J. Audley Quallo delivered a speech at the PLP Founders’ Day event, noting that this year the “political parties in Bermuda will be assessed by the electorate by way of stroking a pen in a box,” and urging attendees to stroke for “equality, jobs, justice, progression and not regression.”
“I’m not interested in your bogus plan to end conscription. Nor am I hungry for your disingenuousness when you tell me you’re going to decriminalise marijuana,” Mr Quallo said.
“I’m tired of hollow promises. I’m hungry for justice, I’m hungry for social advancement, I’m hungry for advancing our young people to pursue a life of happiness, to feel accomplished, to feel secure, to feel wanted.”
Mr. Quallo said, “We are on the heels of a very critically fundamental constitutional exercise this year.
“All of you will be putting pen to paper, which is symbolic of your entrustment to a group of individuals to maintain and safeguard the reputation of Bermuda, to support and promote the interest of its people, to support and defend the constitution, which means I should be able to calmly assemble in any public place to advance my voice and exercise my constitutional rights without the fear of me or my mother or grandmother being pepper-sprayed by the police.
“This year, the political parties in Bermuda will be assessed by the electorate by way of stroking a pen in a box. This year, we will be stroking for equality, jobs, justice, progression and not regression, truth and not parables, protection of seniors.
“This year, we will be voting for a government who supports our churches and not silences their pulpits. This election year we are going to be drum majors for service to our fellow countrymen; we’re going to be drum majors and speak up for the oppressed; we’re going to be drum majors by holding our government accountable.”
Three-hour live stream replay of the event; Mr Quallo’s speech begins about 20 minutes in:
“It would be negligent of me if I didn’t check our own backyard,” Mr Quallo said, adding “one of the things I will speak to is fiscal management/responsibility.”
“Sometimes that PB&J sandwich is just going to have to substitute that steak at Waterlot. Don’t create your problems and then seek problem solvers.”
“If you want to spend money, invest in property, invest in your children’s education or your future,” he added.
Mr Quallo’s full speech follows below:
To members of the Shadow Cabinet, members of Parliament, Senators, Party Members award nominees for the Drum Major Awards. At the outset I wish to thank the Hon. David Burt, J.P., M.P., Leader of the Opposition, and Leader of the Progressive Labour Party for both the belief in me and opportunity extended to me to address this august body of attendees.
I do not take this opportunity lightly. When I spoke to Selena, I inquired as to the direction my discussion should go; we arrived at the understanding that my delivery is aimed at stoking the fire and lifting the souls. I will do my utmost with the stoking of the fire, however, I shall leave charge of your souls solely to you.
Brothers and Sisters, as enjoyable as this laugh is, it is with regret that I must report to you that Bermuda is far from a laughable state. As a matter of fact, some would argue that we are in a dying state.
Our education system is dying; our culture is dying; respect for self and others is dying – although some would argue that died a long time ago. Our churches are dying. Within our homes, our family units are dying; our finances are dying; Our black males are dying – road fatalities, slain by bullets; many would also advance that our democracy is dying – especially and more notably since December 2012.
With this strong and foul smell of death in the air, I present one question, which forms the topic of my words of reflection today: “Are we our brother’s keeper?” This question has been heard time and time again, but like writing in the sand the thought and deed both disappear from our minds and hearts with the passing tide.
In order to answer this question as reasonably as possible, and to tie it in with the spirit of the event for today, I draw some answers to my question out of the text of the late great Hon. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., in his 1968 Sermon The Drum Major Instinct.
Upon a meticulous and gratifying assessment of this sermon, I found that Dr. King pontificated upon some of the very things that are facing us as challenges in Bermuda today. I paraphrase my findings to the following:
1] Doing the right things for the wrong reasons 2] Fiscal responsibility 3] Classism and exclusivism 4] Hypocrisy 5] Inequality over equality 6] Accepting oppression and prejudice for the advancement of self 7] Service 8] Accountability 9] Redemption
I must confess that prior to me accepting this fire-stoking responsibility, whilst I had knowledge of Dr. King’s Sermon, I never took the time out to digest both its content and the message inside his homily. Serendipitously, it appeared to me that Dr. King seems to have had a clairvoyant outlook on Bermuda, as I find that his message is more alive today in this false impression of a free and wholesome democratic country, as it was some 49 years ago in an oppressive and segregated southern climate.
For the benefit of those who are not familiar with Dr. King’s Drum Major Instinct doctrine; it is where one has a basic desire for recognition, for importance and that desire to be first; to stand out in the crowd, to be seen as the crème de la crème.
Unfortunately, and Dr. King addresses this, that desire sometimes comes at the expense of suppressing another individual to make ourselves look good. Making ourselves wealthy while we look at our neighbour who has found themselves in a impoverished state of affairs.
