Vexed has a post up in the wake of Mr Teddy Tucker’s passing so close to National Heroes Day (celebrated this coming Monday), arguing that to him/her this is the personality they’ll be celebrating this year.
National Heroes Day itself has been subject to some recent criticism, with the Government deciding not to identify anyone as the subject for this years celebration.
In truth, the holiday has been the subject of criticism/controversy since it was initiated – initially 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, or that it failed to set out a clear way to select a hero each year (the first national hero, Louis 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).
I support the idea of National Heroes Day, and recognise that it’s not novel to Bermuda, but exists in various countries (especially the Caribbean and Africa, but also Asia and Europe – including the UK), and being a republican I’m quite happy to see it formally replace the Queen’s Birthday (which isn’t even an official holiday in the UK).
In most cases, the day is held on a key anniversary, usually a key hero or event in that country’s history, and was originally held in October, but this was moved for the sake of expediency in terms of sharing out the public holidays more evenly across the year.
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.
Which is disappointing.
The idea of National Heroes Day should be to (a) commemorate living national heroes (surely it’s better to celebrate them while still alive…); and/or (b) commemorate past national heroes who may otherwise be forgotten, and so help build an appreciation of our heritage.
Admittedly, 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.
And 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.