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'If there is a story that has the potential to bring all of us together, then this is the one'

City of Hamilton Mayor Charles Gosling and AJ The Little Gombey take a look at the "We Arrive" statue during its unveiling at Barrs Park last night, to commemorate the 175 anniversary when the Bermuda Courts ruled that the 72 people who arrived on The Enterprise were free people. They were subsequently given a home in Bermuda

A proud, towering symbol of freedom, Chesley Trott's statue to commemorate the arrival of the slave ship Enterprize was unveiled in suitably blustery conditions yesterday.

The unveiling of the bronze sculpture 'We Arrive' at Barr's Bay Park took place in wind and rain similar to the stormy weather which forced the American brig onto these shores 175 years ago.

Despite the grey skies, there was a rainbow on the water of the harbour, and last night's speeches were filled with the message of hope and unity for the future.

"Today's celebration is an opportunity for us as a community to stop and acknowledge an epic moment in our history," said Hamilton Mayor Charles Gosling.

"This event should be celebrated as a proud moment."

Celebrating the Bermudians who fought to ensure the 78 enslaved people on the ship were given a taste of freedom, Mr. Gosling said they would have been unaware of their role in history at the time.

"They stepped forward to help their fellow men because in their own minds and morals it was right," he said.

"Emancipation had taken place just a year before. Our forefathers, black and white, took the chance to make a difference in the lives of people who had been free but who were captured and then enslaved."

He noted that of the 78 slaves aboard the Enterprize, only one woman and her five children chose to stay with the American ship.

The rest chose freedom and their descendants were among those at the celebrations last night in the very park where their ancestors first stepped ashore.

Mr. Gosling remarked that Bermuda was a nation that "has been divided".

"We continue to grapple with the ways of moving forward," he said.

"Race and colour does matter and as uncomfortable as it may be, until we can all admit we have a problem, a shared solution won't be found."

He continued: "If there is a story that has the potential to bring all of us together then this is the one."

Premier Ewart Brown said: "The more we do this in Bermuda, the better our chances are of succeeding in our aim of living together as one society.

"When we do this we acknowledge the discomfort and the pain that so many people experienced at the time."

He said: "We should never fail to recognise when a person or group of persons takes a step which even a few years ago might not have been a popular one. But it is a step which will bring us closer together."

Glenn Fubler of Imagine Bermuda, said: "We are a people who come from many places. It is in that diversity of our background that is our strength."

Ross Smith of the Bermudian Heritage Museum said: "When the slaves arrived in Bermuda, Bermuda gave them a chance. They took that chance and are today interwoven into the fabric of our society."

The Enterprize was enroute from Alexandria, Virginia, to Charleston, South Carolina, when it was blown off course in gale force winds and had to seek re-victualling and repairs in Bermuda.

The ship had scant cargo and only three passengers but was transporting 78 slaves. Its arrival here on February 11, 1835, led to the slaves' emancipation.

Slaves in Bermuda were granted freedom on August 1, 1834.

Six months later, the arrival of the Enterprize prompted the Island's Governor to allow each of the American slaves the opportunity to choose their fate, 72 of whom chose freedom.