Bahamians pride themselves in being some of the best storytellers in the world, says Jennawade Pratt, 27, a Commonwealth Correspondent from Nassau. Yet there is an important line between salacious gossip and an inspirational message.
Here in The Bahamas, it’s just about that time for us to go into the bushes in the evenings with our crocus sacks, flashlights (with extra batteries of course) and, for the visiting family member (who isn’t as experienced), a pair of the thickest gloves you can find.
Why? It’s ‘crabbing’ season!
We head into the bushes with one agenda – to catch as many ‘bush bugs’ as we can find. We create competitions and plans for catching them, and ways to elude their massive ‘biters’ (claws) while we dream of all the different ways we can prepare them to eat.
Once collected from the bushes, we are ever so careful how we remove them from the sack and transfer them to either a pen or a barrel for transport home. They will still have a lot of fight in them (there is nothing like a pincher to the finger – or a toe!)
When transporting the crabs home, someone will sit on the back of the truck and watch the catch. I was always afraid to do it, for fear that I would be attacked by them. I realized years later that my uncle sat there with the barrels open and only paid attention to them when we turned a corner or stopped abruptly.
I asked him why that was and he laughed as he responded: “Dese Bahamian crab ya know!” I was the only person in the truck who didn’t laugh, and when we arrived home, my uncle repeated the story to other family members. I still didn’t get it. Everyone was falling out in stitches around me, commenting on the innocence of children and the pinch that society itself would use to bring us to reality.
He removed the barrel from the truck and told me to watch it until he returned with the pen. Hesitant, I pulled myself to the truck bed and watched the crab barrel over the edge. Every time someone made it to the top I would squeal for backup, fearing for my bruised toe (Yes! A crab caught me on the big toe in a pond once!)
Interestingly enough, as soon as one got to the very top, another crab would pull him down. I could not fully comprehend what I was seeing. I simply couldn’t believe it. My uncle returned with the pen laughing: “So how many did you let get away, Jen?” I told him that none got out. His reply? “They never do. If they can’t be the first out, then no one gets out.”
That lesson stuck with me. No matter what you call it in your country, it is prevalent in every society.
Here in The Bahamas, it seems like a syndrome that everyone has been affected by at some point in their lives. Sometimes we make excuses for the behavior. Let me pause for a moment and say that I am not trying to be negative. I am not citing racism. This article is not about prejudice. I am writing because as a crab in the bucket, I can taste freedom. But it can never be achieved if we do not work together.
I was told once that gossip is the number one pastime here in our country (and that our second is ‘sweet-hearting’ – married men and women who indulge in discreet, and sometimes not so discreet, extra-marital affairs – but that’s another article). It didn’t take much convincing for me to agree. We laugh about it, but in the recesses of our mind there lies a bitterness that we wish we had never tasted.
Bahamians have prided themselves in being some of the best storytellers that the world has ever discovered. We could captivate whole audiences with this art. Needless to say, jealousy can taint that art and twist together a synopsis that can create a brand new story that sounds more insatiable to even the most finicky naïve appetite. The surroundings of one infected with the syndrome becomes a host, and the infected becomes a parasite.
Every accomplishment of an individual – be it on the job, at church, in the neighborhood, or even in a family, is pulled into the den and spewed out with lies. No one ever pulls ‘Nadine’ to the side and begs her to tell of how she raised three beautiful, well-mannered children by herself. Instead, someone has already told anyone willing to listen, that when everyone is sleeping (even when ‘Nadine’ herself is actually sleeping) that she either lets some man into her home, or her children go out to ‘provide’ for the family.
No one ever approaches ‘Alex’ while he is washing his new car so that he can recall how many double shifts he pulled – and didn’t mind either – because he was tired of catching the jitney, walking to his destination, or catching rides home with co-workers. Instead we are told of how he decided to sell drugs (discreetly ‘on the side’ of course) and made his first investment the car – for status.
These are just two examples. And as trivial as it may seem, this is what happens when people are trying to get out of the proverbial barrel. Many persons can share with you experience after experience of how people have turned their accomplishments into horror stories. They are made up so that the individual’s success can be tarnished.
No one wants to believe that ‘Leandrea’ didn’t sleep with the boss to get the promotion; that ‘David’ didn’t cheat to receive top honors; that ‘Sister Sue’ didn’t put in ‘extra’ rehearsals to become a lead soloist in the choir production. No one wants to believe that hard work and dedication on their behalf brought the accolades that some persons have received in their lifetime.
Sometimes the persons affected with ‘Black Crab Syndrome’ can’t fathom climbing the stairs of success. Yes, it does seem tiresome, and the stairs themselves at times look like they are unable to hold the weight of those climbing. No one knows where the stairs will eventually lead them either.
For those who won’t take ‘can’t’ for a answer and would rather leave a leg behind than fall back into the barrel – I salute you. Keep pressing until our country’s motto: “Forward, Upward, Onward, Together” becomes a chant that us proverbial crabs shout whole heartedly as we climb up and out and in turn, help our brothers and sisters do the same. Let the chant resonate so that even those at the very bottom may have something to believe in, a hope to hold to as they await their turn of salvation.
For those who choose to pull others back in, remember that your future generations will need you even more than we need you now to help us get out. Take the time to ponder on this: Bishop Thomas Nottage, Sr. (Pastor of Grace Evangelical Ministries, Int’l) told his congregation once: ‘In order to bring someone down, you must be beneath them’.
“I am a medical administrative assistant. I aspire to become a nurse in the area of special needs. I enjoy reading and writing poetry, songs, and plays. I also enjoy painting, sewing, photography and dabbling with graphics.
“I love to research, and I’m challenging myself daily to indulge in the richness of all aspects of our culture (this includes cuisine, history, the arts, sports and music). I love to laugh, and I enjoy quality time with my husband and son… so I guess you can say the laughter never ends!”
Opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of the Commonwealth Youth Programme. Articles are published in a spirit of dialogue, respect and understanding. If you disagree, why not submit a response?
To learn more about becoming a Commonwealth Correspondent please visit: http://www.yourcommonwealth.org/submit-articles/commonwealthcorrespondents/
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