Let your rage lead the way, then take over
Three days after the Covid-19 pandemic was declared a global emergency, I had an “extraordinary graduation”, and my intense UWCD experience ended short. Inequalities had always presented themselves to me in Armenia — but none quite like in March 2020. In those moments, I reflected most on the privileges of being Bermudian.
I remember walking into the administrative office for passport logistics, taking me three minutes to clear, while others waited days. I thought about the lottery of birth and the liberal international order. Also, I was disappointed in myself. I had spent so much time star-struck by organisations such as the United Nations, even though it perpetuates global inequality, drives structural dependence and sustains American hegemony. Both my disdain and admiration of neoliberal institutions continue now. Yet, after meeting with UN representatives in New York, I understand that most people find themselves at a similar crossroads.
After leaving UWCD, I wept in Yerevan, Doha, New York and Atlanta. Almost every one of my flights was cancelled, and I made a home out of airport chairs. After phoning Media Maya and the Chief Immigration Officer, I met a group of Bermudian families in similar predicaments. Thanks to Butterfield Bank and the Bermuda Government, we were on a chartered flight. I was heartbroken by an interrupted UWCD experience while also grateful for the spirit of Bermuda; thankful that I had a responsible government after watching my refugee and stateless friends struggle to organise plans in a global emergency.
The Bermudian spirit bonded four college students with families they didn’t know — and still keep in contact with via our “PJ Girls” group chat. That’s the Bermuda I hope I can live in. Yet costs of living, sexism, racism, homophobia, homelessness, classism, political apathy, community violence and moral deficiencies in corporate and governmental leadership complicate repatriation.
Rekindling a communal spirit of Bermuda
To underestimate the resolve of Bermuda and our people is to ignore history. Bermuda played an integral role in developing Bermuda I & II, referred to as the “Magna Carta” of international aviation agreements. We helped determine global freedoms such as landing and stopping to fuel jets in foreign countries and hosted the first Black Power conference. These two examples represent a fraction of our capability, yet challenge cultural messaging that Bermuda lacks bargaining power independent of other jurisdictions.
Our political landscape is only partially to blame for the state in which we find ourselves. Yes, Bermuda is in a democratic deficit — but that’s so obvious that it is uninteresting. As a community, those with the privilege of education, worldly experience and academic interests must become more invested in rekindling the spirit of Bermuda.
One built on collective power and oneness instead of siloed rage. I am not contesting the frustration and anger associated with change-making. I am encouraging us to harness it. As a first-generation Black girl enrolling only at predominantly White institutions — I know the anger well. I have learnt that anger helps us identify boundaries. Still, it should be a state rather than a character trait.
The revolution always starts with self. However, our identities as Black people are fetishised, coveted and hated by society all at once. Usually, I don’t scream about this. I cry. I randomly brood because I’m a Cancer moon, then transmute it all because I’m a Scorpio rising. More importantly, I feel a deep responsibility to Black thought leaders to rise above any painful condition I encounter. Paintings such as To the Highest Bidder remind great Black women like Oprah Winfrey of the responsibilities she has to her ancestors. This is not an astrology plug; it is evidence that a connection to something higher than ourselves grounds even the greatest minds. We should learn from them.
For Bermudians, conversations with elders about their struggles should warrant the same sense of urgency. It should compel young people to get involved in the present state of affairs beyond endeavours that bolster a corporate ladder or advance a professional agenda. When things are not challenged, they become normalised — and the fewer people involved in call-outs and correcting discriminatory behaviours and practices, the more taboo it seems.
Below is a small list of things that help me feel hopeful most days instead of rage. Feel free to try them.
Five ways to feel hopeful <3
Service over self. Always. Volunteer with Bermuda Is Love, WindReach or the upcoming Kappa Classic. Any organisation with skin in the game. Philanthropy takes many forms.
Buy a journal and use it. We find dangerous ways to take anger out on inanimate objects or other people. Journalling can help release your frustrations. Focus on things you care about and monitor your progress. The International Baccalaureate programme has the right idea — reflection is helpful.
Learn history. Take extra notes on the mistakes and successes of the past. Spend less time on writers who don’t represent your lived experience. Start the research yourself if necessary. Go for dates at the archives. It’s 2022, and reading is cool.
Find ways to transmute. Walks make everything better for me. You can try running, building a community, joining a community organisation or starting something you are passionate about.
Get civically engaged. Follow Bermuda Youth Connect, Bermuda Is Love, Nexus Bermuda, Youth Parliament, Future Leaders Bermuda, PurpleMent, Loquat Learning and many more. You can check the following list of all these organisations for other recommendations. The revival of the Bermudian community is the only solution to promote trust and co-operation. If we start here, the political landscapes will acquiesce.
If you're a youth organiser: I have noticed through Bermuda Youth Connect that most young Bermudians are only (superficially) interested in politics, not curious. Curiosity is an emotional investment that leads to action, while interest is fleeting. Curiosity is always interested, but interest is not always curious. As youth organisers, we should focus on fostering curiosity — not interest.
• Tierrai Tull is a graduate of the Berkeley Institute and United World College, Armenia. Tierrai was the first Bermudian on the Armenian international campus. She is in her junior year at the University of Toronto & University College London, studying international relations, political science and public policy. Tierrai founded Bermuda Youth Connect, is the president of Student Unions at the University of Toronto, the tournament director at Hart House Debates & Dialogues and an equity officer at the Womxn & Gender Minorities tournaments in Toronto