News

March boosts reward for missing Chavelle

  • For a good cause: the Social Justice Bermuda march making its way through Hamilton on Saturday (Photograph by Akil Simmons)
  • Social Justice Bermuda March (Photograph by Akil Simmons)
  • Social Justice Bermuda March (Photograph by Akil Simmons)
  • Social Justice Bermuda March (Photograph by Akil Simmons)
  • Social Justice Bermuda March (Photograph by Akil Simmons)
  • Social Justice Bermuda March (Photograph by Akil Simmons)
  • Social Justice Bermuda March (Photograph by Akil Simmons)
  • Social Justice Bermuda March (Photograph by Akil Simmons)
  • Social Justice Bermuda March (Photograph by Akil Simmons)
  • Social Justice Bermuda March (Photograph by Akil Simmons)

A human rights march at the weekend raised $1,165 to boost a reward for information on a missing young mother.

Monique Lister, a member of event organiser Social Justice Bermuda, said that the march was successful in adding to a $3,000 Crime Stoppers reward offered last month to help trace Chavelle Dillon-Burgess, 27, the mother of a toddler, who has not been seen since April.

She added that the event had also raised support for the organisation’s campaign to improve the lives of black people.

Ms Lister said that at least 300 people turned out for Saturday’s demonstration, organised in support of the global Black Lives Matter movement.

She added: “Most importantly, we have had lots of people signing up to get involved both online and at the event.

“We had a number of objectives which we achieved. We engaged people in our action projects. We amplified the issue of state-sanctioned and domestic violence against black women, particularly justice for Chavelle.

“We celebrated national heroes who were champions for black people.

“And we told stories of our ancestors, to call on their acts of heroism and bravery to help us for the work ahead. As we said at the event, this is just the beginning of the beginning and it helped us to lay the foundation for where we want to go.”

Ms White told the hundreds gathered at the Barr’s Bay Park start point that the formation of Social Justice Bermuda last month was sparked in part by the death of civil rights activist and author Eva Hodgson.

The group was set up to campaign for reforms to the criminal justice and education systems and to work for economic equality, affordable healthcare and access to fair-priced food.

Kristin White, who organised the demonstration with Katura Horton-Perinchief, said at the march: “We march in solidarity with the global movement.

“We call for justice for our black brothers and sisters. But there are issues here in Bermuda that we need to take action on.

“We as black people are dealing with the vestiges of being owned — we are descendants of enslaved people.

“There are issues of racism which are systemic. It’s in the air. The point is for us to say, this is what we know to be true.”

Antonio Belvedere, of the charity Safe Space Bermuda, asked the marchers to speak the name of Chavelle Dillon-Burgess before they left Barr’s Bay Park at 4.30pm.

Mr Belvedere told the crowd: “She matters.”

Juanae Crockwell said that the “root” of white supremacy and systemic racism had to be dealt with.

She added: “When we tackle the root, we fix everything.”

The march heard historical lectures at three sites, starting at the We Arrive statue at the park.

The monument is a tribute to enslaved people on board an American ship, the Enterprise, which was forced to dock at Barr’s Bay in 1835 for repairs after it was hit by bad weather.

Slavery had been abolished by Britain and Bermuda’s courts ruled that the people imprisoned on the ship should be freed and allowed to stay in Bermuda if they wanted to.

Glenn Fubler, a community worker, talked to the crowd from the statue to mark the 1959 Theatre Boycott, at Hamilton’s Church and Wesley Street, and told marchers to “recognise the hero within”.

Mr Fubler, who represents Imagine Bermuda, said the block where City Hall stands should be renamed “Freedom Square” to commemorate the successful stand against racial segregation on the island.

Maxine Esdaille, of the African Diaspora Heritage Trail, spoke on the grounds of the Cabinet Building on Front Street at the statue of Sally Bassett, an enslaved woman burnt at the stake in 1730 after she was accused of a plot to poison slaveholders.

Ms Esdaille said: “Here we are today, 290 years later, still struggling to be free.”

Ms Lister added on Sunday: “We have had a majority black government for about 20 years, but this country has been around for 408 years.

“Centuries of wealth-building, of lawmaking, of vote-casting, occurred without black people being permitted to participate and the systems that were built with that foundation still exist today.

“This is far beyond whoever is in government, and having black MPs certainly doesn’t mean that racism no longer exists.”

She said that everyone could help to improve the lives of black people.

Ms Lister added: “We all need to examine our unconscious biases and how they impact our everyday decisions, how we spend our money, where our children go to school, how we criminalise and punish certain behaviours and so on.

“People in leadership positions within their companies need to examine their unconscious biases when hiring and promoting and then we all need to take concrete action to address these inequities.”

To sign up to Social Justice Bermuda, visit www.socialjusticebda.com