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‘Like King, Tweed defended the underprivileged’

Curb’s Central Council wish to express their concern at the way the Reverend Nicholas Tweed has been treated over his work-permit renewal.

Tweed is uniquely qualified for the position, not only from a spiritual and leadership perspective, but also from a cultural and social perspective. His family ties go back many generations and his daughter lives in Bermuda.

Much has already been written about his father, the Reverend Kingsley Tweed, whose courageous social justice work prior to desegregation and his outspoken advocacy during the Bermuda Theatre Boycott in 1959 drew fierce criticism including death threats. Unable to find employment and fearful for his life he was forced to leave Bermuda as a political and economic refugee.

Curb has previously published research papers on the racialised immigration laws and policies that held sway in Bermuda until contemporary times. Victimisation of those who stood for social justice against the views of the establishment was commonplace, and both Methodist and AME ministers were victims of that wrath: Methodist minister the Reverend John Stephenson, who was imprisoned in 1799 for what was considered “inflammatory preaching”; Pastor Charles Monk, of Allen Temple AME in Somerset, who was imprisoned for six months for criminal libel after he stood up for the mistreatment of black labourers at the Royal Naval Dockyard; and in 1920 the Reverend Richard Tobbitt, of the Richard Allen Church in St George’s - and a respected headmaster of a school for black children - was discovered by the establishment as being a “Garveyite”, espousing black empowerment in Bermuda.

The Government and the Board of Education immediately withdrew funds from the school and forced the Church to terminate Mr Tobbitt’s employment. And in the 1980s, Louis Farrakhan, of the Nation of Islam, was banned from coming to Bermuda by the government of the day.

The mission of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, formed in 1957 by Martin Luther King Jr, was to harness the moral authority and organising power of black churches to conduct nonviolent protests for civil rights reform. That there is continuing inequality and economic disparity in our community based on race is evidenced in successive Census results.

Like Dr King, Tweed has without doubt demonstrated he is a vocal leader defending the rights of the underprivileged, the worker and those disenfranchised and sidelined in modern Bermuda. He is a man of God and a passionate advocate of the people, and for many Bermudians the actions taken against him are all too familiar with past acts of victimisation and current-day economic intimidation, and are seen as an attempt to silence him and his work in the community.

What is perhaps bittersweet is that if it was not for Bermuda’s past racialised immigration policies, Tweed might today have been viewed as a Bermudian and would have qualified under “Right of Blood” to have Bermudian status, ie, almost all states in Europe, Asia, Africa and Oceania grant citizenship based on jus sanguinis (Latin: right of blood), a principle of nationality law in which citizenship is inherited through parents rather than by birthplace; the United States and Canada being the only developed nations in the world to still offer unconditional birthright citizenship jus soli (Latin: right of the soil), a legacy of their need to repopulate a continent after the eradication of indigenous first nation people.

Curb stands with Tweed and asks the Government to consider the appeal to renew his work permit with sensitivity and responsiveness to the needs of the community - especially the wishes of the St Paul’s AME congregation and the wider AME community.

Fighting for cause: Curb's Central Council wish to express their concern at the way the Reverend Nicholas Tweed has been treated over his work-permit renewal