PLP pays tribute to Dame Jennifer
A tribute to the legacy of Dame Jennifer Smith packed Fort St Catherine this weekend.
The send-off, organised by the St Georges branch of the Progressive Labour Party, closed with a two-cannon salute in honour of the woman hailed throughout the evening as the Dame, DJ — or just Sister Jennifer.
The gala event celebrated the PLPs first Premier, in her native Constituency 1, St Georges North — where Dame Jennifer first ran, aged 24, under the watch of Party Chairman Louis Ming.
Mr Ming recalled that in June, 1972, Dame Jennifer was the youngest woman to run in a General Election — in what was then a United Bermuda Party stronghold.
This was to be her first loss of many, Mr Ming told supporters — until Dame Jennifers election as MP in 1989.
Sister Jennifer didnt just begin committed to community, St Paul AMEs Reverend Nicholas Tweed told the gathering, which included former Premiers Alex Scott and Paula Cox. There were trials and tribulations — she has taken many knocks, and refused to be knocked down.
Dame Jennifer ascended to leadership of the PLP in 1996, with the passing of Frederick Wade. After bringing the Party to victory in 1998, she was Premier was five years.
Now 65, Dame Jennifer was deposed in the last election by the One Bermuda Alliances Kenneth Bascome.
But the Dame remains very much active, as Masterworks Foundation head Tom Butterfield revealed.
Commending Dame Jennifers support for the gallery as an advocate and volunteer, Mr Butterfield announced her election to the Masterworks Board of Directors. He traced their friendship to a 1987 meeting when Dame Jennifer was Shadow Minister of Education.
Representing the Branch was PLP Senator Renee Ming, who recounted Dame Jennifers mentorship of her from nine years ago.
One thing she hasnt been able to teach me is how to drive a stick shift car, Sen Ming added, telling guests Dame Jennifer adamantly refuses to drive automatic.
Dame Jennifers famous aversion to insects, particularly cockroaches, also drew laughter.
But it was Lieutenant Colonel David Burch, who served as Dame Jennifers Chief of Staff after the 1998 victory, who spoke longest of the visionary and fearless leader.
Even after 40 years service, her true story is not yet fully known, Lt Col Burch said, adding: Contrary to popular belief, she never aspired to the office of Premier.
Noting Dame Jennifers work ethic, he recalled: In those early days, we lived off two to four hours sleep — no lie.
Dame Jennifer was also the leader who gave this country one man, one vote of equal value, he said.
Added Lt Col Burch: She indeed led us to a new Bermuda on the 9th of November, 1998. I know for a fact that once those Cabinet papers are unsealed, the true magnitude of her contribution will be revealed.
Deputy PLP Leader Derrick Burgess congratulated Dame Jennifer as tenacious and gracious in her 17-year fight to become MP for St Georges North.
At the bottom of everything, you keep finding education, Mr Burgess added.
PLP MP Walter Roban sent an affectionate tribute to the glamorous, Afro wearing artist who turned into a politician and stateswoman.
Mr Roban also noted Dame Jennifer was the Partys most successful head — leading the PLP to the promised land not just once, but twice.
Representing family, goddaughter Marlo Santiago and niece Karli Smith offered the family tribute to Aunt Jen.
Ms Cox came to the tribute fresh from a speaking engagement in South Africa — while PLP Leader Marc Bean was away attending a function in the Bahamas.
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