SJB: ʽWe were inspired to create a local movement for global events’ – The Royal Gazette | Bermuda News, Business, Sports, Events, & Community

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SJB: ʽWe were inspired to create a local movement for global events’

Social Justice Bermuda March (Photograph by Akil Simmons)

A year ago, sparked by a controversial political appointment and global outrage over the killing of George Floyd, a new voice in Bermuda emerged.

Social Justice Bermuda since then has become known for its progressive statements, marches and petitions.

The group twice picketed the US Consulate in protest against the appointment of Lee Rizzuto, a campaign ally of former US President Donald Trump.

SJB also sparked anger – and drew support – in February with a call to ditch the “coercive” practice of prayers in schools.

But its core members, who formed and sprang into action through social media in just one day, told The Royal Gazette that much of SJB’s work was not confrontational and done behind the scenes.

Juanae Crockwell, Makai Dickerson and Kristin White, all major figures in SJB, said that the group talked in private to politicians and business figures, as well as other groups.

Ms Crockwell added: “Not everything we do is sent to the media – it’s just important for us to get results.”

SJB has set up a criminal justice task force which has been researching for months, on issues from restorative justice to a greater focus on prevention and rehabilitation.

It has also held background discussions on work permits.

Mr Dickerson said whoever led the group depended on “whoever carries the most weight in a given situation”.

He added: “Kristin does not want to be called leader. But she has the ability to organise.”

Ms White admitted her social media presence played a major role in SJB’s work.

She said: “We were inspired by the Black Lives Matter movement, the uprisings, and the responses to George Floyd’s murder.”

Mr Floyd died after a police officer in Minneapolis, Minnesota knelt on his neck for about nine minutes after he was arrested in May last year.

Ms White said: “We were inspired to create a local movement for global events.”

Mr Dickerson added the group was “not against anybody”.

Ms White said she targeted “systemic injustice because of racial injustice, health disparities, economic inequality, sexism – whenever you can identify this issue is happening because of a system to disenfranchise and disempower”.

Ms Crockwell added: “It’s a broad group with so many different people and backgrounds.

“Not everyone thinks like me or has the same background. In being part of a group like this I am expanding who I am.”

Social Justice Bermuda is non-hierarchical and many who join in, depending on the issue, opted to remain anonymous.

Some work in the Government, or hold roles where speaking out could provoke a backlash.

Ms Crockwell said anonymity had attracted criticism of some of the group’s campaigns.

The three agreed the anti-school prayer campaign was probably the group’s most controversial.

But they said SJB’s statement last month on Israel’s treatment of Palestinians attracted less attention.

Ms Crockwell said: “It’s always the group – that’s important, because personality can be distracting when it comes to activism.”

Ms White highlighted that other agents of change in the island’s history such as the Progressive Group and the Black Beret Cadre had been anonymous.

She added: “That’s the legacy of Bermudian activism.”

SJB task forces, featured on its website, include educational reform, healthcare and food security, and economic equality.

Ms White said SJB’s ranks depended on the problem and that the group was “always open for more people to join”.

She added: “We need more people to research, write policy papers and be on our teams.

“I do not see us growing our core group at this stage.”

Ms White said: “We have been invited to speak in different spaces.

“Sometimes we feel we need public input or support. Sometimes people come to us about specific issues.”

She added: “If we feel there’s someone else better suited to that space, we may just see it as our role to amplify that message.

“That’s how we have evolved over the last year.”

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Published June 04, 2021 at 7:54 am (Updated June 04, 2021 at 7:41 am)

SJB: ʽWe were inspired to create a local movement for global events’

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