News Release: HAMILTON, Bermuda – To commemorate Black History Month, the US Consulate General invited Bermuda government and community leaders on a group walking tour of the Spittal Pond Nature Reserve to visit landmarks connected to the enslavement, resistance, and empowerment of people of African descent. The tour, led by the Bermuda National Trust (BNT), explored Jeffrey’s Cave, a significant landmark on the African Heritage Diaspora Trail, and Portuguese Rock, a historical monument believed to be linked to the transatlantic slave trade.

US Consul General Karen Grissette sponsored the tour, and welcomed distinguished guests, to participate in an immersive and educational experience focused on the impact and resistance of people of African descent throughout history including, Supreme Court Justice Juan Wolffe, Minister of Youth, Culture and Tourism Owen K. Darrell, Deputy Opposition Leader and Smith’s South MP Ben Smith, Executive Director of Citizens Uprooting Racism in Bermuda (CURB) Stacey-Lee Williams, Director of the Department of Culture Dr. Kim Dismont-Robinson, Managing Director of Big Brothers Big Sisters Patrina O’Connor-Paynter, Tourism Entrepreneur and Co-owner of Bermuda Travel Concessions Dennie O’Connor, Bermuda National Trust Council President Alana Anderson, African Diaspora Heritage Trust and cultural heritage educators Maxine Esdaille and Dawn Simmons, and Bermuda Press Holdings Chief Executive Officer and Director Jonathan Howes.

Describing the walk, Consul General Grissette noted: “Black History Month is an important time to reflect on the global contribution of people of African descent, but also a time to face the moral stain of slavery around the world. The visit to the picturesque Jeffrey’s Cave and Portuguese Rock with this group of dignitaries gave us all the opportunity to reflect on how to continue to work toward a more just society.”

Dr Charlotte Andrews, Head of Cultural Heritage with the Bermuda National Trust, guided the group to view new, reimagined signage, located near Portuguese Rock – a limestone inscription dating to 1543, almost 70 years before the island’s first settlers. It is believed to have been carved by the crew of a Portuguese vessel that found itself shipwrecked on Bermuda. Before leaving the island, they carved “RP”, believed to be linked to Rex Portugaliae for the King of Portugal, and the year 1543 into rock at what is now Spittal Pond Nature Reserve.. Given the high likelihood the vessel was engaged in the Atlantic Slave Trade, the site’s interpretation now also honours the tens of millions of people of African descent who perished or suffered over four centuries. The reinterpretation reflects valuable input from members of the community who responded to a public invitation to join a BNT focus group facilitated by CURB’s Stacey-Lee Williams.

Following the visit to Portuguese Rock, the group walked to Jeffrey’s Cave, where Maxine Esdaille relayed the narrative of the young man who escaped captivity and with the support of an enslaved female friend survived inside of a seaside-facing cave for one month before being recaptured and returned to enslavement. Jeffrey’s Cave and its historical tale of resistance is a part of Bermuda’s African Diaspora Heritage Trail and the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) Slave Route Project which seeks to promote the history of people of African descent and amplify true stories surrounding enslavement.

Highlighting the opportunity to collectively explore Bermuda’s history, Minister Owen Darrell stated, “It was a valuable opportunity for me and the rest of the group to explore this important cultural heritage site. During our visit to Spittal Pond, especially as we commemorate Black History Month, we had the chance to deeply understand the history of people of African descent in Bermuda and reflect. I am grateful for the invitation from US Consul General Karen Grissette to attend.

The BNT is a participant in Re-imagining International Sites of Enslavement (RISE), a project co-led by the International National Trusts Organization and the American National Trust for Historic Preservation. RISE brings together managers of heritage landmarks around the Atlantic region with a connection to the slave trade to engage in a knowledge-sharing program focused on a range of themes including, equitable and respectful interpretation strategies. Signage located at both Jeffrey’s Cave and Portuguese Rock includes updated language and reinterpretations that highlight the significance and lasting impact of the island’s history of enslavement.

The Bermuda National Trust was honored to welcome Consul General Grissette and her distinguished guests at Spittal Pond to visit these important cultural heritage sites and discuss their links with Black history, particularly Bermuda’s painful past of enslavement and resistance, and the wider history and culture of the people of the African diaspora,” said Dr Charlotte Andrews.

This event was one of several activities organized by the Consulate to celebrate Black History Month. On February 7, the Consulate partnered with the Bermuda National Library to host a screening of ‘Just Mercy’, a story of justice and redemption based on a memoir by American Attorney Bryan Stevenson. US Consul General Karen Grissette attended the opening of Paget Primary School’s 6th annual Black Bermudian History Museum on February 22, which honored 11 Black Bermudians who made significant contributions to society and supported the Black owned business vendor market hosted by Bacardi Headquarters on February 23.