What About Bermuda's Unsung Heroes?

Bermuda's Flag; image by dmitri_66, used under a CC license.

Bermuda's Flag; image by dmitri_66, used under a CC license.

National Heroes Day is a tradition celebrated in a few Caribbean territories, but in Bermuda, there is online discourse over the purpose and history of the national holiday. Ironically, the Bermudian government decided not to name anyone as the subject of this year's celebration, even as it emphasized its importance.

The contradiction confused the blog catch a fire, who noted that the holiday, ever since its inception in 2008, has been controversial. The blogger recapped why there has been so much public scepticism:

The holiday has been the subject of criticism…by those who think it’s an insult to the monarchy (officially replacing the Queen’s Birthday Holiday, the parade of which continues on the same day anyway), or that it was a conspiracy of reverse racism by the PLP [Progressive Labour Party that currently sits in opposition], or that it failed to set out a clear way to select a hero each year (the first national hero, Lois Browne-Evans, was the subject of the day from 2008 until 2011 when three additional heroes shared the day – Pauulu Kamarakafego, Dr EF Gordon and Henry Tucker; and Mary Prince was the subject for 2012, and, by default, 2013).

The process involved in selecting national heroes was also in question:

I understood that selection would be through nominations to a board/committee – related to the Department of Community & Cultural Affairs – which would then provide a short-list of candidates for the Minister to select from, and that this would be annual.

That has not been the case, and it remains unclear how the hero is to be selected – or, more frequently, not selected.

Which is disappointing.

Vexed Bermoothes thought that politicians only convoluted the issue:

The problem with ‘national hero days’ is that the politicians promptly name themselves as heroes. That’s not the way it works guys.

catch a fire agreed that the whole point of the occasion was:

To commemorate living national heroes…and…past national heroes who may otherwise be forgotten, and so help build an appreciation of our heritage.

Historically, he felt that issues of race had an impact upon the awareness of some aspects of Bermudian heritage:

Due to the racial power imbalances prevalent in our history, ‘Black’ history has been largely erased from the historical record – indeed, ‘actively suppressed’ may be a better phrase than simply ‘erased’.

And this largely means that key national heroes are simply unknown – they weren’t recorded and so aren’t recognised. Our history has, rather literally, been White-washed – as well as filtered in a sexist way to boot.

Despite this, there are plenty of heroes, historical and present, who can, and should have, been the focus of National Heroes Day, complete with a coordinated public education campaign, across races and sex.

The blogger ended by suggesting alternative approaches to celebrating the day so that there will be more national heroes to acknowledge in the future:

For those unrecorded heroes of the past we could have had a generic ‘themed’ day where focus would have been on past injustices and the resistance against them.

Alternatively, National Heroes Day could be a generic one (which it appears to be this year) where everyone’s left to determine their own national hero.

Which has its merits, but I feel it misses out on a pedagogical opportunity to highlight our collective heritage (living or other) and help inspire people to become future national heroes.

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