WEST PARK — For years Bahamian culture has been a staple presence in South Florida. The history of the Bahamian settlers of such towns as Coconut Grove, Key West, Overtown and Liberty City gets a mention (such as when the Goombay Festival in the Grove comes around), and then attention tends to move on. Even Bahamian-Americans who are half-Cuban, half-Dominican, half-Haitian, half-Jamaican and half other nationalities, tend not to identify very much with their Bahamian side for various reasons.
This presents a concern and to address this concern, it is necessary to seek out those with knowledge of family and Bahamian history in the community, such as Thomas Washington Dorsett.
Dorsett is a West Park city commissioner, the first Bahamian-born citizen to come to the United States and hold office as an elected official.
A founding member of the City of West Park, he is also first vice-mayor of the city, a member of the National League of Cities – Small City Council, Broward League of Cities director, chairman of the State Road 7 Collaborative Project, president of Carver Ranches Community Development Cooperation, member of the Make a City Committee, member and former vice chairman of the Broward County Building Code Services and Enforcement Board, past chairman of the Carver Ranches Homeowners Association and a eucharistic minister in his church for the past 14 years. As the famous quotation by statesman and philosopher Edmund Burke says, “Those who don’t know their history are destined to repeat it.”
Dorsett is a man who knows where he comes from, a necessary component as a community leader.
He was born on the island of Exuma, in the Bahamas on July 4, 1935. His role model was his father, Thomas Dorsett Sr., who also was very active in his community, as a musician, a teacher and founder/organizer of the educational system for the Anglican Church in the BaBahamas.
Over the years Dorsett witnessed many changes, from the horse as a main method of transport to a vehicle in every driveway to the information superhighway. His knowledge of “his-story” goes further than his arrival in South Florida 40 years ago, prior to the development of surrounding towns. It goes beyond his training in general construction at Bahamas Technical School, beyond the visit of the Duke of Edinburg in 1956, to Williamstown, where he was born.
With personal records Dorsett is able to trace ancestry back to his paternal grandfather’s arrival at Cotton Cay before being transported to Nassau shortly after the abolition of slavery in the British Empire.
The slave ship cargo had arrived directly from Sierra Leone, West Africa. This uncommon account of slaves arriving directly to the Bahamas from Africa is an impressive aspect of Bahamian history from an impressive man.
In addition to being a tower of strength for progressive, efficient public service and an advocate for economic development for his community, Dorsett, now a widower, is the father of six sons and four daughters. In his spare time, the former construction superintendent visits his hometown and enjoys farming.