Video: What Does Freedom Mean To You?

July 15, 2021 | 3 Comments

The ‘Freedom Square’ was recently unveiled at City Hall, serving to commemorate the 1959 Theatre Boycott, and the City of Hamilton asked a number of people to explain  “What Does Freedom Mean to You?”

The video description says, “To mark the unveiling of Freedom Square on July 2, 2021, the City of Hamilton set up a camera and asked passers-by: What Does Freedom Mean to You?

Speaking at the unveiling, Mayor Charles Gosling also said, “Today is a historic day. 62 years ago, the area to my right played host to a movement that would forever change Bermuda’s social landscape; an event that would pave the way for a better Bermuda. I am, of course, talking about the 1959 Theatre Boycott.

“Historian and Author Florenz Maxwell [who has graciously joined us here today] has written an extremely compelling book about these events called ‘Girlcott’ which charts a narrative of a young girl’s growing awareness and resistance, of hope, and the importance of fighting for change. I encourage you all to read it if you haven’t done so already. Ms Maxwell will read an excerpt from her book for us shortly.

“I will now outline briefly what happened during that pivotal occasion in 1959 as background for why we are assembled here today.

“Bermuda in the 1950s was a different place. Schools, churches and social spaces were ensnared in racial segregation and many hotels and restaurants discriminated against black people as a matter of policy. Even public and private places of leisure were segregated, including movie theatres, tennis courts and beaches.

“In early 1959, a group was formed with the goal of breaking down racial segregation in Bermuda. They called themselves ‘The Progressive Group’ and held their meetings in secret, out of fear that they and their families would be ostracized should their identities be revealed. Additionally, as I took from Ms Maxwell’s book, the concern was that “if Bermudians knew who they were, the focus would be on the messenger, not the message itself.”

“By June, the Progressive Group had devised a plan to boycott Bermuda’s movie theatres, as movies were a popular pastime for most of us back then. A theatre boycott would make a significant statement and impact. The Progressives were clear that their protest would be free of violence or even hints thereof.

“Letters, outlining plans for a boycott, were anonymously placed one evening on the steps of the black-owned newspaper The Recorder, who published the information the next day.

At the same time, posters were secretly glued with details and instructions for the proposed boycott to as many telephone poles as possible. Flour and water used instead of commercial glue to further conceal their identity.

“Throughout the week of June 15th, crowds began to gather where the City Hall car park is today [which was a hub for three surrounding movie theatres] holding placards denouncing segregation. The number of those assembled grew and grew each day.

“By the second week, the boycott forced the theatre owners to close their doors. By the end of June, the island’s hotels, who had received similar protests, accepted the change in the status quo and announced that the patrons of their nightclubs and restaurants would no longer be segregated or discriminated against based on the colour of their skin. Bermuda’s theatres, with little or no public support, felt they had no choice but to follow suit and conceded to the call for change.

“The efforts of the Progressive Group and the support of the boycotters marked the first major defeat of segregation, all within two weeks, without any disturbance or violence.

“62 years later, to this day 2nd July 2021, we stand here now to reflect on and commemorate the legacy of the Theatre Boycott – a victorious watershed challenge to segregation in Bermuda, so much of the social, economic, political progress and enrichment of our society can be linked to this very day”

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Comments (3)

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  1. Freedom says:

    Freedom to me means I can participate in all aspects of my daily life without being discriminated against if I’m not wearing a mask. Freedom to me means I can get on and off of an airplane without mandatory medical testing. Freedom to me means I can choose to take medicine or not. Freedom to me means seeing my 2-year-olds smile in public without it being forcibly covered.

    • sandgrownan says:

      What about my freedom not to be put at increased risk by libertarian nutjobs like yourself?

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