Independence is a beautiful thing. When you have independence, you control your destiny and can set the course for the rest of your life. That independence allows you to be your whole self without intrusion or being dominated by something else. And when you get to celebrate that independence with your community and loved ones, it’s something you’ll cherish forever.
On July 10th, the Bahamas celebrated their 50th year of independence. They were previously ruled by the British and like many other island nations, have re-examined their relationship with the British. Bahamian Prime Minister, Phillip Davis, spoke at an independence celebration and said:
“It was not just the throwing off of the shackles of colonialism. Independence was and is a state of mind, an attitude, and a conviction that we will faithfully discharge the weighty responsibilities of sovereignty and self-determination. Independence was the first big step on the long journey that continues to take our nation forward and upward.”
Throughout the Bahamas and other islands, there have been celebrations marking this historic milestone. Across the islands, Bahamians have celebrated the history and beauty of their independence throughout its Golden Jubilee. Closer to home, there was a major celebration of Bahamian independence.
On Independence Day, the Empire State Building was lit in the gold, black, and aqua marine of the Bahamian national flag. There was also a special ceremony held prior to the lighting for members of the Bahamian community here in New York and worldwide.
The President of the Empire State Building observatory, Jean-Yves Ghazi introduced the event and Broadway actor/singer Gregory Treco led the crowd in a stirring rendition of the Bahamian national anthem. The Senior Director of Ministry and Tourism, Valery Brown-Alce, spoke to the crowd about the Bahamas’ success in attracting tourists to the island, but is looking forward to a Bahamas that will advance beyond tourism and tourism related businesses. She also took a big picture view and acknowledged the Bahamian diaspora coming together to celebrate this anniversary and the country they’ve build.
Consul General Leroy Major spoke next and noted that wherever Bahamians find themselves in the world, they are proud to be Bahamians and represent the Bahamas with honor. The diaspora was able to come together and celebrate in such a vibrant city like New York and a special location like the Empire State Building.
To close the ceremony, Jones stepped to the stage and spoke to the sense of community she has with the Bahamian community in New York and the sense of pride she has every time she walks around Brooklyn. She called this event the height of everything so far and gave thanks to everyone who came out.
After the lighting ceremony, NetsDaily and Myles Ehrlich of Winsidr got a chance to chat with Jones. Since she joined the Liberty in the winter, JJ has made New York home. New York has a large and diverse Caribbean community, and they’ve been super welcoming of Jones. During her speech prior to the lighting, she joked that whenever she’s walking around the city, people driving by yell out from their cars “I’m from the Bahamas, too!”
At her introductory presser over the winter, members of the Bahamian consulate attended and the team laid out a Bahamian spread of food for her and everyone else in attendance. She reflected back on that and the sense of community the team has fostered in her time in Brooklyn:
“I think it was a perfect indication of how they were gonna treat me as a human being. From the jump, they established that and they’ve continued to do that,” Jones said. “I’m very happy with that aspect of everything, and to be able to be in New York City and take part in something that’s so amazing for our country. 50th anniversary of our independence, to be able to light up the Empire State Building, and to come here and celebrate with other fellow Bahamians, it really means a lot to me. I’m just happy that I’m here and able to do this.”
Jones has been around the world, but always carries the Bahamas with her. Whether here in Brooklyn, at home in the Bahamas, or anywhere else in the world, JJ has been able to build community everywhere she goes and inspire the next generation of kids. We asked JJ about the experience of having so many Bahamians walking with her and being with her on her journey, and she called it extremely validating and said the words of encouragement, positivity, people pouring into you and that overall sense of community is a great and inspiring feeling for her.
Sports are such a global, connecting experience. And for the game of basketball, The game of basketball can take you anywhere in the world, and when you get to succeed with a great team around you, it feels even more joyous. Jones carries the Bahamas with her every single day, and they are with her every step of the way as well. I asked JJ what’s the feeling like to have a whole country here with her in Brooklyn and back in the Bahamas:
“It’s reassuring. It’s very heartwarming. It’s very inspiring too to continue too to just trust the process and continue to get better every day because you inspire so many people by just being able to occupy the space that you’re in and being able to say that you’re a professional athlete, or anything that has notoriety or that is bringing attention to your community and the people around you,” she told us.
“So it just reminds me just to not overthink things sometimes and just kind of be present in the moment. Understand how blessed I am even on those days when there are tough days, you know? It’s still a blessing to be able to wake up and experience the world that God has created like this.”
Being able to share your wins with loved ones is such a special feeling. As you climb the ladder, bringing everyone up with you is rewarding and encourages people to do the same for others as well. By doing so, you build a meaningful and long lasting sense of community. JJ has continued to make New York her home, and the fans get to celebrate her journey and various wins
As we move into an uncertain future, we’ll need to be as united as humanly possible if we want to create a better world. By looking back at our hard fought independence and looking ahead to a brighter future, that community will be there for us and guide us to better days.