Real talk: for Osagi’s death not to be in vain, we must take to the streets
January is meant to be a month of hope. A month to set us on the path to redemption and renewal after the travails and challenges of the 12 months gone by.
A month of new year’s resolutions.
But this has been a cussed two or three years, and instead January has become a month of mourning some of the greats in our community — in particular those in sport.
In 2019, we lost Gladstone “Sad” Brown and Glenn Blakeney Jr, both distinguished cricketers, the latter in only his 46th year.
While January 2020 may have given us pause, the country was soon to be beset with the scourge of Covid-19, which at this time was making news only in faraway Wuhan, China.
But by 2021, the January curse struck again with the death of Anthony Manders, the Financial Secretary, beloved member of Western Stars Sports Club and the youngest son of a stellar cricketing family.
And now this January, the country has laid to rest venerable broadcaster and athletics legend Mike Sharpe, tenpin bowling star Antoine Jones and Bermuda footballer Osagi Bascome — and again the widespread grief was palpable.
Painful as they were, the passing of the first five were through health issues. But the sixth, Osagi Bascome, a comparative baby at 23 with so much life ahead of him, perished on the end of a bladed instrument on a December night out in St David’s.
Lives have been shattered and it will take some time for the Bascome and Foggo families to pick up the pieces. But they should not be doing so on their own — it is high time that the Bermuda community plays its part to tackle and rid us of a culture that has been allowed to permeate society and consume our young people for so long that it has become endemic.
“A watershed moment,” Lieutenant-Colonel Eddie Lamb called it when he was among numerous impressive speakers at Osagi’s funeral on Sunday at Wellington Oval.
But for Osagi not to have died in vain, as Colonel Lamb and a crestfallen St George’s Cricket Club president Neil Paynter pleaded in their clarion calls, action needs to be taken beyond the affairs of the courts and whatever may happen in the prosecution of the individual charged with murdering him. Justice must be allowed to take its course in this case — without prejudice.
This is not entirely a job for the politicians; they come and go, and besides have track records for swinging with the winds of favour.
Nor is it entirely a job for the police; they can arrest and secure convictions for only so many, yet the culture lives on, wending its way into the mindsets of our disaffected young people.
This is a job for the community; in particular, the Black community. Yes, we said it — with a nod towards Colonel Lamb.
Because the families left in mourning are predominantly those of young Black men who — over such a small strip of landmass — have become the country’s most endangered species.
This is not breaking news; it has been this way for some time. We are tasked now, by Lieutenant-Colonel Eddie Lamb and by Neil Paynter, with doing something about it.
If the youth truly are our future, none can be left behind. But we need an action plan because what is in place at present clearly is not working.
Who feels it knows it, or so the saying goes. Those who should be feeling it are not only the family of Osagi Bascome, not only the family of St George’s, but the entire family of Bermuda.
When an American was killed in the streets of Minneapolis two years ago, we marched.
The call launched by the previously unheralded Dynera Bean and Jasmine Brangman attracted more than 7,000 citizens of all hues and backgrounds. That seemed a watershed moment as the country wholly embraced the need to highlight and bring an end to racial injustice.
But the killings in this “paradise” continue.
Since the Black Lives Matter march through the streets of Hamilton on June 7, 2020, 11 people have lost their lives to gun, knife or other crime — most, if not all, associated with a delinquency of values that have made the perpetrators and those who enable them numb to the consequences.
We would like to think that the lives of Joshua Rowse (knife), Amon Brown (knife), Garrina Cann (gun), Daunte Woods (gun), Jordan Outerbridge (gun), Quan Marley Lowe (grievous bodily harm), Duane Gibbons (knife), Ayinde Eve (gun), Micah Davis (gun), Morissa Moniz (knife) and Osagi Bascome (knife) have as much value and more to the Bermuda community than that of George Floyd.
As much for an uprising and outpouring to occur not only on our city streets, but also in those tucked-away parts east, west and central that need the message of peace, love and unity the most.
And then, and only then, can we enlist the assistance of our government via the education ministry to target our youngest — those at upper primary-school level, continuing into high school — with the warning messages that abuse of alcohol and drugs, and the lure of a gang lifestyle, are roads paved with disaster and heartache.
The estimable Dennis Brown, best known as a rock-hard former Somerset Trojans and Bermuda defender, and latterly as a football coach of distinction, recounts the story of how in his days as a prison officer that aspirations to reach the youth from the earliest possible juncture were rebuffed by his superiors.
This failure in leadership is synonymous with the many flawed attempts at stopping the bloodshed since gangs first became a thing not long after the turn of the millennium.
This cycle can only continue with those who are 8, 9, 10 and 11 — right now! — and there is where we have to break it.
In the meantime, for those who are beyond reaching by traditional means, those who are a little too far gone to the extent they require incarceration and rehabilitation, we must get in their faces and let them know we are not going to stand for this senseless loss of life any more.
Recent witness assistance to the police is a start and has been encouraging, with the 11 charged and before the courts awaiting trial for the 14 murders committed in total in 2020 and 2021 largely owing to the co-operation of the public.
But for those left behind running around creating havoc on our streets, those who may feel they remain above the law, Bermuda must now respond with its feet to the pavement and send a strong message.
Or, to paraphrase Colonel Lamb, we have to shine our lights to eliminate the darkness in this world.
We cannot go on doing the same and being the same.
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