Walking to the bus stop for 10 years with our neighbour, and then one day, driving pass that same neighbour in our fancy sports convertible and failing to offer them a ride [our culture dying]. Or, how about when we openly and stridently criticize someone in the line who is front of us at the grocery store, and they come up short at the till, meanwhile, when it is your turn, you have the audacity to produce a Financial Assistance card, which is symbolic of the fact that you are being aided by me, and you and you. Anything to make ourselves feel supreme whilst in our conduct of suppressing.
As I studied further, I came across a passage in Dr. King’s sermon, wherein he described an occasion, as he was ministering whilst in jail, and was approached by white wardens in the prison; and dialogue broke out. The Wardens were condemning the demonstrations that Dr. King and his cohorts were carrying out. They had the unmitigated gull to advance the position that segregation was right, and that any attempt to rise up against it would be futile and out of order.
However, Dr. King in his infinite wisdom, brought them to the discussion table, and as the diplomatic statesman he was, got to talking with them. And this wasn’t a “how’s the weather” kind-of-discussion. After talking about where they lived, and how much they were earning, Dr. King wittingly tells them, you brothers ought to be marching with the black folk, you’re not much different than we are.
Can I just do a little 21st Century Bermuda politics comparison? Isn’t it amazing, how oblivious we could be, when the weight of systematic oppression can deceitfully make us believe they’re doing us favours, and he we stupefy ourselves into the belief that we are now better than next person?
Just in case, you missed it in that context, let me put it in another context. Isn’t it funny, how we can stand on the floor of parliament as an MP for the Government, criticize our own party for its inequities, bring them down for their insensitivities, but are happy to remain in service in the face of immoral and oppressive practices, and accept junior ministerial appointments? Are you your brother’s keeper?
Brothers and sisters, my assessment of politics in this country, as of late, and generally, when I see persons in some form of a position; I can’t help but observe the fact that many of us do things for many reasons. Whether it is serving in a political capacity, or leadership capacity – which can be for a book club, a church a council, whatever the position and wherever the location, one thing that has become indubitably clear to me, is that we all possess a subjective agenda.
Interestingly, there was a time when people got involved in leadership because they wanted to do something. Now, it appears we get into leadership because we want to be something. And unfortunately, as leaders we can be faced with highest controversial issues, but as long as the system is giving us a piece of the pie, we don’t mind condoning imbalances and prejudices of the electorate.
So what if our schools have mold in it – put those teachers and children back in their classrooms; so what if we give our airport to a foreign entity for a number of years; so what if my party openly does things that don’t support the will of the people, I will cry about it, but I will remain faithful to them because I want to be something.
So what if our people are disproportionately unemployed and underemployed. So what if our black men are caught up in the judicial system, and subjugated to a counter cultural lifestyle marked by gang violence; So what if we have a unprecedented number of people who are caught up in substance abuse and social alienation.
So what…Are you your brother’s keeper? What beat are you on Drum Majors, Are you on the beat to oppressing your brothers and sisters, or are you beating on a pathway to equality? Are you beating on a pathway to exclusivism or you beating for social cohesiveness? Are you beating for the rich to stay rich, or are you beating for the restoration of the people? Are you beating for us to be enslaved 5 more years, or are you beating for a progressive government?
Whatever you’re beating for, make sure you are consistent with your beat; ensure you walk in accordance to your beat; make sure you speak in alignment with your beat. What am I saying brothers and sisters? Well, I’m saying don’t give me a lime for a lemon; don’t tell me one thing when you know it’s another; or if you want me to be real, just like grandma use to say, don’t piss on my leg and tell me it’s raining. If you’re going to be transparent, be transparent; if you make promises to the people, keep those promises.
I not interested in your bogus plan to end conscription. Nor am I hungry for your disingenuousness when you tell me you’re going to decriminalise marijuana. I’m tired of hollow promises. I’m hungry for justice, I’m hungry for social advancement, I’m hungry for advancing our young people to pursue a life of happiness, to feel accomplish, to feel secure, to feel wanted. I’m hungry for ending this carnivorous spirit of trying to destroy one another just for one to make themselves look good. It’s time to start a new beat.
I have to pause here, however, because sometimes you have those drummers who, notwithstanding they’re in a good squad; their drum just doesn’t beat right. So I have to drive down “check-yaself” crescent very quickly. It would be negligent of me if I didn’t check our own backyard.
Part of the issues that we face in Bermuda, I have to say it, are self perpetuated. One of the things I will speak to is fiscal management/responsibility. Unfortunately, generational wealth is not something that has crept its way into our genetic make-up.
Black people were never really taught the value of saving money. When grandma or grandpa died off, and the house they slaved for years to buy, maintain and keep in the family, is sold for everyone to get a piece of the pie, off of something they had no contribution toward, I take serious issue with that.
