Eva was such a force of nature
It would be hard not to write about Eva Hodgson, who was an indomitable force and voice against racism in Bermuda. That she lived to such old age while still maintaining her presence is as remarkable.
Her first book, Second Class Citizens, First Class Men, is one of the greatest historical books written and is a treasure for Bermuda. It captured the essence of a period of time that I can remember whenindeed the black community had real men who were full ofaccomplishments and whose efforts have been erased by the very system of racism she rallied against.
That time period was full of a once prideful existence for the black community, when American and other black persons would come to Bermuda and live at the Canadian Hotel or the Imperial Hotel owned by blacks.
They would be entertained by legends such as Percy Paynter and the Talbot Brothers at local establishments, again owned by blacks. They could go to liquor stores, grocery shops and clothing boutiques, or a movie theatre, all owned by black persons.
So there was reason for pride and there was reason for Bermuda at that time to be an inspiration to others as a beacon of what is possible in their countries. The term “first-class men” was a visible reality, as visible as their status as “second-class citizens”.
Dr Hodgson fully documented in her writings and in her words, if you knew her, that this great period of commercial action and political activism that she wrote about was all before party politics and it would be hard to justify what party politics did to maintain themomentum gained up to that point.
Visibly, there was a movement, but why didn’t that movement lead to what would be a sequel title, “First Class Citizens but Second Class Men”?
How did we come from building churches, lodges and workmen’s clubs to now not being able to maintain that which was built?
When as a community we had little to no rights, we accomplished more than now, when we not only have rights but have political power?
The paradox is a true litmus test to determine whether the movement that we popularise was clockwise or anti clockwise from a net perspective.
Had we maintained the ethos of the men of the 1950s rather than that of the revolutionaries of the 1960s, where would the country be today?
Dr Hodgson continued to write almost up to her very last days, not just about racism but about all the vestiges, constructs and systems that maintained inequality — even those that were self-inflicted.
She arose to prominence during a transformative period of the Sixties amid a global push for civil and human rights and now her soul departs during what has become the largest civil protest against the brutal killing of George Floyd by a white police officer while three other officers watched.
The world looked on in horror, causing people thousands of miles from the incident to have eye filled with tears as the brutality was displayed on TV news.
Millions of people — black, white and others — took to the streets all over America in a new mode of solidarity.
This, too, is a period of change and Dr Hodgson’s life and death is in synchronicity with the tide of racial justice.
She will for ever be remembered in Bermuda as a fearless warrior, independent in thought, articulate and resolute about her purpose in life.
May she rest in peace.
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