Simmons to move ‘outta sight’ from activism
After decades of giving back to the community, grassroots activist Cleveland Simmons has decided to quit while he's ahead.
“I've played my part, and now I'm looking after my own health,” the veteran promoter told The Royal Gazette last night as he celebrated his first day of retirement.
Mr Simmons has been a driving force behind endeavours such as the Woodshop, a self-help employment programme for former prison inmates — and, more recently, programmes to boost local musicians and entertainers.
“Now I am at the point where I have graduated from my role. Ever since I came out of prison after being involved in drugs, I've been working to undo some of what I did. I've been borrowing and begging for these programmes — most of the time I've been begging off the powers that be.”
Mr Simmons, who turned 73 in February, said he was under doctor's orders to relax and stop taking on other people's problems.
He traces his activism back to his submission to the Pitt Commission, which was tasked with exploring the racial inequalities and social problems that erupted in the 1977 riots that convulsed the island.
An avid member of the Young Progressives, Mr Simmons has been putting his background as a musician and promoter to work for talent shows such as Bermuda Teens Have Talent Too — and, more recently, the New Year's Eve street festival and celebrations on Court Street.
He campaigned on behalf of cancer patient Cherrie Woods, who had been blocked from leaving the island for treatment after a court error, and helped to organise a highly successful local entertainers' showcase held in May at The Fairmont Southampton hotel.
Last year he forged a friendship with the former Governor, George Fergusson, organising a “walk and talk” in the neighbourhoods of North Hamilton.
Asked what he was most proud of, Mr Simmons, who goes by his promotion nickname of “Outta Sight”, said: “That would be something I've lived all my life: entertainment and producing shows. Last year I helped set up the Bermuda Island Agency that's been helping artists like Live Wire in getting gigs.
“I've been driven because we are losing so many of our young men. There's no hope. Bermuda is heading for a train wreck — I don't see good vibes in the community.
“My biggest concern now is my children and grandchildren and looking after myself. I'm not taking it easy. Now I'm working on my health.”