Opinion: MP Outerbridge On Black History Month

February 27, 2015

[Opinion column written by OBA MP Nandi Outerbridge]

Fifty years ago, in Montgomery, Alabama, 600 African Americans, led by Dr. Martin Luther King, left the town of Selma and marched across the Edmund Pettus Bridge in their campaign for voting rights. They were met by state troopers who fired tear gas into the crowd and bludgeoned them with clubs, leaving many bloodied and unconscious. This was the infamous Bloody Sunday.

Though I wasn’t alive during these protests, their impact resonates deeply and inspires me to continue the work to ensure equality and justice for all who suffer from discrimination and injustice.

Our own champions of the civil rights movement also suffered in a segregated Bermuda. Though there was no violence, the Theatre Boycott in June, 1959, organized by the Progressive Group, was a watershed moment that helped end segregation in theatres, hotels and restaurants and started us on the long road towards equality.

Though this road has certainly been rocky, and at times violent, we can celebrate the achievements of many who have paved the way for us. Models such as Dame Lois Browne-Evans, Dame Pamela Gordon and Dame Jennifer Smith – just to name a few who have inspired me to get involved in the political sphere and help us get to Dr. King’s ‘promised land.’

While we have certainly come a long way from those violent and anguish-filled years of the civil rights movement, it is clear we still have some way to go. In Bermuda,   statistics show that blacks still lag behind their white counterparts in certain employment sectors as well as the pay scales within those sectors. Proportionate to our population, there are more poor black people than other races and more blacks incarcerated than other races.

In time, we will truly realise Dr. King’s dream that ‘…Children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the colour of their skin but by the content of their character.’

To make this dream a reality, we would do well to emulate the approach of the late Nelson Mandela who sought first to understand his oppressors, then to unite with them and embrace their common humanity. As long as it is ‘us and them’ we shall never unite as one people.

Only together shall we overcome.

I am proud to live in such a diverse world where I can vote, have my voice be heard and even be a young black female Member of Parliament, something unheard of a generation ago.

As Black History Month draws to an end, I am thankful for all those who fought and even died to further human rights for all and offer them my sincere appreciation and celebrate their legacy.

I also call on everyone in Bermuda to reflect on how they can bring about harmony in our community so that no one’s race will be used to discriminate, ostracize or persecute.

The month may have ended for this year, but the effort must continue so that equality is achieved and injustice is eliminated so that we can move forward together.

- Nandi Outerbridge

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Comments (7)

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  1. Imhotep says:

    As a young black male, it still baffles me that Black History month is celebrated for only one month, and coincidently the shortest month of the year. We should celebrate it all year round by learning about our heritage and teaching it to our children. Also, why do we continue to be fooled into thinking that slavery and the Civil Rights Movement is actually our only contribution to history? In school we are taught nothing about the Moors, the Ancient Egyptian and Nubian empires and other civilizations along the Nile, along with numerous other great black civilizations and cultures. If we knew from what greatness we come from, we would be less likely to disrespect ourselves.

    • PBanks says:

      Because for some reason, Bermuda tries to piggyback on every American concept without consideration of the fundamental differences in our makeup.

      There’s no reason that a country with a majority black population, should subscribe to this one-February-a-year focus on black history. Should be a year-round initiative, perhaps.

    • non political says:

      Did you hear her delivery in the house of assembly?. Below grade f.

      • Smh says:

        I heard her delivery in the house and she was acknowledged by both sides that she did a great job.

        Now Lawrence Scott’s performance was an f.

        Maybe you should try speaking in the house instead of hiding behind a name critiquing.

        Great job Mrs. Outerbridge – beyond the naysayers you are doing good.

  2. UpsetwithVerdict says:

    @ Imhotep I suggest that you offer a class in it n don’t wait for the schools to teach it cause it’s bout time we stop giving lip service n start doing community service and teach the program yourself.

  3. Chris Famous says:

    Two Generations ago there were black women in Parliament

    History 101