Mary Prince Day wins parliamentary approval

  • Only fitting: Lovitta Foggo, the Minister of Community Affairs, Labour and Sport (Photograph by Akil Simmons)

    Only fitting: Lovitta Foggo, the Minister of Community Affairs, Labour and Sport (Photograph by Akil Simmons)

  • Mary Prince

    Mary Prince

A move to rename the second day of Cup Match in honour of abolitionist Mary Prince has been approved by the House of Assembly.

The Public Holidays Amendment Act will change Somers Day to Mary Prince Day. Lovitta Foggo, the Minister of Labour, Community Affairs and Sport, said it was fitting to honour the legacy of Mary Prince on Cup Match given its ties to emancipation in Bermuda.

She told the House on Friday: “Mary Prince is recognised on the world stage for the critical role she played in the abolition of slavery in the British Empire by telling her story about her life as a slave.

“It’s only fitting that the second day of Cup Match be renamed for her.”

Ms Prince, a slave born in Bermuda, wrote about her experiences in servitude on the island and in the Turks&Caicos.

Her autobiography, published in 1831, helped the case of abolitionists in Britain. Slavery was abolished in the British Empire in 1834.

Ms Foggo told MPs that plans were in train for a statue to honour Ms Prince’s memory.

She said an undisclosed location had been picked and artists will be tasked with creating a figure that would be “emblematic of Mary Prince”.

The holiday had been named after Admiral Sir George Somers, whose shipwreck off Bermuda in 1609 led to British settlement.

The move was celebrated by both sides of the House.

Rolfe Commissiong, a Progressive Labour Party backbencher, said Ms Prince’s story destroyed the myth of “benign” slavery in Bermuda and the Caribbean.

Mr Commissiong said: “She graphically illustrated how horrible slavery was in Bermuda.

“Our slavery was different but, as she illustrated, no less dehumanising to those caught up in its grip.”

Craig Cannonier, the Leader of the Opposition, said it was important for Bermudians to be aware of their past.

He added: “This is one of the things where we can find a way to ensure Bermudians understand clearly their history and how they have gotten where they are today.”

Trevor Moniz, of the One Bermuda Alliance, said he supported the move, but that there was no need to denigrate Sir George.

Mr Moniz said there was no record of Sir George being a slave owner and said Bermuda could find a way to celebrate both his contributions and those of Ms Prince.

He added: “We can walk and chew gum.”

Mr Commissiong and Christopher Famous, another PLP backbencher, responded that Sir George had captured slaves and burnt down towns in Venezuela as a privateer.

Mr Famous said he had pushed for two years to have Sir George’s name removed from the Cup Match holiday and Ms Prince was a perfect candidate to replace him.

He said: “On one hand, you have a privateer who burnt down cities and captured slaves for quick, substantial profits.

“On the other hand, we have a young lady who set the wheels in motion for the abolition of slavery in the UK and the Caribbean. It’s pretty simple to me.”

The legislation also changes the Bermuda Day holiday from the last Friday of May to the Friday before the last Monday in May. Ms Foggo said the change would help prevent confusion.

Until 2017 Bermuda Day was held on May 24 — and was often called the May 24 holiday — but the date was changed to prevent it falling midweek.

With the new legislation, the holiday will occasionally fall on May 24, with the next occasion to take place in 2024.

Patricia Gordon-Pamplin, the Shadow Minister of Home Affairs, supported the move.

Ms Gordon-Pamplin said it would not have been necessary if the Government had accepted an amendment put forward by Andrew Simons, an OBA senator, in 2017 to do the same thing.

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Published Feb 17, 2020 at 8:00 am (Updated Feb 17, 2020 at 8:03 am)

Mary Prince Day wins parliamentary approval

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