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Free yourselves, emancipate your minds from mental slavery

On August 1, 1835 a large picnic was organised by people of colour in Bermuda in appreciation of the first anniversary of Emancipation. That observance evolved into Cup Match. While it was a celebration it was also a time of reflection. Robert Nesta Marley's immortal words, found above, takes the concept of emancipation to another level.

While August 1 relates to a law which “granted” freedom from the shackles of slavery, Marley — the unofficial poet laureate of the human spirit — is reminding us of the power which we each possess; the freedom to choose how we respond to any situation. He notes that the power is within our minds.

Nelson Mandela demonstrated that power during 27 years of incarceration, by showing that his mind could not be imprisoned. Madiba's “long walk” began as a 22 yr-old when he escaped an arranged marriage ordered by the regent of his tribe.

This act first led him to be penniless in Johannesberg, but freeing himself from the traditions of his tribe provided the platform for his ultimate evolution.

In the mid-1940s a young woman returned to Bermuda, to become a teacher, a norm at the time when few professional avenues were open to females. However, Lois Browne decided to challenge expectations about the “place” of a woman which had been long accepted by the vast majority of locals and soon went to the UK to pursue a law degree. She returned to the Island again as Bermuda's first female lawyer in 1953. The fact that Bermuda's second female lawyer — Shirley Simmons — was not called to the Bermuda Bar until 1967 offers some context on the culture of the times. Lois Brown's act of “freeing her own mind” provided her with a platform to make a lifetime contribution of significant benefit to Bermuda.

In the mid-1940s Edwin Skinner, the principal of Cavendish School was retired. Rather than throwing up his feet, Skinner — who happened to be white — decided to buck the norms of our then-segregated society and address the limited opportunities for secondary education for children of colour. Skinner started a school at his home which served a number of young people, including a trio who, as a group, had an impact on Bermuda's history which is almost unparalleled: students Roosevelt Brown, John Swan and Ottiwell Simmons.

Martin Luther King choose freedom when he declined his father's offer for him to serve as the assistant Minister at Daddy King's very large church in Atlanta — the Hub of the South — in the mid-1950s. MLK chose instead to take on a much smaller church in small-town, Montgomery, Alabama. He began his ministry there just a few months prior to the arrest of Rosa Parks. And the rest is history.

These are accounts of people who put Marley's words into action. They staked their freedom, guided by principles “within” rather than those espoused by “the crowd”. Mandela overcame the tradition of his tribe. Lois Brown ignored the Island's strictures for women. Skinner broke free of racial barriers in solidarity and MLK struck out to be independent of his father. We all have personal stories of others using their mind to be free of addiction, economic hardship or other challenges.

This week's Cup Match holiday let's reflect on freedom. It's a time of enjoyment and “re-creation”; when we can access that potential which can benefit ourselves, our families, our Island and our World.

Have a safe and enjoyable Cup Match, Bermuda.

Glenn Fubler is co-founder of community group Imagine Bermuda

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Published July 30, 2014 at 9:00 am (Updated July 29, 2014 at 7:27 pm)

Free yourselves, emancipate your minds from mental slavery

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