Christopher Famous

About time we picked up the baton

  • Pointing the way: pan-Africanist Marcus Mosiah Garvey. Columnist Christopher Famous writes that black Bermudian’s future existence and success will never happen via charity handouts or by being dependent on any given government

Up ye mighty race, accomplish what you will — Marcus Mosiah Garvey

Last week on national television, the Premier, David Burt, stated a few harsh truths about our historic and present-day, systemic racial issues. Not surprisingly, some folks got upset and claimed that he was politicking.

As a black man, I want to thank the Premier for not being afraid to speak on these issues. Far too often persons in leadership are, quite frankly, afraid to speak about Bermuda’s centuries of racial segregation and the long-term effects it still has on our entire society.

The cold, hard truth is this: systemic racism has made more blacks bankrupt, suffer with poor health and premature death than Covid-19 ever will.

We have more to fear from this “home-grown pandemic” than anything that comes in via the airlines.

Ironically, the only people who believe that talking about race is political, seems to be the same people who believe that racism would just magically go away if we don’t talk about it.

Over the past month, worldwide and locally, both blacks and whites are starting to openly speak up about racism. Most encouraging is that young people of all ethnicities are coming to the front lines to stand up.

So, yes, as leaders we must never be afraid to speak up on this disease, especially when we ourselves have fallen short over the past few decades.

Accountability

Now that the historic Black Lives Matter march has passed, we need face up to the ugly truths.

One of the realities is that we as black people, globally and locally, have to own up to is that in many areas we have dropped the baton handed to us by our ancestors.

We find ourselves as a black people far too often depending on the benevolence of wealthy whites for our economic survival via charities or seeking employment.

Take a look around Bermuda. The vast majority of both residential and commercial buildings were built over many centuries by black tradesmen.

Generations of black men learnt skills such as masonry, carpentry, plumbing, excavation and electrical installation. With these skills they were able to find full-time employment, open their own businesses and build their own homes.

Yet over the past 50 years, we have abdicated our place in the construction industry and are now begging persons to employ our sons.

Baton dropped.

During the era of segregation, many persons built businesses from the ground up. Here are some prime examples of black entrepreneurship in Bermuda: guesthouses, corner grocery stores, upholstery shops, automotive repair garages, petrol stations, landscaping.

Let us be honest and ask ourselves these two questions: how many businesses are owned by blacks and, more importantly, how many black-owned businesses are supported by blacks?

For a variety of reasons, over the past 60 years, we have abdicated our place in business ownership and are now begging persons to employ our daughters

Baton dropped once again.

Move forward

Now that we, as a country, once again realise that black lives truly matter, let us also realise that we have to move beyond slogans and chants. That is, if we truly want to see progress for black Bermuda.

The first step towards recovery is to admit where we, the people, have gone wrong as a community. I say we the people because no government can tackle systematic racism on its own.

• We need our people, of all ages, to get skilled up via the Bermuda College and other routes that the Government provides

• We need our people to start their own businesses with the help of the Bermuda Economic Development Corporation

• We need our people to take better charge of their health by lowering their sugar intake

• We need our people to support black businesses that offer competitive rates for their products and services

• We need our family and community units to expect and encourage accountability from each other

These are not the only steps that we have to take; however, they lay the foundation for the socioeconomic survival and success of the next generation of black Bermudians.

Outside of that, they will be constantly dependent on the benevolence of others.

Economic unity

If we need examples of blacks owning and operating large and small businesses such as car rental agencies, hotels, insurance agencies, construction companies and restaurants, we need only look to our cousins on any given Caribbean island.

We need our people to be honest about what we have to do for ourselves.

Our future existence and success will never happen via charity handouts or by being dependent on any given government.

Essentially, the success of black people, globally or locally, depends primarily on how we interact with and support each other.

Christopher Famous is the government MP for Devonshire East (Constituency 11). You can reach him on WhatsApp at 599-0901 or e-mail at carib_pro@yahoo.com