Truth and reconciliation talks resume

  • Black-white arm wrestling

Trauma inflicted by racism has left a legacy of hidden pain, a campaigner has said.

Lynn Winfield, president of Citizens Uprooting Racism in Bermuda, said that historic and recent incidents had left people “traumatised and stressed”, which surprised some on the island.

Ms Winfield added: “Those who believe racism is a thing of the past need only hear some of the pain and experiences shared in the sessions to understand this is not true.”

She was speaking as Curb prepared for the start of a new round of truth and reconciliation sessions, scheduled to start on February 6 at the Human Rights Commission headquarters on Hamilton’s Victoria Street.

Ms Winfield said that “the most notable and worrying thing is the amount of trauma that is recounted in the room”.

Curb launched the talks in March 2017, with groups of up to 20 guided by trained mediators in exploring their experiences of race and racism.

Ms Winfield said the demographics of the talks had remained “consistent” with double the number of women attendees compared with men.

A total of 54 per cent of participants have been black people compared with 46 per cent white people. Ms Winfield said: “We definitely need more males.”

Groups have averaged 15 participants, plus a facilitator with two assistants. Ten groups have met over the past two years.

Ms Winfield said the sessions had underlined “how little people know about their history”.

She added: “Both blacks and whites are shocked by the huge gaps in their knowledge.

“We go on to discuss why this history is marginalised at best or purposefully suppressed or hidden at worst, all of which makes for fascinating discussions and sharing of experiences and memories of schools and teachers.”

She warned: “For those looking for a kumbaya experience, this is likely not the place for them”.

Ms Winfield added: “There is a lot of trauma in the black community which has been suppressed for years, and at the end of the seven weeks many tell us that it’s been a cathartic experience for them. This is not surprising: when a safe place is provided, hurt, pain and anger will be expressed.

“A group staying with that person through the process demonstrates their empathy and is a sign of love and support,” Ms Winfield explained. “When people return week after week, despite the emotional pain, it is a sign of community, relationship and empathy.”

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