We have to appreciate the value that our ancestors have left us, no matter how great or small. The unfortunate dichotomy, is that for those who do work, especially my age generation, notwithstanding that good money is being made, we have nothing to show for it, because, as Dr King describes it, we’re too busy trying to keep up with the Jones’. How do we expect to be our brother’s keeper when we can’t even keep ourselves? We have to do better.
I always have an internal giggle to myself when I’m travelling back to Bermuda from a trip, and I get to the connecting gate; I am always able to pick out the Bermudians flying back.
We fit the description of looking like we have it together; instead when the wheels of the plane touch the ground, we arrive back to our tens of thousands of dollars owed to different creditors, and meanwhile we just spent $10k on at Macy’s, JC Penny, Primark, Olive Garden, Micky D’s.
But we seek sympathy from the public because we can’t meet our financial obligations. I’ve never been quite able to wrap my head around these types of scenarios…I’m on Financial Assistance but I’m travelling with $5,000 and staying at one of the best hotels, whilst my rent, electricity and groceries are being paid for. We have to do better by ourselves.
Sometimes that PB&J sandwich is just going to have to substitute that steak at Waterlot. Don’t create your problems and then seek problem solvers. You see it’s your drum major instinct that is encouraging you to live beyond your means, because you are so busy trying to exude a life of supremacy and superiority, that you are prepared to do it at whatever cost.
Dr King’s speech reminded me that the most heralded [and perhaps controversial figure] did not come from Tucker’s Town or Fairylands; nor did he have an estate in Martha’s Vineyard. Jesus Christ was born in a manger surrounded by animals; he walked dusty roads, not in Cole Haans, Stacey Adams or Nikes but in run down hand stitched sandals.
He preached on sidewalks and stone cold dwellings; he prayed in the woods, he was nailed on an old rugged cross – not Bermuda Cedar. Nothing about his life demonstrates luxury and lavishness. Meanwhile you think your 5 inch Nine West stilettos or your knock off Louis Vuitton purse or your disingenuous perpetrating self is going to get you at the top of the charts. Who are you trying to impress?
Walk in your skin; if you have to walk with your edges napped up for few weeks to save a couple of dollars, wear your naps proudly, and wear a bigger smile on your face knowing how much money you’re saving.
If you want to spend money, invest in property, invest in your children’s education or your future. We must learn the art of budgeting, we must build together, we must strive together, and we must stand together.
When I was reading King’s sermon, I was getting concerned because I thought this was a chastisement toward drum majors. But having dug a little deeper, I came across an interesting passage which blew my mind, and brought the term ‘redemption’ to mind.
You see, despite the definition I gave earlier of the drum major instinct Dr. King recognised that the instinct was not altogether bad. Instead, he characterised it as “a good instinct, if you use it right…It’s a good instinct if you don’t distort it and pervert it. Don’t give it up.”
As a matter of fact, he encouraged his congregation to “…Keep feeling the need for being important. Keep feeling the need for being first.” And as Dr. King reminded us in Mark 10:43 “and whosoever of you will be the chiefest, shall be servant of all.” So there you have it, the greater you desire to be, the more prominent in service you should be. Becoming high up in the food chain, doesn’t mean that you prey on those below you, it means you have a greater responsibility to serve.
Finally, brothers and sisters, I leave you with this thought. We are on the heels of a very critically fundamental, constitutional exercise this year. All of you will be putting pen to paper, which is symbolic of your entrustment to a group of individuals to maintain and safeguard the reputation of Bermuda, to support and promote the interest of its people, to support and defend the constitution [which means I should be able to calmly assemble to any public place to advance my voice and exercise my constitutional rights without the fear of me or my mother, or grandmother being pepper-sprayed by the police.]
This year, the political parties in Bermuda will be assessed by the electorate by way of stroking a pen in a box. This year we will be stroking for equality, jobs, justice, progression and not regression, truth and not parables, protection of seniors, progressing the black men of Bermuda to take their rightful place as kings, breaking down racial barriers.
This year we will be voting for a government who supports our churches and not silences their pulpits. This election year we are going to be drum majors for service to our fellow countrymen; we’re going to be drum majors and speak up for the oppressed; we’re going to be drum majors by holding our government accountable.
This election year we’re changing our beat. We’re going to beat to chasing those crazy bald heads out of town. We’ve built the Cabins, we’ve planted the corn, and our people before us slaved for this country; and now we face an era where a certain class benefit in wealth off of the labour of us.
Put it another way, the hymn writer wrote in the third stanza of Lift Every Voice and Sing; he wrote ‘God of weary years, God of our silent tears.’ Well, this election year, the silence ends. This election year, our drums will be heard. We are our brothers’ keeper. We will look out for one another. Every chain has been broken.
This election year we will utter the words of Dr. Martin Luther King, when he said ‘Free at last, free at last, thank God Almighty, We’re free at last.’ Drum Majors – beat your drums.