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Author hopes story will inspire next generation

Colwyn Burchall spent countless hours researching and interviewing in order to bring Dame Lois Browne Evans’ legacy to life.

‘Dame Lois: the People’s Advocate’ was released in December Mr Burchall will sign copies at the Bookmart on Saturday.

“One of the main resources was Randy Williams’ book, ‘Lois: Bermuda’s Grand Dame of Politics’,” said Mr Burchall.

“‘Dame Lois: The People’s Advocate’ is part of a series that we have created called the Icon Series. What we seek to do with that is chronicle the stories of Bermuda’s best and brightest those social change agents whose activism and sacrifice helped to shape and profoundly transform the societies in which they lived. We’ve done a book on Sally Bassett, a book on Marcus Garvey for the global audience, which was our first book, and the third in the line is Dame Lois.”

He continued: “She definitely is a giant among giants, having had to confront and triumph over the twin demons of racism and sexism, two bastions of institutionalised injustice that she had to find a way to negotiate. And she did that with tremendous success, without becoming so hopelessly embittered that joy was stripped from her life.”

The book is divided into three main sections. Part One: Back of Town to the Bar chronicles Dame Lois’ years growing up on Parsons Road and the troubles she faced on becoming Bermuda’s first female, black barrister in 1953.

Part Two: Fighting in the House, looks at Dame Lois’ political life. She joined the Progressive Labour Party in 1963 and became its first female leader five years later.

Part 3: Wife, Mother, Nana, documents Dame Lois’ private life as a wife, mother-of-three and grandmother-of-four.

Said Mr Burchall: “What I particularly loved about researching her many of us are aware of her contributions as a barrister in defending Dr Barbara Ball in 1964 during the hospital strike and even in 1977 defending Larry Winfield Tacklyn was that this larger than life figure never lost connection with the people. She was very much the quintessential Bermudian from [the] back of town.

“Even though she was able to ‘sup’ with the Queen, she never lost that grassroots connection. No surprise then that her headquarters was at the Devonshire Recreation Club, the place she was planning her 80th birthday bash.

“Just interviewing her family the stories abound about her connection with the people, her willingness to sacrifice so that somebody who might not be financially in a good position to pay her for her legal services could still receive top legal advice, quite often free of charge.”

Those interactions left a great impression on him, the author said.

“I have always known she was a giant but to actually be able to walk in her footsteps and see her as her children saw her, see her as members of the community saw her, and the reverence with which they viewed her really underscored that it is no exaggeration to look at her as a home-grown hero who really represented the best of what we, as Bermudians, could become.

“The whole idea behind the Icon Series is that if the young people who will grow up to be the leaders of this country don’t know the topography of the past, then they run the risk of getting very lost in the present.”

Copies of the book will be placed in the public school system.

“The Ministry [of Education] has taken on the book and bought quite a sizeable number of copies,” he said. “They, too, feel that Bermuda history is an important part of the education of Bermudian students and they have shown that through the purchase of ‘Dame Lois: The People’s Advocate’.

“I wrote it to be read but I want young people to see themselves in the mirror that is their own history adults have been coming up and saying ‘I bought it for my children but then I sat down and read it and the story resonated with me as well’. It’s a book that is accessible to the young as well as the old.”

On his acknowledgments page, Mr Burchall wrote: “‘Dame Lois: The People’s Advocate’ was written with young Bermudians in mind. It was written to dispel the myth that Bermuda has not produced men and women whose accomplishments are worthy of emulation. It was written to remind our young people that, no matter where they come from, greatness is most assuredly within their reach.

“Ultimately it is my hope that I have fashioned a story that does justice to the memory of the Dame and that my retelling might one day inspire the next generation of home-grown leaders.”

Saturday’s book signing will take place from 11am to 2pm.

Colwyn Burchall(Photo by Akil Simmons) February 13,2012

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Published February 15, 2012 at 1:00 am (Updated February 15, 2012 at 6:56 am)

Author hopes story will inspire next generation

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