LaVerne’s work is not finished
LaVerne Furbert left an indelible mark in the history and conscience of Bermuda's social and political psychic. The one trait she would be known for above all was as a loyal supporter and advocate of the Progressive Labour Party and the Bermuda Industrial Union. Whether as a senator, writer, activist or social-media participant, she was like the advanced guard soldier on the battlefield.
I often was critical of what I deemed as her stubborn if not irrational support for party, which many times saw us with our pens at cross swords, clashing. I have had to learn that which is a truth for every living soul, and that is we each see and respond to the world through the prism of our own experiences.
It is an odd anomaly when we visit the subject of political power and truthfulness. You need power under our political constructs to exert your agenda or vision. Power in Bermuda is indeed a team sport, where without power you lose. LaVerne probably understood that more than most. She may disagree personally with a position within the party but would support the team notwithstanding. Recalling the words of Dame Lois Browne-Evan's, who was one of LaVerne's earliest mentors: “You have to choose a party. You have to support one side or the other. You can't sit on the fence."
On a different note, I do recall back in the early 1980s that Rahima Al Sadiq (Carey Furbert deceased), Gwen Robinson, Amatullah Bashir, LaVerne Furbert and myself all were assisting heroin addicts through their withdrawals, which meant taking addicts into our homes for typically three to four days each, taking shifts to enable a 24-hour watch — the hardest being the second day when the withdrawal symptoms were more intense and they often wanted to quit. We did this before Addiction Services was formed. In the grand scheme of things, it would be these type acts of compassion that would define LaVerne's non-public world.
Until the format systemically changes where truth reigns and the principle or political goal is to attain the best path that involves and engages everyone towards fairness, justice and prosperity through truth and reasoning as the highest virtue. Until that ideal of establishing truth and living by that truth in a constitutional sense becomes the respected goal and society’s aim, loyalty will remain to be defined by support for that which yields power.
Unfortunately, to talk about justice without the means of power is just talk. However, when people are committed to the idea of equality and justice for all then every word or idea professed or expressed and promoted towards those ends within itself becomes power. Truthfulness alone is power when the populace seeks it, but when the goal is power by any means, even truth will be trampled.
LaVerne is a reflection of a time and era that we have lived, and she epitomised the kind of perseverance needed to break a system of stayed bigotry. The challenge for today is for Bermuda to find that bridge over troubled waters, where the race battles of the past are indeed the past as we lead our way forward towards a new destiny of mutuality. The two parties to date are still emblematic of that old race battle.
Is there a way or path that we can embark upon that can be a new example of how we can turn a dark past into a glorious new day? If so, we need to find it. I know it’s easy to say but difficult to achieve. It is even more difficult when there is no intention. The first step is to express that intention to heal the past by encouraging a new future.
LaVerne's life experience saw a world decidedly against people who looked like her. Who can argue that what she saw and experienced wasn't real? LaVerne in her heart saw her struggle as leading to the advancement of emancipation of her people, and saw the PLP as quintessential to those aims. That today, almost 60 years on, her dreams are farther from realisation than when first begun is a looming challenge for the party to deliver.
I think we should know by now we cannot sing the song of old "We shall overcome" and hope our song alone will bring us deliverance. We should also have come to the realisation that we will we not overcome alone, and that march will be a walk together.
The words "none of us are free unless all of us are free" are becoming the new axiom and the only vantage position that will save us. There is no us and them in this struggle; no insiders and outsiders, either. It's a “your love is my love”, “together we can make it”, “together we can shake it”.
Our humanity binds us as one people; it is only our ignorance that continues to separate us. There is no road to a collective vision when there is division. We can either preach division or unity. We can have only one or the other.
I pray that the best of LaVerne's intentions survive and one day we all can lift our world beyond the limitations of the world she saw.