NASSAU, The Bahamas – And the beat goes on…
It’s been more than half a century since she heeded the call to be the first in line and set the pace for women in the Commonwealth of The Bahamas.
But the beat hasn’t stopped.
“It’s like GOOMBAY Summer; the beat goes on,” she said. “The song says jump in the line and rock your body on time. I jumped in the line and I stayed in the line. Thank God today I’m still in the line until, like the old people say, ‘Jesus says come or He calls.’”
In 1962 Ruby-Ann Cooper was obedient to her mandate: “The Lord said Ruby they fought for it and you’re the one to get the prize [the opportunity to register to vote]. You better be there because I made you 21-years-old on Friday. When Monday comes you better be the person to put your name there so that you can capture the prize for those who fought so valiantly for it,” she continued.
Mrs. Cooper-Darling’s work didn’t stop with this heroic and historic achievement. In fact, her pace increased rapidly.
“I’ve been working ever since that,” she said.
She landed a high-powered job as the first black to work in reservations at Balmoral [hotel] and then left to begin teaching with her father.
“I’ve been the organist in my church ever since I was 10-years-old and I’m still the organist today. I’ve been teaching, and worked with fraternal organizations.”
Mrs. Cooper-Darling is also an ordained Minister, a counselor, a former Senator, a former Member of Parliament, and a Sunday School Teacher.
Presently, she’s exposing children through travelling opportunities, and she leads the Urban Renewal 2.0 Programme’s Peace Ambassadors – a team of dedicated men and women who, without remuneration, visit, pray with, and for, and encourage families when they are experiencing tragedy.
“People come to you with very confidential information. They come because they believe they will get a word that will help them to find their place.”
She recalled, in 2007, when she headed the then government’s housing/rental units and spoke to many who thought they would never own their own home.
“I told them ‘the same time you go to God to ask for rent money, you ask for money for the mortgage.’ Today you would find that those persons own their own homes.”
Although she attributes the feat for Bahamian women to the Suffragettes who led the fight for equal rights, Mrs. Cooper-Darling will be among the phenomenal Women of Color who will strut across the stage of the Alfond Inn in Winter Park, Florida, on Thursday, March 16, to be saluted as a trailblazer who is on the move and making a difference in her community.
Onyx Magazine, Florida’s premier African-American publication, is recognizing Mrs. Cooper-Darling for her accomplishment as the first Bahamian woman to register to vote in the General Elections of 1962. She will receive the Legacy Award in what has become one of the most prestigious celebrations of Women of Color… ‘Women on the Move.’
The event will recognize the achievements and contributions of “influential” and “impactful” women who have “shattered glass ceilings, achieved their full potential and paved the way for others in their chosen professions.
“I see it as a gift to The Bahamas particularly for women,” said Mrs. Cooper-Darling. “This luncheon is about women on the move. I refer to them as ‘women in heels’. They are stepping high and are taking their rightful positions.
“I give God thanks for it. I am humbled by it. The praise and glory go to Him.” This is “for the Suffrage Movement. I knew all of them. They lived within the neighborhood of Peter Street, Masons Addition and Hospital Lane.”
The Right to Register and the Right to Vote came on the heels of struggles of members of the Women’s Suffrage Movement, who fought for equal rights for all women in The Bahamas.
“I think we need to give honor to whom honor is due. Like the virtuous woman, it [The Bible] says her children rise up and remember Mama. Had it not been for Mary, Eugenia, Georgianna, Doris and Mabel, it would not have been.
“I give God thanks for this opportunity. It doesn’t swell my head. I was on a spiritual assignment. It’s nothing to do with me.”
Mrs. Cooper-Darling will be one of 30 women to be celebrated during the event. She joins the ranks of predecessors who have been recognized as ‘Women on the Move’ in the past. They include Fanny Lou Hamer, Dr. Mary McLeod Bethune, Oprah Winfrey and First Lady Michelle Obama.
The 2017 Honoree categories of Women on the Move are: Business, Education, Government, Media, Non-Profit, Rising Stars and Legacy Award.
Mrs. Cooper-Darling is proud of the successes of Bahamian women since 1962: “Women have excelled. They have gone from the washboard to the boardroom. No more washboards. They are in the boardroom. We run ‘tings’!”
Although proud of the country’s legacy, she is of the opinion that Bahamians do not like to give credit to the root.
“We need to begin showcasing the root,” she said. “We have a legacy, a rich heritage that no other place in the world has. The roots are going in the dirt. We can’t see them because they’re covered up, but check the fruits of the tree.”
Mrs. Cooper-Darling is proud of the achievements of those she has mentored, and her students, who often shower her with compliments and praise.
“They say they want to be just like me but I’m not one for headlines. I go for impact. Headlines change from day to day. Yesterday’s news is old news. The impact lasts in the heart and soul of a person.
“After you are gone, when the paper has faded, the impact that you have placed on people’s lives holds fast as a lasting memorial to your legacy and the time spent here on planet earth.
“It’s a daily walk. I am free to move when He [God] says move, when He says come and when He says go.”
For Mrs. Cooper-Darling, the beat goes on . . .
By Kathryn Campbell
Bahamas Information Services