This week, I want to write about dreams. It seems to me that weâ€™re a country that has given up on dreaming. Oh, we talk a good game. Our favourite pastime is talking â€“ whether it be talking to God, talking to our pastors, talking to our congregations or constituencies or followers. But when we finish talking we sit back and wait for our pastors or our God or whomever isnâ€™t us to turn that talk into action.
But our country wasnâ€™t always like this. In the lifetimes of many of us, we have moved from being a backwater colony of Britain, governed by a minority of businessmen, to a wealthy and independent nation, governed by people who represent us all. Many of us still remember days when being black was synonymous with being poor â€“ too poor to afford new clothes more than once a year, or to own more than one pair of shoes, two if youâ€™re lucky â€“ things that many young Bahamians canâ€™t imagine.
And we got here because some people dared to dream impossible dreams.
My title is taken from a song that comes from the musical Man of La Mancha, which in turn is taken from Cervantesâ€™ novel about Don Quixote, the Spanish nobleman who went off on impossible quests, always tilting at windmills. The thing about Don Quixote is that he seems mad when you look at him, always trying to do the impossible. The thing is, he always hopes heâ€™ll succeed. But even if he doesnâ€™t, at least he tried. As the last verse of the song says:
And the world will be better for this
That one man, scorned and covered with scars,
Still strove with his last ounce of courage
To reach the unreachable star.
Weâ€™ve got a few Don Quixotes of our own. I want to write about one of them today â€“ Kayla Lockhart Edwards, who has lived her life dreaming so-called impossible dreams about Bahamian culture. For all her adult life, Kayla has been an inspiration for Bahamians involved in the performing and folk arts. This is because she believes â€“ rather, she knows â€“ that Bahamian culture is rich and full and so valuable that every citizen should be steeped in it. And so sheâ€™s dreamed impossible dreams to prove it.
Not all of her dreams came true. When she dreamed of the school of the arts, her Institute of the Arts, established in the late 1970s after she left the Cultural Affairs Division of the then Ministry of Education and Culture, her plans for the country and its artists were great. They may have been premature â€“ the Institute didnâ€™t grow as planned, and eventually closed its doors â€“ but the dream continues, so much so that a school for the performing arts made its way into the PLPâ€™s Our Plan in 2002, and may even now be on the verge of becoming a reality.
On the other hand, at the end of the 1980s, when she realized that we were raising children who didnâ€™t know traditional Bahamian stories, songs, proverbs and ringplay, she brainstormed with Derek Burrows and came up with Dis We Tings â€“ a theatrical revue that took audiences on a journey down memory lane, introducing the younger members to traditional Bahamian culture, and reminding older ones what it was like. The show was such a success it played to packed houses during its two-week run, and had to be revived six months later. She followed it up with two sequels â€“ Dis We Tings II, and Dis We Tings III: Contract Voices, which dealt specifically with that period on Bahamian national history known as the Contract years.
Kaylaâ€™s dreams came in all shapes and sizes. Some of them were big dreams, like the Institute and the Dis We Tings series. Some of them had big consequences. Dis We Tings brought Bahamian traditional culture back into peopleâ€™s consciousness, and itâ€™s possible to trace the nostalgic writings of Bahamian musicians back to that series of productions. The early 1990s were also a time when Bahamian artists and performers blossomed; some of that may have had to do with the energy that resulted from the change of government in 1992, but some of it was definitely the result of Kaylaâ€™s shows. In this category can also be placed her work with Bahamas Faith Ministries, her integration of culture and cultural activity into Christian ministry, which has changed the face of Bahamian worship irrevocably.
But some of her dreams were small dreams, with results that wonâ€™t be measured for some time to come. These included all of her CDs, which are collections of traditional and original music, and poetry; her books and her television shows and plans for television shows. Many of her dreams have apparently gone nowhere.
But the world has been better for them. We didnâ€™t even know how much better until recently, when Kaylaâ€™s illness prompted a gathering of all her friends and colleagues in an outpouring of love and gratitude for all that sheâ€™s done through a lifetime of dreaming. This weekendâ€™s concert, featuring the Kayla Edwards Chamber Singers and friends, is a testament to the miracles wrought by Kaylaâ€™s dreaming.
All too often these days we react to dreamers of Kaylaâ€™s calibre the way that the Spanish countryside reacted to Don Quixoteâ€™s quests: by laughing, or ridiculing, or saying that the dreams they dream are impossible. But let us take a lesson from this great woman, who never let the impossibility of anything stop her not only from dreaming, but acting to make her dreams happen.
And so we salute Kayla â€“ our impossible dreamer. We know that her greatest dreams will come true; those of us she has inspired will all see to that. And the world will be better for them. Itâ€™s a promise. We will all strive to reach the unreachable stars.