Three trailblazers behind the social and political reforms that influenced the development of the modern day Bermuda will be jointly honoured as National Heroes in 2011.
Making the announcement today [Apr.28] Minister of Youth, Families, Sports, and Community Development Glenn Blakeney said that after reviewing all of the nominations submitted by the public, the Naming and Recognition Committee had selected the following three individuals to be jointly honoured as National Heroes in 2011:
- Dr. Edgar Fitzgerald Gordon (‘Mazumbo’)
- Dr. Pauulu Kamarakafego [Dr. Roosevelt Browne]
- Sir Henry ‘Jack’ Tucker.
“These men who are considered contributing architects of the modern day Bermuda, will receive posthumous recognition for their contributions” Minister Blakeney said. “They are each reflective of the Island’s cultural heritage and diversity – which is one criteria for a National Hero Award. Another criterion is that nominees ‘increase awareness of collective history and enhance a sense of national unity and social cohesion amongst Bermudians.’
“Undoubtedly all three icons also demonstrated exceptional leadership qualities – an attribute that National Hero Award nominees are required and expected to possess,” Minister Blakeney added.
Dr. Gordon, widely regarded as the “Father of the labour movement” in Bermuda, championed the cause of Bermudian workers and fought tirelessly for equal rights for all Bermudians, thereby laying the groundwork for much of the political and social change that came about after his death.
His courage, feistiness and dogged determination were often on display when Dr. Gordon confronted subtle, yet formidable segregation in Bermuda. As a MCP [Member of the Colonial Parliament], Dr. Gordon was relentless in challenging social and political inequities. He demanded to know why black Bermudians could not work as nurses at King Edward VII Memorial Hospital or sell stamps at the Post Office. With only seven per cent of the population eligible to vote, he also pressed for the abolition of the property vote.
Sir Henry Tucker is considered one of the Island’s most important leaders of the 20th Century. He became Bermuda’s first Government Leader on May 22, 1968 in the first election held under a new Constitution and a two-party system.
Sir Henry, a founder of the United Bermuda Party, was a dominant figure in business and politics for three decades before that. He piloted the Bill in Parliament that gave women the right to vote. As the number two, then the number one man at the Bank of Bermuda, he oversaw its transformation from a local bank to international financial institution. He also helped lay the foundation for international business in Bermuda.
Sir Henry Tucker formed the United Bermuda Party (UBP) in 1964 and underwent a political evolution over time as his pragmatism as a Government Leader saw him transform from a representative of the status quo to an advocate of social justice and cooperation among the races, observing: “One of the ways in which we can be in contact–people of our two races-is to integrate primary schools. Children at the age of five, when they go into the government school system, are without prejudice.”
Dr. Pauulu Kamarakafego [Dr. Roosevelt Browne] was a civil rights leader, political activist, Parliamentarian, ecological engineer and United Nations NGO who used his ideas to make changes at home and abroad.
He worked tirelessly and courageously to empower peoples around the globe. He was regarded as a modern day ‘Johnny Apples-Seed’ who planted ideas everywhere he went and changed social environments in his path.
In 1960 the Committee for Universal Adult Suffrage (UAS) was formed and Dr. Kamarakafego was quick to pick up the political ball and run with it. He organized meetings all over Bermuda and stayed with the fight until 1961 when Universal (not equal) Suffrage was won, and the first political party, the Progressive Labour Party (PLP) was formed and the property vote abolished shortly afterwards.
Dr. Pauulu Kamarakafego stated: “I learned at a very early age that whatever knowledge I acquired from society does not belong to me. Therefore, my philosophy in life is that we should always give back to society wherever we are.”
Minister Blakeney said: “The Government believes it is essential to honour those among us who fought for justice and democracy as too often we do not give enough credit and recognition to those Bermudians who have made significant contributions to the Island.”
He added: “We also feel it is critical that the youth of Bermuda be aware of those individuals who fought for basic civil rights in Bermuda. We want to ensure that our young people don’t take their right to vote for granted.”
On Sunday, 19 June the 2011 National Heroes’ Day Proclamation Ceremony will be held at the Botanical Gardens to honour the achievements of Dr. Gordon “Mazumbo”, Sir Henry “Jack” Tucker and Dr. Pauulu Kamarakafego.
In 2008, Bermuda’s first selected National Hero was the Hon. Dame Lois Browne-Evans, D.B.E., J.P., L.LB.
The National Heroes Day Official Public Holiday (the only holiday in June) will be observed on Monday 20 June, 2011. Minister Blakeney invited the community to enjoy the day and to consider the importance of community service and spending time with family and loved ones.