Video: Martha Dismont’s Speech To Rotary

November 3, 2021

Martha Dismont delivered a presentation to the Rotary Club yesterday [Nov 2] focused on young, Black males in Bermuda, providing a range of information.

Martha Dismont’s full presentation follows below:

Thank you for this opportunity to speak with you today.

What I am about to share is framed from my individual position that individuals are innately good, and not birthed with a pre-disposition to harm or kill another. Many clinicians and psychiatrists may disagree based upon their concern for pre-disposed conditions of parents; however, I think it is safe to say that much of the population that is of concern here, do not fall into this category.


In 2020, Catalyst Consulting was set up with two distinct purposes in mind, to support charitable organizations on island to achieve best practice and excellence in operations, and to identify and address the root causes of Bermuda’s social challenges. In addition to wrapping up a significant study and direct interviewing project on the homeless population, the other priority for Catalyst was our concern for what has been happening with our young, Black males. Our aim has been to work with other stakeholders in improving social and economic outcomes for Bermuda’s young Black males. Given the current statistics in this area, there has been an urgency to make this a focus. Statistics such as the following from the Youth Development Zone Community Connectors, co-chaired by Leila Wadson, Family Centre Director of Community Services and Kim Jackson Programme Coordinator for the Mirrors Programme, increased our concern, and we don’t expect you will find it surprising:

“A large number of young Black men between the ages of 16 and 34 are getting left behind. This is more likely for young men who have experienced, or are experiencing trauma, toxic stress, and structural disadvantage. The current systems and services in place are not designed or equipped to meet the complex needs of this population and therefore risk discouraging individuals from seeking help or even retraumatizing them.”

Specifically: [from 2010 census]

  • Only 24% of Black men have university degrees
  • 38% of Black men have high school diplomas as their highest qualification
  • Men are twice as likely than women to have no academic qualifications
  • 67% of those under-employed were Black men
  • 61% of those unemployed were Black men

In March 2021, Catalyst Consulting commissioned Global Research, a local Bermuda-based market research firm to produce an updated secondary research report on the homeless and on young, Black males in Bermuda. The aim of these reports was to provide a current understanding of the prevalence, causes and the challenges facing the homeless and disadvantaged young Black males in Bermuda. Ultimately, the research review provides insight into gaps in current knowledge, and resources needed to address the challenges facing these vulnerable and disadvantaged populations.

The secondary research is primarily based on data available through the Bermuda Government Department of Statistics and research reports published over the last 21 years [from 2000 to present]. Information from local Bermuda news sources as well as organisations and individuals that provide support to Bermuda’s vulnerable populations also contributed to the report. For these purposes, we are going to focus on the data relative to Bermuda’s disadvantaged young, Black males, reported by Dr. Leslie Steede of Global Research, on behalf of Catalyst Consulting.

Correlates of Unique Challenges Facing Disadvantaged Young Black Males [DYBMs]

Bermuda Government Department of Statistics census data from 2000 to 2016 provides insights into some of the variables that may correlate or contribute to the unique challenges facing DYBMs in Bermuda. The data provides evidence that education, employment, income, and incarceration may contribute to these unique challenges [Bermuda Government, 2010; Bermuda Government, 2000; Bermuda Government, 2016]. The key findings of the most recently available data [2016 census data] are as follows: [summarized in table 1, below. The table shows that young Black males aged 18-34 years are significantly more disadvantaged than their same age peers with respect to education, employment, income, and incarceration.]

Table 1. Data comparing educational attainment, employment, income and incarceration for 18-34-year-old Black males, Black females, white males, and white females.

We have found that:

Black males Black females White males White females
Percent with no formal education 9% 4% 5% 3%
Percent with a college or university degrees 37% 50% 61% 70%
Percent Unemployed 20% 12% 4% 6%
Percent Work in Professional Careers* 26% 41% 58% 60%
Median Personal Income $40,996 $41,611 $64,596 $57,790
Number Incarcerated 82 7 2 0

*Professional careers include technical and associate professionals and senior officials and managers.

*References: BermudaFirst Report [2019], Bermuda Labour Force Survey Report [2019], Youth Development Zone [2019], Bermuda Drug Information Network [2018], Bermuda Census [2016], Mincy Report [2009]

The disadvantages faced by young Black male are well documented and are believed to result from a legacy of intergenerational trauma dating back to slavery, and a lack of access to resources and opportunity. Among Blacks, Black males are believed to be the most disadvantaged group because they are uniquely stigmatized by society and associated with negative stereotypes [e.g., “violent”, “lazy”, “impoverished”, “more likely to commit a crime”, and “thug”].

