Artist challenges Bermudians willingness to challenge the PLP

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  • Manuel Palacio and his new show Black Aparthied.<B> (Photo Mark Tatem)</B>

    Manuel Palacio and his new show Black Aparthied. (Photo Mark Tatem)


Former Premier Ewart Brown was likened to a scary and imposing gangster you don’t want to be on the wrong side of, by artist Manuel Palacio.

The artist criticised Dr Brown for being too angry as he spoke out about black people refusing to question the actions of the governing Progressive Labour Party.

His comments were made at a ‘meet the artist’ discussion held at the Bermuda Society of Arts, where his exhibition Black Apartheid is currently on display. Friday’s talk attracted about 75 people of all ages and races.

Mr Palacio told those present that things in Bermuda “are as bad as they are” because racism is entrenched in the politics of the Island’s past and present. He believes black people accept whatever the PLP does simply because they refuse to support a white political party.

If the PLP was a white government people would be “up in arms” and generally more critical than supportive, the artist said.

Instead he said black people are using the “anger and hate” of their past as an excuse to “turn against white people”.

Black Apartheid features PLP MPs including Dr Brown and Dame Jennifer Smith, and labour leader Dr EF Gordon, with blonde hair and blue eyes.

Another piece called ‘I Hate White People’ shows the Island’s streets renamed as Old Boy’s Club Place, Oligarchy Places, Discrimination and Cohorts Way.

Mr Palacio said: “We are so racist that we are accepting a government because they are black. We don’t like white people at all.

“We are harbouring that racism, it is still inside us and it acts like a clutch. We blame others for this racism, but we as individuals are helping to give these people power.”

The PLP yesterday refused to respond to Mr Palacio’s comments. He said it was important for him as an artist to “creatively express himself” and “speak the things others didn’t want to speak”.

He said the time was right for his exhibition as it probably wouldn’t have been accepted ten years ago.

Mr Palacio said the exhibit was “born out of frustration” with Government and he wanted to look at “what’s my fault in all of this?”

He said “it’s a personal thing” and he wasn’t trying to impose his views onto others. Although he said he believed his work was “based on the community’s vibe”.

Mr Palacio said Dr Brown “portrayed the image of a gangster” and compared him to Scarface from the 1983 crime movie because “his anger destroyed him”.

He said: “He [Dr Brown] is a man who wants to be in charge. When you meet him, he’s very imposing, he’s a scary guy, he looks right through you.

“He’s someone you don’t want to be on the wrong side of, you feel like he’s looking to hurt you.”

In response to these comments Dr Brown said: “I support freedom of speech and freedom of artistic expression, even when I am the target. Of course, Mr Palacio need not be afraid of me. I have spent most of my life working for him and his extended family. As he matures and becomes better informed, he will come to understand the truth.”

Mr Palacio went onto say Dr Gordon had stood up to the power struggle, but he believed “he scared white people” in the same way that Malcolm X and Muhammad Ali did. He said he “struggled to find reasons to be impressed” by Dr Gordon’s achievements.

Mr Palacio, who is from Nicaragua, described himself as mixed race with West Indian and Hispanic heritage. He recalls growing up talking about “they and them” even though everyone was part of his family.

He said: “Bermuda has the they and them, black and white thing going on. It’s in us from an early age, we enable it, we are still trying to get rid of it.”

Mr Palacio, a father-of-four, said he had been in Bermuda for more than 20 years but still felt he was treated like “an expat who has been here too long”.

He questioned why Government had chosen an overseas artist to create a sculpture of former PLP leader Dame Lois Browne-Evans in the new court building, saying: “Whatever happened to Buy Bermuda? It’s more like Buy Bermuda with a question mark.”

Mr Palacio said Black History Month “doesn’t make sense” as he said it simply “gave things like slavery credence”.

He said: “It’s too easy to blame white people for slavery. You just have to bring up slavery to a white person and the conversation shuts down.

“Slavery has nothing to do with us going forward, we use it as an excuse.”

Mr Palacio also touched on Bermuda’s gun violence saying people shouldn’t feel sorry for young, black men and they shouldn’t be treated as victims.

“Violence is a way of exercising their manhood, it’s their way of taking care of business. It’s like ‘I’m a man, you can’t control me’.”

He said that if white people were killing one another they “would snitch in a minute” but “we will not snitch on another black person”.

Mr Palacio led the hour-long discussion with most members of audience full of praise for his “thought-provoking conversation”. One woman said he was “very brave to call Dr Brown a gangster” while another said it was “the most fascinating discussion I’ve ever attended in Bermuda”.

However, several people hit back against Mr Palacio’s views of Dr Gordon saying he was “a hero in Bermuda”. They told the artist he needed to “live the larger historical story” as at the time white people controlled the economy and politics.

Audience comments in support of Dr Gordon included: “He did lots for Bermuda”; “He stood up for the people”; “He had a whole lot going for him” ; “He had a huge following” and “He scared black people more than whites.”

Some people also said Mr Palacio had raised “multiple contradictions” while one woman gave a passionate speech about how the policies of Bermuda had oppressed black people. She said she didn’t have to go back to slavery to see “the domination and history of the past” as she could see it out her window.

Audience members included PLP MP Dale Butler, former UBP MP Jon Brunson, CURB president Cordell Riley, former CURB president Lynne Winfield and drag queen Mark Anderson.

Manuel Palacio’s Black Apartheid is on exhibit at the Bermuda Society of Arts at City Hall until tomorrow.

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Published Aug 8, 2011 at 8:22 am (Updated Aug 8, 2011 at 8:20 am)

Artist challenges Bermudians willingness to challenge the PLP

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