28 July 2008

Friendly Societies' Celebration of Emancipation

Tonight I enjoyed the beautiful weather by participating in the Friendly Society march to celebrate Emancipation. Starting from Barrs Bay Park, we wound our way through town, ending up outside the Lodge catty corner from the BIU building. We stopped at various points, where a speaker would tell a story or piece of history relating to that spot. The spots are listed in this booklet, which they handed out at the march.

Interesting Tidbits

As we were gathering in the street to start the march, traffic had to stop for a few minutes. A very rude woman stuck her head out of her passenger-side window, smoking a cigarette, and yelled us to get out of the way, she had places to go! She was white. The best I can say, is she must have had a rough day. And, was pretty clueless... Alternatively, perhaps it was another example of white hegemony? I think I may need some of Phil Wells's sarcasm points here.

Overheard at one of the stops: "How come they don't teach this in the schools?" Well, I never learned it because I went to Saltus when I was young, and we know how that used to be: British history all the way down. I have no idea what the private or public school curricula are like now. I believe that the book Bermuda: Five Centuries does have a lot of black Bermudian history, and was intended to be usable as a textbook. However, it does not have the same sort of colour that we got on the march tonight.

I left at the end of the march, but before the skit put on by the Friendly Societies, which I had seen the year before. It tells the story of the ship Enterprise (see top of page). The ship was carrying slaves when it got stuck in Bermuda, where the slaves were eventually freed. The Friendly Societies played a large role in helping the newly-freed slaves. Walking back to my car, I stopped for some Chinese takeout, and got talking to a man about the march when he saw my booklet. I was trying to explain to him the story of the Enterprise, and was corrected by another lady in the restaurant who claimed that the slaves all had to be paid for by the British Government. Unfortunately, I can't remember the details from the skit last year, and the Five Centuries book I have to hand doesn't mention any payment.

To me, the Friendly Societies stand as an example of the best aspects of Bermudian society, as they bonded together to help one another. I like to think that Bermuda has evolved enough that the societies are no longer needed in the same way they once were, but they are still around, and still active, carrying their message of brotherhood and sisterhood.

Now I know some of you "unenlightened" cynics are probably out there thinking, "great, here he goes on the whole black thing; next thing you know he'll be talking about white privilege..." Don't worry, that's for later blog entries. But if we are serious about coming together as an island, we need to learn about ourselves and our brothers and sisters. And, if you want to have a meaningful conversation with someone, it never hurts to listen, and find out where they are coming from. Finally, if you look at it from a partisan perspective, it is best to go into political battle armed with facts.

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