Research into Causes of the Challenges Facing Disadvantaged Young Black Males

Recognizing the educational, employment and social gaps in achievement between young Black males and their same age peers, from 2009 to 2015, a series of research studies were conducted to provide potential reasons why young Black males are more disadvantaged. Three research studies were conducted to provide insight into reasons why young Black males are more disadvantaged in middle and high school [Jethwani-Keyser, 2012; Jethwani, 2014; Duncan, 2015] and two studies were conducted to provide insights into why young Black male are more disadvantaged in early adulthood [Mincy, Jethwani-Keyser, & Haldane, 2009; Jethwani-Keyser & Mincy, 2011]. The results of these studies are summarized by this detail.

Taken together, these studies suggest that the following 5 factors may be contributing to the unique challenges facing Disadvantaged Young Black Males:

  • 1. Negative Stereotypes about Black males
  • 2. A negative home and/or community environment
  • 3. A lack of support from teachers, parents, and role models
  • 4. A lack of education/poor post-secondary education planning
  • 5. A lack of interest in more prevalent and higher paying occupations in Bermuda

Jethwani-Keyser et al [2012] conducted interviews with 18 young Black Bermudian males aged 17–19 years to determine factors that could be contributing to their academic and professional achievement. Most of the participants [77%] lived in single parented households, run by their mothers.

The aim of the interviews was to determine these students’ educational goals, their post high school plans, and the messages and direction that they had received from home and school regarding their academic plans. The interviews also probed respondents on their employment aspirations [reported in Mincy et al. 2009]. The results revealed that of the entire sample of Black males who were on track to graduate from high school, 17 out of 18 planned to attend college in Bermuda, overseas or both. Respondents stated that their parents [particularly their mothers], teachers, and members of their extended families had encouraged them to stay in school.

When asked specifically about their post high school plans, most respondents stated that while they were encouraged to attend college or university and aspired to go, parents, teachers, and school guidance counsellors had only begun discussing higher education options with them in their senior year. This meant that many of them had missed application deadlines and did not understand the steps involved in securing college or university enrollment. Unlike white Bermudian students who had parents who were more likely to have attended college or university or better understood the process, the majority of these students’ parents did not, and as a result were unable to effectively guide them through the process of applying.

Given the large gap between Black and white students’ post-secondary school education enrollment and success, the authors made various suggestions for better preparing Black male students for education after high school:

  • Bermudian families should devote more time to helping their sons understand their goals, and the resources required to achieve them
  • Career and college guidance departments should devote more resources for building a better relationship with Black males, and helping them to realize their career aspirations and the educational steps required to achieve them
  • As soon as they enter high school, public high school teachers and counsellors should motivate Black male students to start thinking about life after high school so that they are aware and more prepared to be able to apply for college or university

A report written in 2015, “The Academic Achievement and Social Success of Black Males at Select Middle Schools in Bermuda” by Duncan, desired to understand the factors that contribute to, or impede, the social and academic success of young Black males. Interviews were conducted with 37 Black male middle school students, 2 principals and 1 school administrator. School personnel believed that a lack of parental support, teacher-student bonding and engaging activities was negatively impacting the academic and social achievement of young Black males. Black male middle school students believed that being treated unfairly, being negatively stereotyped and disengagement from education was contributing to their lack of academic success.


Perhaps the strongest correlate of the unique challenges facing DYBMs in Bermuda is incarceration. Black males aged 18-34 years are far more likely than their same age peers to be incarcerated. We will look at the number of 18–34-year-olds incarcerated in one of Bermuda’s Correctional Facilities and the number of young Black males incarcerated in 2000, 2010 and 2016 [refer to figure 4b].

In 2000, out of 174 incarcerated, 153 were Black males. In 2010, of the 125 incarcerated, 121 were Black males, and in 2016, out of the 91 incarcerated, 82 were Black males.

See 4b., chart below.

Martha Dismont Rotary Presentation Bermuda Nov 2021

Rates of incarceration declined significantly from 2000 to 2016 [from 174 in 2000 to 125 in 2010 to 91 in 2016]. This decline was largely due to Bermuda’s courts giving more non-custodial sentences, greater leniency on punishments relating to individuals having small amounts of illegal narcotics [Department of Corrections - Inmate Demographics, 2020], and the implementation of successful prison rehabilitation programs [Strangeways, 2016].


