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Son of the soil who played key role in ending segregation honoured at event

Honoured: Kingsley Tweed

A son of the soil who played a key role in ending segregation in Bermuda more than 60 years ago was honoured at a celebration of his life.

A packed crowd gave the Reverend Dr Kingsley Tweed a standing ovation when he took to the stage at the St Paul AME Centennial Hall.

But those expecting a lecture in history from a man who was central to shaping Bermuda’s future in the second half of the last century were in for a surprise.

Although the two-hour talk centred on his role in the 1959 theatre boycott, it was interspersed with music and drama to illustrate how Blacks suffered under the yoke of colonialism two generations ago.

The evening, on Saturday, kicked off with actors walking through the audience holding placards demonstrating the peaceful nature of the 1959 protest. Placards read: “Don’t use violence. Don’t block traffic. Don’t get excited. Don’t give up.”

In an onstage interview with June Caisey – a friend of Dr Tweed’s for more than 75 years – the activist explained how he became interested in justice as a young child.

In a booming voice that belied Dr Tweed’s almost 90 years, he said: “I was always an inquisitive child – I always wanted to know what was going on.”

He played down his role as an instigator of the boycott, claiming that he was never a member of the Progressive Group – the organisation behind the protest.

But when the leader of that group backed out for fear of reprisals after the first day, Dr Tweed was given the mantle of control.

“He didn’t come around where these demonstration were taking place," said Dr Tweed.

He added that the boycott “shifted the whole paradigm of politics and social behaviour towards Black people in Bermuda”.

“I’m not saying it was the only contribution, buy by God it was the major contribution that it made.”

Dr Tweed said that following the boycott he was forced to leave the island after being threatened with assassination.

He said that his mother received telephone calls telling her that “they were going to kill her n***** son”.

But he added: “We didn’t have any fear. And it’s a good thing that we didn’t, because if we did, we would still have segregation here in Bermuda.”

Addressing the current issue of gang violence, Dr Tweed said that parents and family needed to take a more disciplined approach.

He said: “The residual effects have been long known to us and we always thought that there was something that could be done about it.

“But it begins in the home with mother and father and brothers and sisters, doesn’t it?

Comparing the island’s youth with eagle chicks forced to leave their nest, Dr Tweed said: “Pretty soon, those young eagles learn how to fly.

“There’s something else that occurs with our young people in Bermuda today and the sickness of fly-by shootings on a fictitious 42nd Street.

“Those young eagles had to learn how to fly. That mother eagle stirred up her nest, and that’s what we have to do with our sons and daughters. Let’s stir up that nest. Stir it up. Get rid of some of those funny electronic gadgets.

“Stir it up. Don’t make it so comfortable. Do you hear me brother? Do you hear me mother?”

“You can’t hold me any more. You can’t suppress me any more. I wont be subjugated by anybody, Black or White. Have you got it? If you don’t got it just yet you had better get it soon, because we’re going to have some more drive-by shootings if we’re not careful.

“Take your sons and hold them up close to you and say ‘we love you more than anyone else in the entire world’.”

The event was organised by Atlantic Publishing House.

Describing the night’s event as “historic”, Dale Butler, APH president and founder, said: “We salute the Progressive Group and many others before and after them who were determined to make Bermuda a better place.

“The journey continues. It is interesting to note how so many Bermuda groups accomplished a great deal despite the daunting obstacles. They saw needs and courageously addressed them.”

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Published December 13, 2022 at 7:54 am (Updated December 13, 2022 at 7:54 am)

Son of the soil who played key role in ending segregation honoured at event

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