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Four community heartbeats

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“Thank you Mama for the nine months you carried me through

All those pain and sufferin'

No one knows the struggle you bear a just only you”

— Sizzla

A few weeks ago, persons worldwide were celebrating Mother’s Day and the women who have sacrificed blood, sweat and tears to raise generations of humans.

Rightfully so, there is no price anyone can put on the value of a mother.

Merlin Burt, left, June Famous and Shurnette Caines set the bar high on the values of self-motivation and collective leadership
The late great Hazel Christopher indoctrinated many with the power of unity

As chance would have it, I came across a not-so-old photo of three ladies; three mothers who individually and collectively raised quite a few children. Not only the biological children from their wombs and the emotional children of their own hearts.

In the 1960s and 1970s, Bermuda was rife with structural, institutional and cultural racial discrimination.

Blacks were not allowed to attend certain schools, work in banks or hold certain positions in the Civil Service. For Black women, not only did they have to contend with racism, but they had to deal with overt sexism from men of all races.

Even more acute was some of the abuse hurled at those of West Indian heritage; sadly, very often from those of West Indian parentage.

Welcome to Bermuda

During this time period, four women of Caribbean birth and upbringing met, fell in love with and subsequently married four Bermudian men.

Coincidentally, these men, all of Caribbean heritage themselves, were originally from Devonshire.

Their wives arrived in Bermuda into the challenging social environment of the 1970s.

Even with Blacks being limited in scope, these women were never deterred from seeking the best in educational and business opportunities in order to progress themselves and their families.

Firm beliefs in progressive values and community service led them to form lifelong bonds with like-minded individuals.

Unity is power

With the rampant discrimination facing West Indians, these ladies became some of the founding members of both the West Indian Association of Bermuda and the Jamaican Association of Bermuda.

These organisations became hubs of activity for many persons of Caribbean birth and heritage — potluck events to raise funds for families in need, house parties for entertainment, standing up against discrimination or helping others set up businesses.

Without a doubt, both of these entities helped to change the way persons of Caribbean heritage were viewed by all Bermudians.

More importantly, it set the foundation for how the children of Caribbean parents saw themselves.

Unbreakable ties

Along the way, those same children who grew together became more than just friends. They became cousins and family.

Mind you, some of those children were biologically related, in multiple ways.

As cousins, they were undoubtedly inculcated with the same strong values of family, community and country.

Whether they learnt the easy way or the hard way — more often the hard way — their mothers individually and collectively raised those children to be strong and never to forget whence they came.

As they say: “Licks were trumps.”

As adults, those hard-earned lessons have seemingly paid off.

No matter how old they are, those children still call each other’s mother “Auntie”. Equally, they would rightfully take verbal licks from any one of those aunts if they have been deemed to have forgotten their upbringing.

We salute them

So as mothers around the world are celebrated, we, their offspring, take this moment to salute four mothers in particular.

Four Caribbean-Bermudian mothers who stood up individually and collectively to establish themselves, raise their families, and to lay the foundation for our generation to succeed.

Shurnette Caines, Merlin Burt, June Famous, and the late great Hazel Christopher.

We love you.

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

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Published May 21, 2021 at 7:58 am (Updated May 21, 2021 at 7:43 am)

Four community heartbeats

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