An estimated 1,300 residents turned out collectively to all four recent public meetings by CURB on Bermuda’s Immigration Policies.
When contacted by Bermuda Real, Curb President Lynne Winfield said the group was literally “taken aback” by the “huge response” to their presentations. And there’s “growing interest in the community seeking to gain greater understanding about immigration legislation, its past, the legacies and the current issues”.
“All presentations have been extremely well attended with the Hamilton presentations being standing room only. We estimate approximately 1,300 people have attended the various presentations,” said Ms Winfield.
Since it was posted online by Ayo Johnson she said: “It can also be watched online with the videos having reached a total of just over 5,000 people through ThinkMedia’s Facebook page, and there’s been over 1,000 actual plays through think.bm.
“CURB has been inundated with emails and Facebook messages requesting another presentation since the last meeting. What happens next will be decided next week when CURB meets again.
“The next presentation currently being organized by the CURB Action Group will be in Hamilton and will be a presentation about the Immigration & Protection Act 1956, the proposed amendments and the impacts it would have on us today!”
Ms Winfield noted: “The format has been a Powerpoint presentation which details direct quotes from historical research by Bermudian historians and authors, e.g. Kenneth Robinson, James Smith, Cyril Packwood, Walton Brown, Dr. Quito Swan, William S. Zuill, etc., as well as research by international historians. This has been followed by a panel discussion, and panelists to date have included Eugene Johnston, Cordell Riley, Dr. Eva Hodgson, and Dr. Joseph Christopher.
“CURB’s opinion piece on February 9th, following Minister Michael Fahy’s announcement concerning proposed changes to the Immigration & Protection Act 1956, gained a great deal of interest, some very positive and some extremely negative. However, the concerns expressed in that opinion piece forewarned of the growing unrest in the community in the weeks that followed,” said Ms Winfield.
“CURB released another opinion piece on March 7th, and both opinions expressed concerns at the increasing worries, frustrations and pressure being put on the Black Bermudian population already under great stress.
“There were multiple signs of rising anger and concern in the community over the following weeks and CURB’s outreach and advocacy grew daily, with CURB members being interviewed several times over the weeks on radio; CURB members attending the various rallies; organization of the immigration presentations; contact made by members of the public asking to assist CURB; plus the creation of a new CURB Action Group as a direct result of the increasing interest and support of CURB.
“Of particular note CURB Facebook pages have grown exponentially over the past few weeks with over 2,000 on one page and 1,500 on our other page, and almost 2,000 names on our Constant Contact email lists. There has also been outreach from the community asking for CURB to present the immigration presentation to their groups or organizations, and we have been contacted by schools, clubs and a church. Three presentations have also been held at the Bermuda College for staff and students, and another is scheduled next week to the members of a seniors club,” Ms Winfield said.
“We estimated that the CURB research paper on immigration, first published in July 2014, has been requested and emailed to almost 500+ individuals and we understand from many conversations that this has been onward shared with their family and friends, and to a great extent has gone viral in the community.”
Asked for her take on the white community response to the meetings, Ms Winfield said: “It’s difficult to gauge the general reaction of the white community but online the response to CURB’s opinion pieces was extremely negative.
“Subsequent civil disobedience and protests resulted in even further negativity thrown at the protesters from the white community as, at best, they simply couldn’t understand why Black Bermudians were so upset, and at worst accused Black Bermudians of being anti-foreigner and ethnocentric.
“CURB realizes that the history of the deportation of free Black Bermudians prior to Emancipation, subsequent efforts to increase the white population, birth control focused on the Black community and racialized immigration policies up until contemporary times, is little known in our community and that this lack of knowledge affects both whites and blacks,” said Ms Winfield.
“CURB understands that by educating people about this history and how its legacies play out today, that the sensitivity of people is raised, which in turn can lead to empathy. With empathy and understanding in place relationships can be built and a way forward can be found. For those white people who have attended the CURB immigration presentations we have received extremely positive feedback and in particular I quote one particular lady who wrote the following online on Bernews:
“Welp says [April 7, 2016]:
‘Incredible to me how many speak on a forum they didn’t bother attending. I live in Hamilton Parish. Did not know the forum was going to happen in the east or I would have waited but I went to the west one and my eyes were opened. And full disclosure, as a White bermudian woman I had no idea that so many of my black Bermudian classmates and friends felt this way. I argued that we did not have institutional racism because that is truly what I believed. We have a very painful history here in Bermuda and we will never improve race relations around here if we do not educate ourselves.
‘I have way too many Black Bermudian friends and coworkers that I love and respect to continue to turn a blind eye. If I have hurt any of them in any way through my previous comments I am sincerely sorry. Government policies aimed at dividing and conquering BERMUDIANS by race should absolutely not be tolerated. I wish I had paid attention before and I am embarrassed that I did not take the time to understand the concerns of my fellow BERMUDIANS on the hill. As I sat in the gym facility at Sandys Middle School, I was in tears. I spoke badly about the strikers. I am ashamed of that. We have two ears with which to listen and only one mouth with which to speak. I’m paying attention now. CURB did an excellent job and I am grateful’.
“In order for people to be kept informed they are asked to either join the CURB Facebook page at or email us at email@example.com to be put on our email list or to request CURB to present.”
CURB hosted four immigration presentations on ‘Immigration in Bermuda: It’s History, It’s Legacy’ at Cathedral Hall and St. Paul’s Centennial Hall in Hamilton, one at the west end at Sandys Secondary Middle School, and another at Clearwater Middle School in St. David’s.