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Burch ‘incensed’ at ‘White’ criticism of demolition of Mary Prince-linked house

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Destroyed: A house linked to the life of National Hero Mary Prince has been demolished at Ocean View golf course. Lieutenant-Colonel David Burch, the public works minister, says it should have happened sooner.

Lieutenant-Colonel David Burch, the Minister of Public Works, has said that as a Black man he is “incensed” at criticism by White people over his decision to demolish a slave owner’s house associated with Mary Prince.

As a descendant of slaves on the island, Colonel Burch said, he would have knocked down Watlington House years ago and accused his critics of “false outrage” over its demolition.

The minister was responding to controversy surrounding his order to knock down Watlington House, which had ties to the national hero, whose narrative helped to bring about the abolition of slavery.

Speaking on the House of Assembly’s motion to adjourn on Friday, Colonel Burch said: “How bemused I was this week by some of the false outrage and criticism over the demolition of a slave house.

“And I say this has more to do with genuine outrage. I find it peculiar at the very least as a Black man I have been lectured, criticised and condemned by a whole host of White organisations and White people in this country about not honouring our national hero, Mary Prince.

“All for ordering the demolishing of a slave master’s house, Watlington House — it’s not named Mary Prince House.

“I cannot even begin to express how confused and incensed I am by the suggestion — and the media reported this, and this is the reason for justifying the criticism — that a 12-year-old girl was sent to this house to be prepared to be sold by her own mother.

“I can’t even get past the fact that I find that completely abhorrent. I don’t understand why the house is historic.”

Am I Not A Woman And A Sister?: Illustration from an early edition of Mary Prince's 19th-century book (File Photograph)

He added: “It should have been knocked down years ago, in my humble opinion.

“The fact that the place is dilapidated — and some say we did that deliberately — and had to be knocked down means nothing to no one.

“All of the entities that have trotted out to say it should be saved — and they do that at every building that we try and knock down — and say that it’s historic.

“Not one of them offer up two cents to restore the building. They want the Bermudian taxpayer to do it.

“I am rarely lost for words, but in this situation I am truly lost for words..

“I am a direct descendant of slaves in this country. My great-great-great maternal grandparents were slaves.

“So, in 2023, their great-great-great-grandson ain’t standing for any of the stuff that they had to stand for.”

Among those who have protested the demolition are activist and former Progressive Labour Party MP Rolfe Commissiong.

He branded the move a “shameful” and “unforgivable“ act by the Government.

The antiracism charity Citizens Uprooting Racism in Bermuda said that it was dismayed to learn that Watlington House was torn down without the public being given an option to save it.

The building was spared the bulldozer in 2021 after historians highlighted its past, but the structure was torn down without notice last week.

Colonel Burch blamed the high cost of maintaining the building for the decision to knock it down.

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Published March 13, 2023 at 8:10 am (Updated March 13, 2023 at 9:33 am)

Burch ‘incensed’ at ‘White’ criticism of demolition of Mary Prince-linked house

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