bahamian lives, stolen the futures of countless others, and saw too many incarcerated in jails in Cuba, America, Jamaica, South America and home. Reggae music and its ethos was seen as part and parcel of the drug culture that the entire Caribbean was trying to fight against.
For the Bahamas, growing negative changes in youth culture, decreased national productivity and an unprecedented rise in crime were all blamed, in large part, on the perceived negative influences of reggae music.
As a result, Ziggy Marley’s Band and his music concert were banned from the Bahamas in 1987.