A call to walk our talk
At Bermuda College’s forum, titled “Murder in Paradise”, panellists offered thought-provoking perspectives on the involvement of Black males in the present cycle of violence — a phenomenon described by moderator Victoria Pearman as a complex problem.
Serendipitously, earlier that day, I had lunch with a young, thirtysomething Black male to discuss his frustrations. He happens to be a part of that demographic that has been deemed to have made right choices, but expressed feelings of being viewed as an outsider.
I’ll return to his matter, later.
Three men, at present incarcerated “outsiders”, began the forum with virtual presentations. This afforded the audience some insight into the capabilities of numbers of persons who are behind bars.
The final Corrections presenter contended that addressing this violence required a collective effort, leveraging the whole village. He noted that engaging those outsiders involved in this cycle required a community shift in values: stop chasing status and material wealth. He warned that if we don’t “walk our talk”, these outsiders will be a permanent underclass.
Those panellists on site went on to make vital contributions. Juan Wolffe, an exemplar judge, noted that the cycle was a societal problem, thus requiring a societal transformation.
Quinton Sherlock, a youth leader now based in Ghana, West Africa, made the case for restoring those assets which sustained our community through the legacy of apartheid. He concurred with Wolffe that “we are all a part of the problem, thus a part of the solution”.
Kudre Hill offered a poignant personal story from 16 years ago when his younger brother was killed — courageously exemplifying the potential of forgiveness.
Ty-Ron Douglas, an administrator at UC-Berkeley, made the point that any effective resolution to this challenge requires “an asset-based approach” — building on those successes.
My lunch guest that day explained his frustration in being unable to secure sustained employment — even though he is competent to fill a need. He has an appropriate university degree and, while he has a gap in his paperwork, has been able to demonstrate his capabilities in temporary roles.
I am personally aware that he is an exemplary young father who is ostensibly a single parent of two. This has created something of a Catch-22 in limiting his ability to address the gap in certification.
In addressing this young man’s frustration, I shared with him personal circumstances as a 25-year-old. At the time, I served in a temporary post at The Berkeley Institute as a biology teacher who held a Bachelor of Science in Biology but lacked a teacher certificate. I had been accepted at King’s College (London) for its one-year programme, but was turned down when I applied for a teacher training scholarship.
I met a senior officer at the Ministry of Education, attempting to gain clarification regarding my application’s denial. I do recall that the officer informed me that they could not explain the reasons. I did suspect that I had been refused because of my activism at the time. For instance, I had started a legal defence fund for Erskine “Buck” Burrows and Larry Tacklyn — the ultimate outsiders.
I admitted to my lunch guest that the education officer’s response led to my feeling angry — perhaps similar to his feelings. I shared that I even had an impulse to throw the senior officer down the stairs at the ministry office. However, conscious of my support from the “village”, I was able to resist reacting to the circumstances and decided to respond. In that regard, while I didn’t receive that scholarship for that year, I did receive the funds the next year.
Let’s affirm to those deemed outsiders that we support their efforts to respond.
Attempting to add more context, I shared with my lunch guest some of Rosa Parks’s story. She had been active in Montgomery for a decade before her historic stand, by teaming with E.D. Nixon in keeping alive the flame at the National Association for the Advancement of Coloured People.
From the start of the boycott, there was a surprisingly robust campaign in spite of the terrorism being faced. Within a month Rosa was fired from her job as a seamstress and later her husband lost his job from a military base. Interestingly, the boycott committee was raising enough money — some of it from campaign visits Rosa made to other cities — to hire four full-time people for the campaign.
Ironically, Rosa was not hired, as the committee decided that the hires should have university degrees — demonstrating classism. This notwithstanding that Rosa had been fulfilling those types of roles for a decade prior with the NAACP.
Parks, the outsider, didn’t obtain sustained employment until a few years after the boycott — in Detroit, where she had moved to join her extended family. In Motown, Rosa supported a progressive outsider in a congressional election. After an upset victory, representative John Conyers hired her as a key assistant for his Detroit office.
If this bias could affect Rosa Parks during the most transformative movement in 20th-century United States — a campaign that she had sparked — it could happen to anyone. The lesson offered by this icon is, no matter what, we can maintain our capacity to respond.
Let’s pull together in the spirit of Rosa — walking our talk — to remind all, especially those considered as outsiders, that their inclusion is vital for the village.
• Glenn Fubler represents Imagine Bermuda