Less ‘us and them’, more ‘us and us’
Unfortunately, there has always been a certain element in Bermuda that has attempted to tell us constantly that we are not a part of the Caribbean, either geographically or culturally, and that we should have nothing to do with “those people”.
Many have cited our involvement with the Caribbean community of Caricom, and “those people”, as a waste of both time and money.
The same “those people” who are actually “our people”.
Two weeks ago, some of “our people” in the Bahamas islands were hit with a Category 5 hurricane of apocalyptic proportions, by the name of Dorian.
Yes, the same very same Bahamas islands that were originally populated by both whites and those Africans that they then enslaved from Bermuda approximately 350 years ago.
“Eleuthera Island was founded in 1648 and is the birthplace of the Bahamas. Captain William Sayles and a group of Puritans, known as the Eleutheran Adventurers, sailed from Bermuda in search of religious freedom.” (https://frenchleaveresort.com/eleuthera/)
The same Bahamas where slaves who escaped from Bermuda sailed and hid in caves for months. They then eventually settled on different islands in the Bahamas chain.
If one were to listen to anyone from Eleuthera, they would be hard-pressed to say that they were not listening to someone born and bred in Bermuda.
The surnames Adderley, Butterfield, Ferguson, Ratteray, Hayward, Bain/Bean, Burrows, Maynard, Smith and Seymour are just some of the names of those who share family ties to both Bermuda and the Bahamas.
So, yes, “those people” in the Bahamas are indeed “our people” in the Bahamas.
“Our people” in the Bahamas, specifically the islands of Abaco and Grand Bahama, were subjected to 25ft seawater floods and winds in excess of 200mph for an unprecedented 30 hours. This was a recipe for near-total destruction.
Unfortunately, hundreds, if not thousands, of “our people” are most likely dead and or swept out to sea — never to be found. At the same time, tens of thousands of “our people” are homeless and jobless.
Millions around the world, including Bermuda, witnessed this devastation via video clips.
As such, thousands around the world, in the Caribbean region and right here in Bermuda, began mobilising efforts to assist those thousands of victims.
Last week, Bermudians, of all stripes, saw beyond the negative narratives and rose to the occasion to help “our people”.
The call went out from the Ministry of National Security, the lodges and the Bahamian Association of Bermuda.
The request was simple.
There was a Royal Navy ship, HMS Protector, at Hamilton dock that was willing to carry supplies directly from Bermuda to the Bahamas.
The Herculean challenge, then, was to gather the goods, tools, diapers, building supplies, water, canned goods and clothing, and then pack them on to hundreds of pallets. All within three days.
The Hamilton Seventh-day Adventist Church became the staging area where thousands of persons dropped off goods and then hundreds of volunteers carefully and lovingly separated the items accordingly, packed them on pallets, weighed the pallets, wrapped the pallets with clear plastic wrap, and then loaded the pallets on to trucks via forklift.
For a magical three days, as a country, as a people, we put aside any differences about class, race, nationality and Cup Match teams to work as one people to ensure that thousands of goods were purchased and packed between last Friday and Sunday.
At any given time, there were at least 200 persons present doing different tasks.
Some came as families, some as co-workers, some as church members, while others simply came alone to join the multitudes.
Many of the volunteers spoke of a welling of positive emotions while working and sweating alongside complete strangers.
Various Bahamians living in Bermuda showed up in shirts adorned with their national colours of turquoise, gold and black.
They, too, were overwhelmed by the outpouring of love from Bermudians, dedicated to helping their brothers and sisters in the Caribbean and the Atlantic.
On Monday, HMS Protector departed from Hamilton carrying more than 100 tonnes of “blood, sweat and tears of love” from the people of Bermuda to the people of the Bahamas.
By today, she should have docked and begun unloading those goods to be delivered to the HeadKnowles Foundation in New Providence, Bahamas, and then on to the needy masses.
As a member of Caricom, it is our duty to assist any and all other Caribbean countries in their times of need.
Just as it is their duty to assist us, if mass tragedy befalls our island.
Over the past two years, we have witnessed deadly hurricanes, Irma, Maria and now Dorian.
The unfortunate reality is that climate change is real and we will continue to see Category 5 storms and stronger.
No Caribbean island is immune from being hit.
One day, it may very well be us that others are packing goods for. Hence, why it is important to understand that we are not helping “those people”, but we are helping “our people”.
• Christopher Famous is the government MP for Devonshire East (Constituency 11). You can reach him at WhatsApp on 599-0901 or e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org