Minister: National Heroes Day Induction Ceremony

June 15, 2012

An account of the life of 2012 National Hero Mary Prince and the agenda for the Induction Ceremony were the spoken about today [June 15] in the House of Assembly by Patrice Minors, Minister of Economy, Trade and Industry.

“This is a singularly most significant event that will take place on Saturday 16th June at Barr’s Bay Park beginning at 6:00pm. This year Mary Prince will be designated as the new National Hero”, said Minister Minors.

“Last year three persons were named as National Heroes; and therefore an undertaking had been given that no new heroes would be inducted in 2012. However, the Naming and Recognition Committee received twelve unsolicited letters from the public recommending that Mary Prince be designated a National Hero for 2012.

“Mary Prince was a hero of historic international importance because of her impact on the abolition of slavery in Bermuda and the Caribbean. She is Bermuda’s most famous slave and the first female slave in the British West Indies to publish a book of her life.”

Minister Minors said, “The Induction Ceremony, which will begin at 6:00pm on Saturday 16th June, will feature an interpretative dance entitled A Woman Named Prince, based on an excerpt from Mary Prince’s autobiography, which has been choreographed by Mrs. Conchita Ming. The dancer is Ms. Shahnel Woodley.

“The programme will also feature a dramatic reading by Tramaine Stovell; and negro spirituals sung by Marsden First United Methodist Church’s Praise Team and a male a cappella group that refer to themselves as Special Occasion.”

Minister Minors’ full statement follows below:

Mr. Speaker, I am humbled today to share with my honourable colleagues and the people of Bermuda the information about this year’s National Hero and the Induction Ceremony during which the 2012 Hero will be so designated.

Mr. Speaker, this is a singularly most significant event that will take place on Saturday 16th June at Barr’s Bay Park beginning at 6:00pm. This year Mary Prince will be designated as the new National Hero.

Mr. Speaker, as the Minister responsible for culture and heritage I am especially proud to talk about this momentous event because recognition of national heroes is an important vehicle through which any country fosters a sense of national pride, unity and social cohesion amongst its peoples.

The words of Poet Maya Angelou remind us “how important it is for us to recognize and celebrate our heroes…” for they represent our collective history and shed light on who we are – our history, heritage and culture.

Mr. Speaker, Last year three persons were named as National Heroes; and therefore an undertaking had been given that no new heroes would be inducted in 2012. However, the Naming and Recognition Committee received twelve unsolicited letters from the public recommending that Mary Prince be designated a National Hero for 2012.

Mr. Speaker, You may recall that those who are deemed National Heroes must be persons who have made a significant and lasting contribution to Bermuda; that they would have enriched the lives of others; that they would have created a legacy that stood the test of time; and be outstanding. There is therefore no doubt that Mary Prince lived up to these criteria.

Mr. Speaker, Our National Hero for 2012 was born into slavery, in 1788, at Brackish Pond, now known as Devonshire Marsh in Devonshire Parish, Bermuda. One has only to read her autobiography, The History of Mary Prince, to understand that she experienced the cruelties and indignities that the institution imposed on her and all slaves.

In this book she also speaks of the harrowing experiences of working in the salt pans of the Turks and Caicos Islands; thus bringing to life the cruelty of the salt trade. This autobiography was published in the United Kingdom in 1831 and was the first account of the life of a black woman to be published in the United Kingdom.

As a personal account, Mary Prince’s story contributed to the debate about slavery in a manner different from reasoned analysis or statistical arguments. It was direct, authentic and sobering. She spoke of slavery with the authority of personal experience.

This first-hand description of the brutalities of slavery, released at a time when slavery was still legal in Bermuda and the British Caribbean, had a galvanizing effect on the anti-slavery movement.

Mr. Speaker, Mary Prince was a hero of historic international importance because of her impact on the abolition of slavery in Bermuda and the Caribbean. She is Bermuda’s most famous slave and the first female salve in the British West Indies to publish a book of her life.

Mr. Speaker, Brooke Foss Westcott once aid “Great occasions do not make heroes or cowards; they simply unveil them to the eyes of men. Silently… as we wake or sleep, we grow strong or weak; and at last some crisis shows what we have become”.

Mary Prince faced, undaunted, tremendous hardships and became a hero through her pivotal role in ending slavery in Bermuda and the British Caribbean.

Mr. Speaker, People of colour in Bermuda and throughout the British West Indies owe Mary Prince a debt of gratitude that we could never repay. We are able to enjoy the benefits of freedom impart because of this year’s National Hero Mary Prince.

Mr. Speaker, The Induction Ceremony, which will begin at 6:00pm on Saturday 16th June, will feature an interpretative dance entitled A Woman Named Prince, based on an excerpt from Mary Prince’s autobiography, which has been choreographed by Mrs. Conchita Ming. The dancer is Ms. Shahnel Woodley.

The programme will also feature a dramatic reading by Tramaine Stovell; and negro spirituals sung by Marsden First United Methodist Church’s Praise Team and a male a cappella group that refer to themselves as Special Occasion. Premier, Paula Cox will proclaim Mary Prince as the National Hero for 2012.

Mr. Speaker, This Government believes that it is only fitting that Mary Prince be inducted as Bermuda’s National Hero for 2012.

Thank you Mr. Speaker.

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