Ken posted his observations of Mr. Bascome’s public viewing at Alaska Hall, and his questions concerning the racial discrepancies involved on the tribute thread for Mr. Bascome. I replied there with my own thoughts, but I thought it may be more appropriate to discuss the issue in a thread of its own. I’ve copied and pasted both Ken’s comments and my reply to him below to initiate discussion. In many ways this is not a new topic, as it was raised during the deaths of Pauluu Kamarakafego and Lois Browne-Evans, and recently with the death of Michael Jackson. I mean no disrespect to the families of the deceased, but I thnk it is important to understand the racial-cultural differences to death rituals that divide our people, as these can lead to misunderstandings.
Sadly I was at the viewing last night, and hung around outside for a while, and if i counted 4 white Bermudians coming to pay respects that was all. This shows the racial split in bermuda.
Did they not come because they dont respect the 20 years of Parliamentary service that Nelson bascome dedicated to Bermuda?
Did they not come because it was at Alaska Hall and they refuse to enter PLP HQ?
Did they not come because of the location (Court St) and they feel uncomfortable there?
Did they not come simply because they don’t like viewings?
Even from the Opposition, the only members I saw were Patricia Gordon Pamplin and Gina Spence Farmer, both members whose family roots are within the PLP. I am sure the rest of Parliament will be in full attendance today, but it just makes me wonder that’s all.
It was the same for Dame Lois as well…
I can’t speak to Eugene Cox though.
I just wonder why we all can’t honor the service to one’s country in a similar fashion.
To which I replied:
Hi Ken, those are all good questions.
I will try and give my own perspective as a White Bermudian on those questions.
For one thing, I think there seems to be a very different cultural approach to deaths between Whites and Blacks – same with the different approaches to worship in the Churches. I’ve only been to three funerals in Bermuda, two White Bermudians and then Lois Browne-Evans’ one. Viewings really aren’t done to be frank. It’s just a memorial service at the Church, then a few words at the graveside, and then off to the Wake. The Wake seems to be the most important aspect amongst the Whites, and the death is very much seen as a private affair for the immediate family. Those outside of the immediate family try not to get involved, paying their respects from afar. In my observation Black Bermudians have a different approach to deaths, with viewings and public outpouring of grief being more central than the intimacy of a Wake gathering. Of course, these are generalisations and there are always exceptions to the rule. But the above seem to be the case. I would imagine that many White Bermudians, who would offer their respect will do it from afar, be it comments online or letters of support in various media. But coming out in a physical and public act, that would be unusual.
As for the location, I am also sure that is a factor. I remember when I joined the Party in the immediate aftermath of 1998. Entering Alaska Hall was very much like breaking a taboo, and I did it by taking a deep breath. Not many White Bermudians would even know where Alaska Hall is, or visit it, largely because of psychological reasons I guess, but also because they are not part of the PLP and do not think it right to enter the Party’s HQ as such.
Similarly Court Street can be quite intimidating for Whites I think. Many will go there for Chewstick, or occassionaly pop in to a store there (Caribbean Market or for Jamaican food), but they will do so infrequently and very much ‘in and out’ as quick as possible. I personally don’t like walking there and made my way to Alaska Hall for meetings on foot through a roundabout way, usually through Princess Street or down Cedar Avenue and then over, sometimes even going down by House of India and up the hill there. Very very rarely would I walk straight down Court Street. Perhaps most of that is purely pyschological. I do feel as if everyone on the street is watching me as I go down Court Street, and occassionally get accosted as I walk there. Actually, its only on election nights for celebrations that I don’t feel intimidated at all, its a very different feel.
So I think it is definitely a combination of the factors you mention, a different approach to death and funerals, but also the location being a big factor.
For the funeral of Lois Browne-Evans, I didn’t attend the viewing at Alaska Hall cause that’s really not my thing. I did attend the service at the Cathedral, as much as I detested the pomp of it with the Union Jack over the coffin and the like (I had a long-standing disagreement with her accepting the Dameship and refuse – as she was aware – to recognise such colonialist titles). And the service was quite long, and religious – being atheist I was respectful but uncomfortable – and I was wary of her death being politically exploited. I was much more comfortable with the parade to the grave.
I am not sure if my writing is helpful to you, but it is the best I can come up with. Bear in mind I was a member of the Party, regularly atteneded various meetings, and remain a supporter (though critical!), and yet I would not attend a viewing and feel uncomfortable walking through Court Street to get to Alaska Hall. Make of it what you will I guess.
Certainly good questions that should be discussed.