Building on legacy
Last Sunday there was a family gathering at the Willowbank Hotel Conference Centre.
Hundreds from across the island came together to honour the founders of the Progressive Labour Party, those who had laid the foundations for a better and fairer Bermuda.
I was given the distinct honour of being keynote speaker for this event.
Initially, as this was my first public-speaking engagement, I was hesitant to have such a great responsibility. Many questions swirled in my head over the past month:
• What if I stammered?
• What if my words did not connect with the crowd?
• What if I got stage fright and froze?
• What if no one showed up?
Before I could put pen to paper, I took a few days to imagine what Bermuda was like back in 1963. What would have been the motivating factors that forced these men to be so bold as to form the very first political party on this island?
I hearkened back to the realities of a society steeped in colonialism that allowed the following things to be in place:
• Persons could not vote unless they owned property
• Black children were prevented by law from attending certain schools
• Workers had little to no rights on the job
• Blacks were prevented from being employed in most office jobs
Essentially, working-class Bermudians of all races were being systematically held back. For black Bermudians, they had an even more brutal journey to travel. Those gentlemen had no choice but to galvanise themselves and those around them to form the Progressive Labour Party.
The journey has not been easy and at times we have stumbled and/or scored own goals. Of that there will be no denial.
Yet, for 55 years we have stayed focused on the betterment of all Bermudians with added attention to those who are most in need. There will be some who will say that we are an elitist organisation, while some will say we are just a back-of-town political party.
Let’s look around the country and what do we see?
Essentially, we see family.
• Family that attend each others’ birthdays, christenings, picnics and funerals
• Family that look out for each other in the best and worst of times
• Family that want only the best for each other
• Family that either stick together or fall out with each other over Cup Match
(By the way, we will be heading to Somerset in five months to take our cup back home.)
My family, winning any election is the easy part. The real work is what we do as a people every day post-July 18, 2017.
We have major challenges in front of us:
• Providing social services
• Upgrading our education system
• Reforming government efficiencies
• Preparing for rapid technological change
• Preparing to be more self-sustainable with our food supplies
• Balancing our budget
• Growing our economy
• Getting out and cutting the cane grass and Mexican Pepper trees.
All of these are steps on a path towards self-determination as a people. As former leader Marc Bean stated: “We must do for self!”
Most of all, we must acknowledge that while our men dominate as elected officials, it is the women who really run the PLP.
At times, there will be decisions made that some are not happy with. As a party, as a family, we must be mature enough to discuss and sort out things between ourselves both behind closed doors and in the open.
This will require co-operation and collaboration between:
• Cabinet ministers
• Party executives
• Party members
• Mr and Mrs Smith
The same way we worked together to ensure victory at the polls is the same way we must work together now. Yes, family, we must have “functional unity” — our very survival depends on it. We will not repeat the mistakes of 1965 and 1985.
Fifty-five years ago, our founders looked beyond their differences of class, education, perspectives — and Cup Match teams — to create this legacy that we now hold dear to our hearts.
Indeed, it is now on our shoulders to build on their legacy of a fairer and better Bermuda.
• Christopher Famous is the government MP for Devonshire East (Constituency 11). You can reach him at WhatsApp on 599-0901 or e-mail at email@example.com