CURB Gives Presentation To Hamilton Rotary

June 20, 2017

Lynne Winfield from Citizens Uprooting Racism in Bermuda [CURB] recently made a presentation to the Hamilton Rotary about the “Truth & Reconciliation Community Conversations” [TRCC] announced in early January.

Ms Winfield said, “There needs to be an opportunity for diverse Bermudians to meet, share experiences and dialogue about race in an environment of support, engagement and learning; this in turn provides the time and space to build community, allow empathy and trust to grow, and help relationships form through shared stories and experiences.

“Our society has a serious and long history of injustice, and the legacies of that past continue into the present as intergenerational trauma, economic disparity, identity crisis, and an ongoing culture of fear and intimidation. The injustice of that past continues to be a source of emotional division within our community.”

Ms. Winfield’s full presentation follows below:

I came here today at the invitation of your Board to speak about the Truth & Reconciliation Community Conversations [TRCC] announced in early January.

I acknowledge that the work CURB does in the community and our advocacy around racial justice stirs much controversy and passion, and I recognize that there are likely, widely varying opinions on our efficacy in the community and in the room.

Moreover, there may be others who doubt my knowledge or right to comment on such matters, not being a born Bermudian.

However, I note that Rotary’s guiding principles, and the foundation of your core values, are service, fellowship, diversity, integrity, and leadership, all of which are reflected in CURB’s core values. And it is to those principles and core values that I make this presentation on behalf of CURB.

We understand there are multiple worldviews about how racism, privilege and social injustice manifest in our society, and that our society continues to struggle with educational, philosophical, political and emotional disconnect on many levels, much of which is based on racial dynamics.

So to walk, and/or survive this political and philosophical tightrope CURB is first and foremost driven by our Mission Statement “CURB is a non-governmental organization of volunteers working to identify and dismantle racism in all its forms and to address its effects on our community.”

This simple mission statement is tremendously broad in scope, and it is our litmus test, against which we make our decisions, write opinion pieces, develop programmes and create workshops.

The Need for truth and reconciliation – Since formation in 2005 CURB has worked to sustain and normalize the conversation around race relations. Normalization doesn’t mean agreement, but does mean that it is becoming far more common for discussions around racial justice and diversity to occur within family circles, board rooms, charitable organizations, workplaces, government departments, sports clubs and the greater community.

Admittedly the conversations will not all be the same and can be tempestuous, but the community is at last breaking the culture of silence that has enveloped it for so many years.

For some time CURB has understood the dire need for ongoing and regular community dialogues, and last year’s protests in March highlighted the urgency.

There needs to be an opportunity for diverse Bermudians to meet, share experiences and dialogue about race in an environment of support, engagement and learning; this in turn provides the time and space to build community, allow empathy and trust to grow, and help relationships form through shared stories and experiences.

Our society has a serious and long history of injustice, and the legacies of that past continue into the present as intergenerational trauma, economic disparity, identity crisis, and an ongoing culture of fear and intimidation. The injustice of that past continues to be a source of emotional division within our community.

This oppressive history and its current legacies fit the international criteria, and share common features of violence and/or subjugation where truth and reconciliation processes have been invoked in other communities and countries.

Design – Throughout 2016 we evaluated a number of truth and reconciliation models, however all were very specific to the needs of their respective countries or societies. CURB increasingly became convinced that we needed to design a Bermuda-specific process that spoke to our communities’ needs, and this was achieved over the ensuing months.

On January 27, just 2 weeks after CURB launched the Community Conversations, the Kellogg Foundation published their Truth, Racial Healing and Transformation Implementation Guide, which was based on their research and adaptation of some of the most recognized Truth and Reconciliation Commission [TRC] models.

CURB immediately identified that much of the Bermuda-specific design of our truth & reconciliation community conversations mirrored the recommendations contained within the Kellogg Foundation’s research.

The Process – As CURB members were already trained in restorative justice and restorative practices, it was decided that the research of the International Institute of Restorative Practices provided us with a way to run the meetings using circles and restorative practice methods.

This method of circles to resolve trauma and community problems is not new and has been embedded in indigenous communities and has been used to resolve conflict worldwide. For instance the Rwandan government re-established the traditional community system called “Gacaca” allowing for local level resolution of suspects accused of crimes.

Long before Carl Sagan wrote of compassion as being our only mechanism for moving beyond “us vs. them,” Albert Einstein wrote in 1950 of the need to, “…free ourselves from this prison, by widening our circles of compassion to embrace all living creatures and the whole of nature in its beauty.”

