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Us ‘pond dogs’ are duty-bound to pay it forward

The Centre: venue of Dancing in the Street on Saturday

“And Nathanael said to him: can there any good thing come out of Nazareth? Philip said to him: Come and see.”

— John 1:46

Last week I had the privilege of being invited to speak with some young Bermudian men. Young men who, not unlike any of us, found themselves facing a few life challenges during their high school years.

In getting to listen to their stories, I found that I was almost listening to the story of my own teenage life. During my high school years, it sometimes seemed I spent more time in the office of Mr Horton than I spent in my homeroom. Additionally, I found myself with failing grades owing to my own lack of attention to study.

When I asked the young men where on the island they live, many spoke of living in the town area. Again, I recalled a time that many persons tended to looked down on young men from “back of town” areas, as if we were “less than”.

Some may ask: where is “back of town”?

For clarity, one would have to envision some of the following locations:

• Angle Street

• Princess Street

• Middletown

• Court Street

• Curving Avenue

• St Augustine’s Hill (Smith’s Hill)

• Parsons Road

• Marsh Folly

• St Monica’s Road (42nd Street)

• Government Gate

• Glebe Road

• Roberts Avenue

• Friswells Hill

Collectively, these areas form what is now affectionately called “Back of Town”.

There was a time that many in this country mistakenly looked down on those of us from “back of town”. They said that we were no good or nothing to be proud of. We were considered nothing more than a bunch of “Gombeys”.

They also labelled us as “pond dogs”, notably because of the proximity of the perennial eyesore that has been the Pembroke Dump.

Let me tell you something about “pond dogs”. To survive in the back of town, you had to be able to think on your feet and think two steps ahead of the next person.

In other words, you had to be a leader. A leader like:

• Ottiwell Simmons

• Dame Lois Browne-Evans

• Kingsley Tweed PhD

• Artie Black

• Austin Thomas

• Freddie Thomas

• Robert Wilson

• Wycliffe Stovell

• Aurelia Burch

• Maria Benn

• The Brangman sisters

These are but some of the people who have instilled the qualities of leadership, not through lip service but through the sweat of their brows and by the impeccable examples they set.

These are persons who created legacies and institutions that still stand to this day, despite a multitude of challenges.

These are people who many looked down on because they came from “back of town”.

Many of these persons took their time to pull myself and others aside in our challenging years to teach us various life principles: community building, business ownership, workers rights, spiritual grounding.

Essentially, they helped to mentor and to set the foundation for the next generation of Bermudian leadership.

Last week, in speaking to those young men, it reaffirmed to me that within each of them there lies a future leader. They need to know that coming from “back of town” endows them with a heritage filled with pride and progress.

Tomorrow the Dancing in the Street festival takes place on Angle Street from 3pm to 9pm, hosted by The Centre, formerly known as PYC, which spawned the likes of Olympic bronze medal-winning boxer Clarence Hill, Troy Darrell and the Editor of The Royal Gazette.

It will be a celebration of our “back of town” heritage.

It is incumbent on those of us who have moved forward in life to help to nurture these young men to reach their full potential. This truly is the “back of town” way.

•Christopher Famous is the government MP for Devonshire East (Constituency 11). You can reach him at WhatsApp on 599-0901 or e-mail at cfamous@plp.bm