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Organisations ‘unaware’ of content of speech

Expression of deep regret: Brian Durham, owner of the Liberty Theatre, where the event took place on Saturday(Photograph by Blaire Simmons)

Organisations associated with promoting Ayo Kimathi’s speech condemning homosexuals and interracial marriage have distanced themselves from the Washington speaker — saying they believed the presentation would be about African history.

The speech by Mr Kimathi had been billed as an educational lecture on African history and was organised by Bermudian David Tucker who has brought other speakers to the Island to talk on black history.

Professor James Small outlined a version of black history and Mr Kimathi covered the black empowerment movement and slavery, before changing the subject to cover “an African agenda” including homosexuality and interracial marriage.

Three of the outlets listed on the flyer as selling the $30 tickets for the event — People’s Pharmacy, the Metaphysical Bookstore and Platinum Entertainment — say they were unaware of the full content of speech.

The fourth, It’s Only Natural, could not be contacted by press time.

A People’s Pharmacy spokeswoman said: “As one of the ticket sellers for the ‘African History Comes Alive’ speech that took place on Saturday, we were shocked to hear that the presentation condemned homosexuals and interracial marriage.

“When we agreed with the promoter David Tucker to sell the tickets as a community service, without commission, we were advised that the speech would be about slavery.

“In no way do we support the content of the speech and we are very disappointed to hear that such a speech was delivered here in Bermuda. We believe that everyone should have the right to live in a community without hatred regardless of their race, age, marital status or sexual orientation. We would like to apologise to anyone who was offended by us selling tickets for an event for which we were unaware of the full content. We will use this as a learning experience going forward.”

A spokesman for Platinum Entertainment said: “I thought the talk was supposed to be about African history. If I had known what it was about I wouldn’t have agreed to sell the tickets. He brought some people to talk about black history in April and he said this was part two.”

A spokesman from the Metaphysical Bookstore said he would reserve judgement on the matter until he saw, first-hand, a video or recording of the event.

Liberty Theatre came under fire for hosting the event but co-owner Brian Durham says he had no idea of the content of the talk when he agreed to allow them to use the space.

Mr Durham said: “We had no idea of the content of this speech. We deeply regret that they upset people. We definitely do not believe in the beliefs that were expressed during the talk regarding homosexuality or interracial marriage.”

The event was promoted on the Sherri J show with an interview with Mr Small who did deliver a speech about African history during the first half of the event.

The show’s host Sherri Simmons could not be contacted for comment with regards to the speech by Mr Kimathi.

The Island’s race relations group Citizens Uprooting Racism in Bermuda posted a flyer for the event on its Facebook page before learning about the full content of the talk. The organisation’s president Mark Nash “promptly removed” the poster after reading Mr Kimathi’s comments in The Royal Gazette.

Equal rights organisation the Rainbow Alliance of Bermuda, which was not involved in promoting the event, has also condemned the speaker who has since been placed on the Island’s stop list.

A spokeswoman said: “The Rainbow Alliance of Bermuda strongly condemns the hate speech promoted by Ayo Kimathi at the ‘African History and Culture Come Alive’ event.

“Gambia president Yahya Jammeh has been cited as a human rights abuser by Amnesty International, among other human rights organisations. Allegedly playing a video of this man suggesting that members of the LGBTQ community should be subject to the death penalty is equivalent to inciting violence within Bermuda’s community.

“Mr Kimathi’s suggestions that homosexuality is a ‘white sex’ crime introduced to Africa by European colonisers is historically inaccurate. There is documentation of normalised homosexuality in Congo, Madagasgar, Ethiopia, Pangwe (present-day Cameroon and Gabon), Ghana, Sudan, South Africa, Egypt, Benin, Nigeria, Kenya, Zimbabwe, among other countries. What the European colonisers did import to Africa is homophobia and hateful attitudes towards natural sexual orientations.

“The Rainbow Alliance of Bermuda has gathered a variety of information on the topic of homosexuality in pre-colonial Africa and will list articles and books for further reading for anyone interested on their website.”

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