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Former Premiers join leadership debate

Bermuda's black community needs to better support, uphold and celebrate one another, according to a Bermuda Democratic Alliance MP.

Shawn Crockwell, one of the party's founding members, said that while the Island had disparities and discrimination, it was important to join as a collective body to encourage one another.

Mr Crockwell made the statement during a debate with other leaders on the community's social, political and economic issues.

“We had what was called the ‘Big Conversation', but I have said for a long time we need to have the real conversation.

“Until we as a black community understand that we need to support one another, we need to uphold one another and celebrate one another then having the big conversation that predicates on civil rights, which is very relevant and very important and is why we sit here today, will not take us far.”

He spoke as a member of a panel that included former Premiers Sir John Swan and Alex Scott, former Police Commissioner Jonathan Smith, Digicel Bermuda CEO Wayne Caines, political analyst Walton Brown, political commentator Corey Butterfield and XL executive Gino Smith.

The men were part of a symposium on leadership at the Fairmont Southampton last week. The two-hour event was held by the Epsilon Theta Lambda Chapter of Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity, during the APA's 79th Eastern Regional Convention.

Mr Caines said race has always been the elephant in the room when discussing leadership in Bermuda.

“Those people that have dealt with race head-on always seem to be [called] alarmists or people that have been heavily criticised by our Country.”

Race needs to be included in politics, but leaders must be equally as astute when talking about finance and housing issues, he added.

“I am not saying take the dynamic of race out of your persona, out of who you are, but that is not the epicentre of who you are. We now have to be able to morph and represent every element in our community.”

Sir John said the Island's leaders needed to form partnerships in an effort to include every facet of Bermuda society.

He said: “We have a fragmented society and this applies to Bermuda, America and the world. The technology we have tells us we should be together, but it is actually working to separate us.

“What we really need to do is admit that it is not our young people that are failing. We are failing to get together to make the system work that serves our young people and our community in the best way we know how.

“In order to do that we have to form partnerships and I don't see we can ever get out of it until we have a real collaborate effort and partnership in all aspects, so it is no longer Front Street, Main Street, Wall Street, Court Street, it is all streets pulling together as one.”

Sir John said educated people in the society were afraid to speak up but the Island had to make a significant change for such issues to be solved.

Mr Brown said some people were still looking at social issues as though they were stuck in the segregated 1960s while younger Bermudians didn't know much about that period.

“There is a generation gap when it comes to looking at certain issues, because you have a group of people who are active and fighting for change in the 60s, but there are some people that are still fighting battles that were waged in the 1960s.”

He said one concrete step forward would be to ease up on the rhetoric and focus on policies, taking the personal aspect out of it.

Mr Butterfield said the United Bermuda Party had thrived as government when there were two seats in every constituency.

“And at any time in their long history of governing this Country until 1998 they could have suggested that they were maybe having a seminar to consider [change], but they didn't.

“And we are going to sit here today and have one of the grandfathers of that party complete the sentence of each vote of equal value. I am just trying to put a little bit of truth in this symposium.”

Mr Smith said Bermuda had a legacy of leadership, but said the Island still had a long way to go.

“How many of our population are very apathetic about what actually occurs to Bermuda?”

He said it was clear that all residents wanted Bermuda to be a better place but stated: “It's a vision that is either not being communicated effectively or people are not buying into it.

“And I think we need to have it in the educational system. We need to have teachers that are encouraging our young people to turn out to be leaders.”

Responding to whether youth had lost faith in the Island's leadership, Mr Smith said: “I think leaders need to lead by example. If we want our young people to go out and seek an education we have to have an education ourselves.

“If we want our young people to go out there and work hard and work diligently at work and be responsible citizens than we have to be responsible citizens ourselves.

“If we want our children not to take drugs, drink alcohol or drink and drive then we need not do these things ourselves. I would say it starts from home.”

Mr Scott said the premise that youth have lost faith in leadership could be challenged.

“If you view the leadership as a political leader then the answer may be yes, but I think given any young person they have someone who they look up to and it may not be the leader we would provide for them.”

Mr Crockwell said there has been a disconnect for several decades where young people do not feel they are benefitting from the Country's leadership.

He said young people graduating from high school in some cases were struggling to fill out a job application and pronounce words greater than six letters. He asked: “What do we expect that young person to achieve?

“If we were to invest in our young people, have programmes, how long have we been talking about state-of-the-art youth centres in this Country that show our young people we are interested in their free time? Come here, we have a facility for you to enjoy yourself.”

He added: “They feel disconnected and we have to meet them at their needs and that is uncomfortable. But until we are prepared to become uncomfortable and go down to the areas where they are then we are going to continue to perpetuate this disconnection.”

Mr Caines said it was important to understand what the needs of the core constituency were.

“As leaders we have to accept there is a possibility we have become estranged from our core base. And that can happen easily whenever you aren't introspective, whenever you don't look at the core values of an organisation you can stray away from what your core values are.

“If we were indeed meeting the needs of our core constituents we wouldn't see the apathy, the lethargy, the disconnection of our young people in our community.”

He said the Island had a generation of people in their 40s and 50s who were not doing their part.

It is time for young people in our country to take their destiny, he said.

Panelist at the Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity 79th Regional Convention in Bermuda. Left to right: Wayne Caines, Shawn Crockwell, former Premiers Alex Scott and Sir John Swan, Jonathan Smith, Walton Brown and Gino Smith

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Published March 17, 2011 at 2:00 am (Updated March 17, 2011 at 9:48 am)

Former Premiers join leadership debate

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