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Curb race relations talks clear the air

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Curb participants David Stubbs, left, with Claire Smith, Margaret Downing-Dill and Debbie Boyer (Photograph by Jonathan Bell)
Curb participant Barrie Trimingham (Photograph supplied)

White Bermudians have shared the benefits from taking part in truth and reconciliation talks on race relations.

offered by the charity Citizens Uprooting Racism in Bermuda.

Lynne Winfield, the president of organisers Citizens Uprooting Racism in Bermuda , said 2020 was a watershed year for race relations because of the rise of the Black Lives Matter movement.

She added Curb has offered a “condensed” version of the truth and reconciliation talks for companies to hold 1½ day online workshops for companies and other organisations.

A total of 650 people took part in the online events between July and September.

Despite Covid-19, 84 people have managed to attend Curb’s small group talks over seven weeks of sharing their experiences of race.

Barrie Trimingham said she had been reluctant to join because her surname was linked to the Establishment as “one of the 40 thieves”.

Her father was the late DeForest “Shorty” Trimingham, a former tourism minister.

She said: “He was very open-minded, as he should have been. But I never knew any real Bermuda history.”

Ms Trimingham added she found the talks, in January 2017, “an informative and powerful experience”.

She added: “How will it change Bermuda? Probably bit by bit – it’s a slow process that happens with individual connections.”

Ms Trimingham said she had been affected to hear the story of “land grabs” at Tucker’s Town from the niece of someone who had been dispossessed.

She said she would “absolutely” recommend the talks, but that some of her white contemporaries were less keen out of a fear they would be “chastised”.

But she added: “That was not the case.”

Ms Trimingham said she felt overwhelmed by pride in the island when she attended the Black Lives Matter march in June that brought out more than 7,000 people – including people who brought their children along.

She added: “I was extremely impressed with the intermingling of black and white people, mostly younger people – that’s where it has to happen.

“It was one of the greatest events I have ever attended.”

David Stubbs joined his round of talks in spring 2018, and said he was so impressed he became a Curb moderator for future talks.

The lawyer, who was off the island from 1994 until 2017, said he had been motivated in part by “the level of anger I saw on social media” around that year’s General Election.

Mr Stubbs, the son of a former United Bermuda Party MP, said the talks created “a safe space” for people to connect with one another as well as talk.

Mr Stubbs added: “There’s power in having a group in a room speaking really bluntly with each other, and having something that doesn’t descend into violent words but people speaking frankly.”

He said: “Everybody gets something different out of it.”

He added Curb hoped to attract more white Bermudians.

Mr Stubbs said: “I don’t know if some people expect to get shouted at – or if they’re going to have to come to terms with something they’ve known fundamentally all their lives.”

Debbie Boyer, born in 1951, said she had “deeply distressing” memories of growing up in a segregated Bermuda.

Ms Bower took Curb’s class on white racial identity in 2012, which included learning about the concept of white privilege.

She said that in her “mainly black” Curb talks three years ago, the realisation of the advantage held by white people “hit me like a ton of bricks”.

Ms Bower added: “I realised I had a great deal to learn.

“I believe each generation has passed this flag to the next. It’s a question of what you do with it.”

Margaret Downing-Dill, who lived in the United States for nine years from 1998, said she had noticed from overseas that white people in Bermuda’s online blogs often tried to contradict black people’s candid accounts of their experiences of racism.

She started reading history books such as Second-Class Citizens, First-Class Men by the late Eva Hodgson.

She added: “I was flabbergasted. It was like having the top of your head blow off.”

Ms Downing-Dill said she started to see how “attitudes towards race, racism and whiteness shifted over the years”.

Ms Downing-Dill said she flew home once a month to attend the Big Conversation talks organised by former premier Ewart Brown’s Big Conversation after they started in 2007.

She added: “They could be pretty intense. There were times I had to tell myself I was going no matter what happened.”

Ms Downing-Dill joined Curb when she came back to the island at the end of 2007.

She ran art summer camps, but noticed that white parents were more likely to have “ready cash to pay up front”.

Ms Downing-Dill said: “I put a line in my brochure saying nobody would be turned away for lack of funds.”

Friends also donated to a scholarship fund to help bring racial balance to the camps.

Ms Downing-Dill joined the truth and reconciliation talks three years ago – and followed it by taking Curb’s class on restorative practices.

She has become an assistant facilitator for the race talks programme.

Ms Winfield said about 400 people had gone through the talk groups and that Curb was committed to a target of 1,000 people.

The next round of talks is scheduled to start on January 14.

To register or find out more, e-mail admin@uprootingracism.org.

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Published December 11, 2020 at 8:00 am (Updated December 10, 2020 at 4:43 pm)

Curb race relations talks clear the air

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