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Mary Prince Day to replace Somers Day

Somers Day is to be renamed Mary Prince Day after a once enslaved Bermudian who became a hero of the abolitionist movement in Britain.The legislation, which was tabled yesterday, will also move the Bermuda Day holiday from the last Friday in May to the Friday before the final Monday of May.Bermuda Day was switched in 2017 in a bid to cut absenteeism when the public holiday fell before a weekday.But it had to be moved last year to keep it closer to the United States Memorial Day holiday, an opportune long weekend for the island to court tourists.Lovitta Foggo, the community minister, said the commemoration of Mary Prince, created a national hero in 2012, was “symbolically important”.She added that the two-day Cup Match holiday’s link to the emancipation of the enslaved in 1834 had been enshrined in its first day, Emancipation Day.The second day of the Cup Match holiday was named after Admiral Sir George Somers, who ran aground in Bermuda on July 28, 1609, which led to the permanent British settlement of the island.It was a one-off official holiday in 1931, and incorporated into the two-day Cup Match public holiday in 1947.The amendment, which will come into effect on January 1 next year, deleted his name from the date and substituted “Mary Prince Day”.Ms Foggo told the House of Assembly that Ms Prince was “recognised on the world stage for the crucial role she played in the abolishment of slavery throughout the British Empire”.Her autobiography, The History of Mary Prince, published in 1831, was a first-hand account of the brutality of slavery in Bermuda.Ms Foggo said she recognised there were “some who will not be in favour of this change”.“It is an unfortunate reality that because of our country’s history of racial discord that some Bermudians do not always see the history that celebrates the accomplishments and contributions of black Bermudians as belonging to them also.”She added: “I think it is important to note that the history of Sir George Somers and the founding of Bermuda does not belong to white Bermudians alone — it is the history of all Bermudians.“Likewise, the history of Emancipation and more importantly abolition does not belong to black Bermudians alone. It too is the history of all Bermudians.”The move was backed by Progressive Labour Party backbenchers Christopher Famous and Rolfe Commissiong, who had called for the change.Mr Famous, who started to petition for the name change in August 2018, said he was “very proud to see this come to fruition”.He added: “It is time for historical truths to be told. Mary Prince led the fight for the freedom of enslaved Africans throughout the Caribbean.“It is only fitting that we recognise her during our Emancipation celebrations.”Mr Commissiong praised Mr Famous’s campaign to remove Sir George from the calendar.He said: “Without his advocacy for the removal of Sir George Somers, it would never have created the space for what I was advocating — having Mary Prince honoured that day”.Mr Commissiong added that Ms Prince was “a witness to history and a major figure in the liberation movement”.He said her book “refuted the perverse notion, perpetuated by white historians such as Terry Tucker, that slavery in Bermuda was benign”.Mr Commissiong added: “Some would say that in certain quarters of Bermuda, that misrepresentation of the past still has currency. Bermuda never had a plantation economy, not from want of trying during the earliest days of settlement.“But that in and of itself, as Prince demonstrated, did not mean the conditions that existed then were benign for those who were enslaved.“This was Prince’s greatest gift to us in Bermuda today.”• To read Lovitta Foggo’s ministerial statement in full, click on the PDF under “Related Media”