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‘Hate speech’ comes under fire

Ayo Kimathi made a presentation about race and homosexuality(Photograph by Sarah Lagan)

Cabinet minister Patricia Gordon-Pamplin has condemned “hate speech” after a presentation at a packed Liberty Theatre denouncing homosexuals and interracial marriage.

Washington speaker Ayo Kimathi, who publicly endorses the mass killing of white people and “black traitors” on his website, told the audience of more than 100 people on Saturday how homosexuality is a “deep-rooted cancer” destroying society.

During the two-hour presentation, the name of Ms Gordon-Pamplin, the Minister of Community, Culture and Sports, was called out as someone who endorses homosexuality after she announced the Bermuda Government is holding information sessions on same-sex marriage, which are due to begin this evening.

Responding last night, Ms Gordon-Pamplin told The Royal Gazette: “Freedom of speech is the engine of our democratic society. But freedom of speech comes with responsibilities. It does not give people licence to incite violence toward others, nor does it make the spreading of hatred and intolerance acceptable. If the weekend report in The Royal Gazette is accurate — and we have no reason to believe it is not — the hate-mongering words attributed to the speaker are to be condemned.

“Bermuda needs to be about understanding, acceptance and fairness, not the discrimination, intolerance and hatred that was expressed on the weekend.

“The best path forward for Bermuda is one that brings people together, and it is our hope the Opposition will join us in condemning a message that served no purpose other than to discriminate, objectify and degrade fellow Bermudians. The Minister of Home Affairs will have more to say on this matter.”

Progressive Labour Party leader Marc Bean did not respond to our request for comment by press time.

Mr Kimathi, known as the Irritated Genie, was speaking on behalf of the organisation War On The Horizon. His presentation included a clip from Gambia president Yahya Jammeh endorsing the death penalty for homosexuals and saying “homosexuality is the detriment of human existence”, which drew claps from large numbers.

Mr Kimathi, who has attracted headlines in the international press for his outright views on homosexuality and race, was brought to the Island to speak along with professor James Small by Bermudian David Tucker.

On its website, War On The Horizon describes itself as an organisation designed to prepare African people worldwide for survival in the 21st century and states: “In order for black people to survive the 21st century, we are going to have to kill a lot of whites — more than our Christian hearts can possibly count.”

In Saturday’s presentation, the speaker said that homosexuality was originated by the white man, that blacks should only marry other black people, and should only buy products from black companies. He asked the audience whether he should set up a chapter in Bermuda, to which they responded by cheering and applauding. Regarding Ms Gordon-Pamplin, Mr Kimathi said: “When your public figures endorse homosexuality either they have no idea what is going on and they are just doing it because they got pressured to do it or they are involved in it.”

The event included a talk by professor James Small on African history and a section by Mr Kimathi about the history of the black empowerment movement and slavery.

Organiser Mr Tucker told this newspaper: “This was actually my doing. This is what I do to help people, to illuminate their minds and get them thinking.”

Mr Tucker has brought speakers to the Island on previous occasions to teach African history, including lecturer Ashra Kwesi and his wife Merira. The audience, almost entirely black, showed support for a chapter of what Mr Kimathi called the Straight Black Pride movement to be established in Bermuda.

The poster for the event came under the banner “African History and Culture Come Alive!” and made no mention of homosexuality or interracial marriage; this newspaper could not reach anyone from Liberty Theatre for comment yesterday, but management contacted us today to denounce the content of the presentation, and say they had been led to believe the talk was purely about black history.

Mr Kimathi began with a history of the black empowerment movement and slavery, showing a harrowing video clip of the physical and psychological horrors experienced by black people and the discrimination that they still face today.

Citizens Uprooting Racism in Bermuda had posted an electronic poster for the event on its Facebook page believing the talk to be about African history after being asked to publicise the event by the African Diaspora Heritage Trail. The race relations group then removed the poster from the page once it heard the full agenda, and said that in fact ADHT had no involvement with the advertisement.

CURB president Mark Nash said the Facebook post was subsequently edited to say: “Edit: originally this post stated that the ADHT requested that we share the flyer. This is incorrect and we apologise to the ADHT for any harm this error may have caused.”

Mr Nash posted on behalf of the organisation over the weekend: “When it came to our attention that the true subject of the event was to spread hatred against members of our community, we promptly removed the link from both our Facebook pages.”

ADHT could not be contacted yesterday.

Joe Gibbons, who is a gay Bermudian, suggested that the issue be contested in the courts. He posted on a Facebook thread: “The Human Rights Commission or someone should take a legal case up. This is beyond disgusting.”

The presentation also condemned interracial marriage.

Jennifer Outerbridge Smith, a white woman married to a black Bermudian man, told this newspaper: “I feel saddened that someone made the effort to bring someone in that would try to further divide people on the Island. I know there is a lot of ignorance and hatred and I feel sorry for those people who choose to be divided.”

During the presentation, Mr Kimathi read out a passage describing “white sex” as “any act of sexual deviance, perversion, and/or aggression deriving from Europeans that occurs between other than a consenting man and woman including misogyny, rape, homosexuality, child molestation, bestiality, orgies, sadomasochism, interracial sex”.

Audience member Roxanne Hart, who is in an interracial relationship, told us she believed she was the only white person at what she described as a “hate fest”.

She questioned whether attendees were “fooled” by flyers, and coverage on the Sherri J show, that it would be an educational lecture, only to arrive and find “the second half to be a disgrace”.

“White or black, that level of hatred certainly was a showcase of the worst of Bermuda,” she said. “I was prepared to hear things I wouldn’t like in regard to African history but not this. My mind never made the leap from African history to bashing homosexuals and listing my marriage next to rape and bestiality as a perversion.”

The story has been debated across numerous social media threads. On Facebook, former Progressive Labour Party senator LaVerne Furbert took issue with The Royal Gazette’s online coverage, saying that it only focused on one element of the speech.

This newspaper also reported that Mr Kimathi posted a clip by Mr Jammeh who has publicly said: “I will slit your throat — if you are a man and want to marry another man in this country and when we catch you, no one will ever set eyes on you again, and no white person can do anything about it.”

Ms Furbert said on Facebook: “At no time did Mr Kimathi suggest that homosexuals should be killed as has been reported. He also shared with us the horrors of the Trans-Atlantic Slave Trade including the fact that many male and female slaves (adults and children) were raped by the white slave masters. What I’ve read on various Facebook sites, including CURB, leads me to believe that Bermuda is as far from becoming a united community as it was in 1834.”

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