Something to smile about amid the gloom
In the week that the murder of another young Bermudian male has cast a pall of despair over the country, it is both uplifting and comforting that a handful of the very same demographic can elicit a smile and the encouragement of hope for our future.
As we mourn the death of Jahni Outerbridge, and wrestle with how to cure the social problems that appear almost endemic in the black community, and which have contributed to the shooting deaths of 33 black men in the past 7˝ years, there are a few young lights whose stars are shining brightly on us.
What cricketers Delray Rawlins and Kamau Leverock, and sailors Ahzai Smith and Christopher Raymond have achieved this week has left a smile on many a face — and, boy, have we needed it.
Consider the alternatives: man shot and injured in Devonshire, murder at Mid-Atlantic Boat Club, endless political fighting over the airport redevelopment deal, homophobia running amok on social media during a civil court case that could have a profound effect on the future of same-sex marriage on the island, “peaceful” protesters girding their loins for another march on Parliament.
All desperate stuff, the lot of it, and each with a propensity to leave a stain on the reputation of our much loved island — supposedly our much loved island.
Thankfully, we caught a break to ease the blow. Not the sort of public relations break we catch when Flora Duffy and Tyler Butterfield excel in the professional triathlon arena because it has been clearly established that their successes and all the good publicity they have brought Bermuda are touching only a segment of our wider community.
Sad to acknowledge, that; sadder, even, to pen it. But the proof was in the pudding by way of studying the racial make-up of the many crowds gathering in local pubs to watch Duffy race for Olympic gold last summer — white and expatriate.
Black folk as a collective just don’t want to know when a white athlete excels for Bermuda. Controversial to say, but irrefutable.
Our racist present is a by-product of our racist past, and will continue as a racist future for the immediate future until the largest penny known to man drops from on high.
Pessimistic but realistic.
Ask Ewart Brown, the former leader of the country. He and Bermuda Healthcare Services think nothing of sponsoring promising athletes — but only if they look like he does, despite others probably being more deserving of such philanthropy.
Did anyone say Jessica Lewis, Parapan Am Games champion and world bronze medal-winner?
The social activist group Citizens Uprooting Racism in Bermuda may get somewhere this month with its scheduled “truth and reconciliation” conversations on race; maybe not. But for the time being, it is what it is.
With that out there, and with a large segment of our community identifying with success only through a certain hue, we come to four young men who deserve better than to be caught up in a racial tug-o-war.
An early teenager and a preteen went to the other end of the world on what can be described as a once-in-a-lifetime experience and came away with not only the experience but silverware to boot.
Ahzai, 12, and Christopher, 13, will remember New Zealand for the rest of their lives. Most Bermudians will never get to visit one of the most beautiful places in the world. At a stroke, these youngsters have had their horizons broadened, and then they competed. And they competed well. Neither will walk in the shoes of the lone gunman who altered the lives of the Outerbridge family on Sunday night; they have more positive and productive futures to look forward to.
Similarly, and farther down the road, so, too, do Leverock and Rawlins.
Leverock, if you recall, went to the World Cricket League Division Four tournament in Los Angeles last autumn as a bowler who could bat. Two weeks later, with a shaky Bermuda only just avoiding a second successive relegation, he emerged as a batsman who could bowl. That led to him being selected to the ICC Americas squad that is in the Caribbean competing in the West Indies Regional Super50 tournament, where he is more than holding his own at the top of the order against bowlers who have played at first-class and Test level. The composite team have yet to win but Leverock, with scores of 26, 21 and 14, is slowly building on the impression made in California.
Also making quite an impression is Rawlins, his Bermuda team-mate, who produced an astonishing, match-winning performance on debut for England Under-19 in India.
The magnitude of this will be lost on most here, but what it has meant is that Rawlins is a far sight closer to realising his dream of playing for the full England team than at any stage since he left Bermuda.
An unbeaten century and two wickets by a young Bermudian against a highly fancied India team is the perfect launch pad on what will be a demanding tour that includes four more one-day internationals and three youth Test matches.
The significance for Rawlins is that he has been drafted into an England team that had been swept at home by Sri Lanka last summer — he will never be far away from the selectors’ thinking for the rest of the winter. And he will not be the same cricketer returning to England as when he left.
That is good news for Sussex, his county, and good news for Bermuda’s prospects of fielding a player in the County Championship for the first time.
That is the kind of news that sticks a finger in the eye of those who would ruin us with their criminal indifference to life, allied to an inability to see beyond the ends of their own noses.