A word about Berkeley ... if you will
“Oft as we can we will come back again
”Here oft you will find us”
— Berkeley School Song
Fellow Berkeleyites, I greet you today on the 123rd anniversary of the founding of our school, our home, the Berkeley Institute.
Imagine, if you will, Bermuda in the year 1890, a mere 50 years after the end of slavery.
There you would have found the following conditions for black people:
● Not allowed to vote
● Not allowed to work in government jobs
● Not allowed to eat in certain places
● Not allowed to worship in certain churches
● Not given access to free primary or secondary education
Indeed it was a bleak outlook.
Imagine, if you will, the angst of parents who wanted nothing but the best for their children.
Imagine, if you will, a colonial government, that wanted nothing but the worst for those same children.
Our foreparents had to have collective leadership among themselves.
History will record that 11 men sat down and collectively deliberated for months and years as to not just the problems but, more importantly, the solution to said problems:
1, Joseph Henry Thomas, schoolmaster and first chairman of the Berkeley Educational Society
2, Richard Henry Duerden, dry goods merchant and auctioneer
3, William Henry Thomas Joell, carpenter who became the first black Member of the Colonial Parliament in May 1883
4, Samuel David Robinson, baker
5, Eugenius Charles Jackson, lawyer and first secretary of the Berkeley Educational Society
6, Charles William Thomas Smith, MD, physician
7, William Orlando F. Bascome, MD, DDS, dentist
8, John Henry T. Jackson, grocer and later Member of the Colonial Parliament
9, Samuel Parker Sr, printer of Bermuda’s first black-run newspaper, The Times and Advocate
10, Samuel Parker Jr, printer of Bermuda’s first black-run newspaper, The Times and Advocate
11, Henry T. Dyer, ferry boatman
While the names of these men were listed, there is no doubt that there were also wives, mothers, sisters, aunts, godmothers and daughters who were directing their actions
Once again we see collective leadership.
Fellow Berkeleyites, I do not need to go over the history of our beloved school.
I do not have to say that Berkeley produced three female premiers — Dame Pamela Gordon-Banks, Dame Jennifer Smith and Paula Cox.
I do not have to say that Berkeley has produced two top Carifta athletes by the names of Debbie Jones-Hunter and Sakari Famous.
I don't have to say the person in line to run the Bermuda Hospitals Board is a Berkeleyite — Scott Pearman.
I don't have to tell you that our airport is named after a Berkeleyite — L. Fredrick Wade.
I don't have to tell you that the two most successful General Elections in Bermuda’s history — 2017 and 2020 — were run by two female Berkeleyites in Progressive Labour Party chairwoman Dawn Simmons and campaign manager Alexa Lightbourne.
They were ably assisted by fellow Berkeleyites Jamahl Simmons, Owen Darrell and others.
They, like the founders of our great school, worked with other Berkeleyites to achieve what others saw as impossible.
To win the 1998 election, Dame Jennifer had to work with Bekeleyites such as Arthur Hodgson, Ewart Brown, MD and former Speaker of the House Randolph K. Horton.
To set the record that still stands for fastest woman at a Carifta Games, Debbie Jones-Hunter had to work with fellow Berkeleyite Earl “Gabby” Hart, one of the founders of Carifta.
For Scott Pearman to reach the position of next in line to be BHB chief executive, he had to be mentored by fellow Berkeleyite Venetta Symonds.
You see, above are clear examples of collective leadership of Berkeleyites.
As Berkeleyites, we have overcome the evils of colonialism, slavery, segregation, discrimination, racism and sexism by being leaders in everything that we do.
Inside of those halls, we separate ourselves not by skin tone, not by academic achievements ... we have only one separation.
That will be the greatest rivalry in Bermuda history. That being the rivalry of Gold House versus Green House.
Yes, we are separated inside of the halls, but out in the real world, order to achieve the impossible, we have to put aside those differences and band together as Berkeleyites.
Whether Gold House or Green House, we have to have collective leadership.
Some 123 years after the founding of the greatest school in Bermuda, history has repeated itself.
We are once again facing the challenges of a lifetime:
● Black men and women still being slaughtered in America
● A global pandemic
● Thousands unemployed
● No tourism industry
● Not enough Bermudian tradesmen and women
● No Cup Match
Are we going to just go on social media and complain?
Are we going to just expect the Government to solve all of our problems?
Or are we going to do like those founding fathers and mothers of 1897?
● Work together to clearly identify the issues at hand
● Work together to produce solutions
Fellow Berkeleyites, we have no illusions about the challenges ahead of us as a country.The mountains we have to overcome are steep.The boulders on our shoulders are heavy.
We simply cannot do it alone.
We must unite as Berkeleyites.
Please put aside whether you went to the original Berkeley campus or the newer Berkeley campus.
We all wore the same tie around our necks.
We all wear the same crest in our hearts.
Fellow Berkeleyites, look to network with those you graduated with; look to network with the parents of those you graduated with; look to network with the children of those you graduated with.
There you will find the same answers that were found in the 1890s.
There you will find collective leadership.
“We are the men of the years to come”
“We are the women of the future”
Happy 123rd anniversary, Berkeleyites.
• Christopher Famous is the government MP for Devonshire East (Constituency 11). You can reach him on WhatsApp at 599-0901 or e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org