  • 98% of those incarcerated are Black males
  • 25% of those incarcerated are serving life sentences, and of that 37% of these men are aged 18-30 years old
  • The largest demographic of those incarcerated fall in the age range of 21-30, this group represents 29% of those incarcerated; followed by 31-40 year-old men who represent 27% of the incarcerated populations

In 2016, young Black males were overwhelmingly the most likely group to be incarcerated, followed by Black females, and then young white males.

The well-known ‘Mincy Report’ completed in 2009 on the male population between 18 and 34 years of age concluded the following:

“To reduce gaps in income, education, and employment, the authors advocated for a collaborative approach involving schools, businesses, government agencies, and non-profit organizations. These organizations would work together to implement initiatives, policies, and programs that encouraged greater educational achievement, and reduced occupational segregation for Black Bermudian males.”

I have highlighted this data, because it appears that we have not made the much-needed progress in the past 10 years.

Given these mostly unaddressed concerning statistics, are we surprised at the level of undue care and violence that we are seeing in our community?

We have the Farm Programme which has made some progress, the development of Transitional Community Services, an organization developed to work with young, Black males, programmes run by Darren Woods on behalf of government, and the Family Centre, and other organizations providing significant youth programmes. But, is it enough?

What we know is:

1. The scope and extent of the challenges are outpacing our ability to keep up with it. We are making progress, but not enough, and not soon enough.

2. The lack of intentional education for males, life skills and job preparedness are the culprits that we have been looking for, the culprits throwing babies in very rough waters. We are spending time and resources pulling babies out of the water, instead of going upstream and beginning to do the serious prevention that is needed—proper parenting supports, quality and equitable education, life skills and job skills based in a community that cares.

3. Our situation and relationship with our young, Black male population will not improve unless there is a direct and concerted effort by the entire community, working together, to reverse these statistics. It may be hard to hear, but the voices of these young males must be at the table, and be heard.

4. We all can imagine that no change will occur without real leadership in this area.

5. We may not like it, but we must also admit that a change of mindset must occur where we demonstrate a compassionate understanding of the circumstances that have brought our young men to the state within which they find themselves, within our community.

6. We also know that there must be proportionate consequences, and proper social justice, instead of “sweeping up every male who looks like a perpetrator”. There must be alternative consequences to jail time for first time offenders, swept up in the chaos called ‘gang life’.

7. There must be a recognition that there are developmental delays for some individual who are trauma victims, which cause them to truly not understand you when you ask if they understand their rights as you have read them to them. You do not know what you do not realize that you do not know.

8. They need life skills, job training and employment. They need to be able to afford to live in their community.

9. Organizations who can truly help must be funded. Innovative and intentional resources are needed–clean water must be poured into the glass, to clear the muddy water out of the glass.

10. No changes will occur at this very late stage without an apology from this community.

11. We have given these issues maybe 10% of our attention, when they are taking so much more from us in lawyer’s fees, court time, police services, family services, charity agency services, funders dollars, banking institution; the list goes on. We must give these issues our undivided, collective attention, instead of working in these inefficient silos.

Meanwhile, we have broken men stealing from others, killing each other, looking to belong somewhere, but not in a community that doesn’t understand what it was like when I was 4, or 5 years old; just a young boy looking forward to discovering a world to build dreams.

So, I am not sure what Bermuda is going to do. What I believe is that there are hundreds of young adolescent boys, and hundreds of young, and old, adult men in this community who should be given the opportunity to live their best truth, or they will find it down an ugly dark alley, with a community screaming “How could you do this?”

I know of organizations and groups working very hard to empower boys and men, who are solution-focused, and who work from a strength-based approach.

They are seeking to give young Black men the opportunity to live in their personal purpose and power. They want men to:

  • Tap into and use their broad array of natural gifts, talents, strengths
  • To live lives with confidence, self-belief and with the freedom to self-determine; to be who they want to be, do what they want to do [and move about where they want to move on the island]
  • To give back by providing enriching mentorship and support to others

Will Bermuda wake up to be “Another World”, by working together, positively, intentionally, pouring in whatever resources that are needed to reclaim our men, so they can take their rightful spot along each of us as contributing members of this society? It starts with us, not them. They may return part of the way, but we must be seen as acting as one community in solidarity, in order for them to trust that they can return. Thank you.

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  1. Boston Whaler Owner says:

    I’m not going to apologise because parents dont raise their kids correctly.