Mary Prince debate: put our money where our mouth is
In reading the article “Statue to be placed in honour of Mary Prince”, I was dismayed by the lack of progression beyond statues of the our national heroes. So why not move beyond the statues and place the likeness or near likeness of Mary Prince on a note of legal tender?
I made that very suggestion in a post attached to the article itself and, although I realise that the political elite consult, they nonetheless move ahead with policies and programmes already predetermined and/or preordained by their own elite members.
For the suggestion to remove Sir George Somers’s name from the Cup Match holiday and parachute in Mary Prince’s name was originally made by Lynn Winfield, of Citizens Uprooting Racism in Bermuda — a group inspired by the Progressive Labour Party — and that suggestion was later publicly endorsed by Dame Jennifer Smith (PLP), which is now being put forward by former community affairs minister Michael Weeks (PLP).
A totally thorough, PLP-ordained, proclaimed and soon to be enacted missive; so much for public consultation.
But Ms Winfield has utterly failed to transparently demonstrate that when former slaves celebrated our historic emancipation they had the knowledge that they were honouring the accomplishment of Mary Prince; rather, were they not simply celebrating and honouring the freedom of all slaves?
Historically, the Cup Match holiday has evolved into one of the most iconic social and cultural holidays in modern-day Bermuda, which bonds all ethnicities on the island into one people.
Yes, the holiday evolved out of a friendly game of cricket played in honour of former slaves, but cricket was never developed by former slaves; rather, they took on a totally British tradition and fused the mixture of black and British cultures — and that cultural bond should result in Sir George’s name remaining in the Cup Match holiday.
Anyone during Sir George’s era could have discovered new territory. Just set out in a boat on a charted or uncharted course and eventually you will discover land — the laws of geography! So holding him in high esteem for settling in Bermuda isn’t impressive to me.
But to have a cultural norm evolve and endure from a British sporting tradition demonstrates that sport, particularly cricket, transcended the scourge of slavery, institutional racism, segregation and discrimination where nothing else did.
And by adopting and adapting to the game of cricket to mark and honour emancipation, our descendants of former slaves speak to us with their deeds because they could have adopted something completely different.
But they chose, of their own free will, the British tradition of cricket. And that to me holds Sir George Somers in great esteem, for he personifies the British tradition that bonded and endured beyond slavery.
The inclusion of Sir George Somers’s name came naturally from former slaves in playing the game of cricket itself.
Until 2019, with Curb demanding otherwise. Now Curb is deliberately uprooting an ethnic bond that has been a natural, positive and cultural fit.
Great reasoning powers, PLP.
So how can we honour Mary Prince in a manner that is both respectful, long-lasting and befitting for someone whose life has made an indelible impact upon humankind?
Well, in Britain, which is where Mary Prince made her impact, only three women other than sovereignty have had their likeness placed on notes of legal tender.
They are Florence Nightingale, a £10 note issued in 1975; Elizabeth Fry, £5 issued in 2002; Jane Austen, £10 issued in 2017.
Note, if Bermuda decided to issue this note of legal tender, it is extremely rare for an individual to be honoured in this manner, even in Britain.
Inarguably Mary Prince’s contribution to the abolition of slavery has resonated throughout history, as it bears witness to the legislation enacted in the House of Commons, which abolished slavery throughout the British Empire.
Placing Ms Prince on a note of legal tender is most befitting, just as ensuring that Sir George Somers remains in the Cup Match holiday is most befitting, and unapologetically so.
But by failing to take suggestions from blacks outside the PLP government and/or suggestions of those whose ethnicity isn’t black, we are left with a state of disquiet.
For why isn’t our black history being championed by blacks? It makes an indelible, psychological and ideological difference in the future of children as they move forward with pride in black history.
VALIRIE MARCIA AKINSTALL