- The following remarks of tribute was delivered by the Acting Premier, Lieutenant-Colonel David Burch at Ira Philip’s funeral on Wednesday, April 18, 2018, with an attached message by Premier David Burt & Family
Let me first extend my thanks to the family for the opportunity to participate in this way on what is a very public occasion but one which really is for the family to bid farewell.
Everything happens for a reason and it is especially meaningful for me to be here today as Ira Philip was both a contemporary and friend of my late parents, George and Alice Burch; and so perhaps by design, my full Somerset credentials make me eminently qualified to discharge the duty required in this hour.
As a life member of the Bermuda Progressive Labour Party – Ira Philip is considered PLP Royalty.
In the days since Ira Philip passed, we have heard volumes about the power of his pen. His career in journalism has been heralded and his professionalism deemed unimpeachable. All of this is true. But Ira Philip was more than a journalist and his innate professionalism was more than remarkable. I say this because you cannot comment on the work of the man without some reference to the time and circumstances in which he lived.
He told the story of black men and women who were upstanding citizens, courageous, hardworking and industrious – who were leaders in this community. The pages of the Bermuda Recorder told us who we were, long before we needed role models to combat the negative stereotypes other media still paint of us. While other front pages required black people to be dead or on their way to court to warrant coverage, Ira Philip devoted his pen and ink to what he did best and how we were a people of distinction.
Whether it was the Rev Charles Vinton Monk or the History of the BIU, Ira Philip wrote with conviction and a determination that the history of Bermuda would mirror the experience of its people. We cannot overstate the significance of his body of work to the empowerment of black people through knowledge of their true story.
All men are heroes in old age or death. In his prime, Nelson Mandela was deemed a terrorist by most western governments. Before an assassin’s bullet struck down the Rev Dr Martin Luther King Jr in Memphis, he was a communist sympathizer whose anti-war message was unpatriotic. The causes of these men were always just and right but because they defied the status quo in life, they endured wavering support. When the next Ira Philip chronicles our story and speaks as fearlessly as the original Ira Philip did on issues of the day, we ought to embrace the truth like ‘From Monk to Mazumbo’, but thank God he wrote it because if he hadn’t, who would have?
And so we assemble today and mourn the loss of this man of letters and learning, I am thankful for his ability and courage to write and publish the history of our people; not for me, but for those generations yet unborn who will, through his work, know who and whose story they are.
On behalf of the Honourable Premier, the Government and the people of Bermuda, I am humbled to extend our heartfelt sympathies to the Family and to assure you that in this hour of bereavement and in the days and months ahead, you will feel our thoughts and prayers as we join you in celebrating the lasting life’s work of this Scribe of the Nation.
God bless you is my prayer.
Message From Premier David Burt
To the sons and daughters, grandsons and granddaughters, and the wider Philip family: on behalf of Kristin and I and our families, I write to offer our sincere sympathies on the passing of our Giant, Legend and Brother Ira Philip.
I deeply regret that I cannot attend the service, but I have instructed the Government’s Department of Communication and Information to suspend all media activity today in honour of, and out of respect for the celebration of Bro Ira Philip’s life. The Government will not hold interviews or press conferences, nor will any press statements be released on a day when the only news worth broadcasting is happening live in this Cathedral.
May God bless and Keep the Philip family in this time of sorrow.