Don’t replace one form of colonisation with another
The recent tabling of a motion to change the Somers Day holiday to Mary Prince Day will stir emotions. There are a number of issues surrounding the date, historical relevance and context that collide and need to be guided.
Indeed, the Cup Match holiday has come to symbolise emancipation, even though its inception was not as many presumed, beginning with slaves celebrating their emancipation with a cricket match — a point copiously demonstrated by researcher LeYoni Junos.
So it is fair that a game that has come to be associated with emancipation could be symbolised by Mary Prince, who was deeply involved in the abolition of slavery.
Still, the founding of Bermuda, albeit by misadventure, is a fact of our history.
The discovery and Sir George Somers are an indelible reality as a date marked for ever. Whether we choose to recognise or not, we can never erase the footprint of that empirical evidence.
The question for me is not either we have one or we have the other, but rather how can we honour both, if the imperatives drive us to recognise them as mutually important considerations. It is not one where we can cut the baby in half to satisfy two competing interests.
This quandary, while having the optics of a race problem, is not a black versus white issue, although admittedly it could easily descend to that. Honouring both is of mutual interest to every Bermudian, and even the world. Can we not name the first day of Cup Match Mary Prince Day and leave Somers Day for the date of Bermuda’s discovery, whatever the date is?
And, as is so often the case, it could be incorporated or celebrated within the Cup Match holiday.
Note most people refer to the two days as the “Cup Match holiday”.
In all my years, I have always referred to the holiday as Cup Match; I never called it Somers Day, and I doubt whether anyone in the future will call it Mary Prince Day.
So we have two truths we wish to honour and the legislature is tasked with rendering a solution.
First, as a matter of historical truth, Sir George Somers began the colonisation of Bermuda by misadventure and a hurricane somewhere around July 24, 1609.
Second, Mary Prince was an abolitionist and, like in so much of human history, she was nearly written out of the history books.
There is no better time for giving testimony to her life than honouring it during what has come to be known as emancipation and a cricket match celebrating it. Bermuda is not alone in these types of discussions, history is being constantly revised to remove subjectivity.
Canada, in particular, is going through the same dialogue where European colonisation essentially stamped its name over that of thousands of years of native culture.
Added to that was calling native heroes tyrants and misfits.
It should be expected that Bermuda will face similar historical revisions, bringing back the faces of persons left out of the Bermuda story.
Subjectivity is a huge factor in this unfolding issue, given the tendency of persons to interpret or relay history by their own experience.
Bermudians have 400 years of history that informs their DNA and distinctness. The history of its nativity belongs with them; it is they who can best speak to it.
We don’t need to replace one form of colonisation with another. We need to rely on our own researchers.
I am very interested in the whole story as it relates to Bermuda’s history.
We have a very dynamic and unique story as a little island that has had immense importance to the development of the world.
Sir George Somers and Mary Prince are two important faces of Bermuda history whose accomplishments are indelibly etched into our history.
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