Margaret Wheatley, leadership consultant and author, wrote “Circles create a soothing space, where even reticent people can realize that their voice is welcome.”

George Carlin, comedian, stated that “If people stand in a circle long enough, they’ll eventually begin to dance.”

And M. Scott Peck, psychiatrist and author, understood that “There can be no vulnerability without risk; there can be no community without vulnerability; there can be no peace, and ultimately no life, without community.”

It is this latter quote that speaks to what is needed for a process around truth and reconciliation.

We continue to talk about disconnect in our society, the Two Bermudas and the need for our society to find unity. We all want community; we all want a better Bermuda for our children and grandchildren, but where we fail is in the courage to face the root causes of that disconnect.

And it is to this need CURB has responded by providing a space for those who are seeking to create community; those who want to understand why we have such disconnect; those who are willing to be vulnerable; and those who are open to confronting issues without being confrontational, and are seeking ways to become part of the solution.

The Community Conversations – For 3 months people have met in 4 locations island-wide. The groups were made up of diverse participants representing a demographic cross section of Bermudian residents.

Run by trained Lead Facilitators, the conversations covered diverse subjects and finished with each group brainstorming ideas for personal and community actions. With a final 4-Group Meeting held May 20th to bond and collate ideas and actions for the future.

Lead facilitators provided weekly reports on their sessions, and participants were asked to complete both pre-surveys and post-surveys so that the process can be evaluated, feedback incorporated into future sessions and experiences shared.

This feedback and the actions generated by the participants are in the process of being collected and collated.

To date the 15 questions on the Post-Survey Evaluations demonstrate that the majority of participants ‘Strongly Agreed’ that the Community Conversations created relationships; provided guidelines; allowed for honest and open discussion to be shared in a supportive environment; led to understanding of the importance of Bermuda’s history as it relates to ongoing racial inequity; created a greater understanding of the language and messages around race; encouraged personal action; and noted that facilitators demonstrated empathy and good facilitation skills whilst helping participants discuss difficult subjects and explore feelings.

Most importantly participants ‘Strongly Agreed’ that the process encouraged personal growth, empathy and awareness around the need for a truth and reconciliation process for Bermuda and unanimously agreed recommending others attend future Community Conversations.

Next Steps

The Community Conversations will be held 3 times a year with the next Conversations beginning in September. We have listened to feedback from our participants and will be making some changes as we move forward.

To sustain the Conversations CURB needed to increase our pool of volunteers, and to that end an additional 9 volunteer facilitators have just completed Restorative Practice training under the auspices of the International Institute of Restorative Practices, and 7 have completed their Circles training; and we’d like to thank ABIC and ABIR for their kind support of these training programmes.

CURB is actively seeking an overseas academic partner to assist with the data collection and research arising out of the Community Conversations.

It is hoped that over a period of 3 to 4 years nearly 1,000 Bermudians will attend the Truth & Reconciliation Community Conversations creating a societal paradigm shift and a greater understanding as to what is needed in order to create the community we all seek.

As we move forward we will be regularly disseminating the ideas arising from the Truth & Reconciliation process; and will be working on a National Plan for Reconciliation, one that will be a resource for all groups and organizations.

We have and will be reaching out to other groups, organizations, faith communities, charities, schools, sports clubs, government and businesses to rally around the need for truth and reconciliation in our society, and to support and participate in a community-led process.

This will not be easy or quick. It is uncharted and will require significant recognition of past choices, new approaches and the need for resources. Our first steps may be seen as symbolic, but they are not lip service. Every step we take, no matter how big and small, must reflect our commitment to reconciliation.

It is truly a community process that will require tremendous efforts by all. People to people, we must walk a path of relationship and community building, acknowledging past trauma and mistakes and building a better future for all.

click here Citizens Uprooting Racism in Bermuda

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Comments (2)

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  1. Family Man says:

    I’ve always admired Rotarians.

    They selflessly give up so much of their time; whether it’s to help others or just to sit through mind numbingly boring lectures by pompous pot stirrers.

    Rotarians have once again shown why they should be supported by everyone in the community.

  2. San George says:

    CURB’s arguments are too general – let’s have the specifics. Specific complaints get no attention – helps CURB stay in business. It is really unfortunate when these organizations have no end game in mind – whiney, whiney!