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Out of many, we are one people

Devonshire Recreation Club, a structure built by the community coming together (Photograph supplied)

At times we find ourselves looking for a way forward out of any given set of challenges. Far too often we seek to reinvent the wheel when many of the solutions lie in our not too distant past.

Bermudians have historically come from diverse backgrounds; many from Britain, many others from the Azores.

Today, I will speak briefly on the history of those of us from the West Indies.

Perhaps up to 60 per cent of all Bermudians came to this island via various islands in the Caribbean.

These were islands such as:

• Saba

• Jamaica

• Turks and Caicos

• St Kitts and Nevis

The Bermudian writer Cyril Packwood chronicled in his seminal book Chained on the Rock that the first persons of colour to arrive in Bermuda came as indentured servants from the West Indies.

Thousands of our people came here as enslaved Africans and indigenous Americans. Some came as free people of colour. After 1834, others left the brutal plantations of the Caribbean to start life here in Bermuda. Not to bow down to Bermudian colonial masters, but to determine their own destinies.

My biological relatives have surnames such as Byron, Brown, Charles, Fraser, Rabain, Jacobs, Matthews, Harris, Lugo, Thomas, Wilson and Webb. However, let us not be fooled by surnames, as DNA tests will show that almost everyone from St Kitts and Nevis is biologically related.

Even the Cannoniers.

It was that strength and unity derived from our African-Caribbean roots that brought us out of bondage, through segregation and into leadership in all areas of Bermudian life.

When we were denied a place of worship, we built churches such as the Evening Light Pentecostal Church on Parsons Road, the Emmanuel Baptist Church on Dundonald Street and the Church of God on Angle Street.

When we had nowhere to play sport we built workingmen’s clubs and community clubs such as the former Pond Hill Stars and the Pembroke Juniors clubs; and subsequently, Devonshire Recreation Club, North Village Community Club and Young Man’s Social Club — all of which remain with us today.

When we had nowhere to educate our children, we built schools such as Powell’s Nursery on Friswell’s Hill and The Berkeley Institute on Court Street.

When we had no representation for workers of Bermuda, we built the unions. When we couldn’t eat in their restaurants, Wilfred DeGraff cooked us beef pies.

And when we were ready to fight for our civil rights and political rights, we, in partnership with black Bermudians from the old-line families built a party called the Progressive Labour Party, which fought for social and racial justice.

Simply put, we did not cry or go around begging for scraps or trickle-down economics. We did what we do best. We led.

I say this against the backdrop of various community challenges, including public education, antisocial behaviour and overgrown vegetation.

It will take concerted and continuous community efforts to engender substantial progress to tackle the many issues facing our island. True leadership does not lie in the hands of 36 Members of Parliament. True leadership lies within the people of Bermuda.

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