Truth and reconciliation conversations will begin across the island in February, racial justice organisation Citizens Uprooting Racism in Bermuda announced yesterday.
Trained mediators will run the multiple group sessions of up to 20 participants, who will stay together for a series of conversations over a three-month period, Curb said at a press conference.
It is hoped that the initiative will be more effective than previous nationwide conversations because the discussion groups will be smaller and will reconvene on a regular basis, allowing relationships to form and empathy to build.
Curb will provide guideline topics for each meeting, as well as resources that can be shared with groups in advance prior to the gathering.
“It is envisioned these groups will forge relationships, build community and find ways to create change within their own sphere of influence, and then share with the greater community,” said Curb president Lynne Winfield.
“Most importantly, we will look for the groups to build upon and develop additional ideas and actions to bring about social change, healing and greater racial justice and equity in our society.”
Ms Winfield referred to Barack Obama’s speech where he quoted Atticus Finch — a character in Harper Lee’s To Kill A Mocking Bird: “You never really understand a person until you consider things from his point of view”.
At the end of the three months, the groups will meet as one to consolidate their ideas. Additional groups will be formed later in the year and the process will begin again.
The small group meetings will take place in east, west and central locations around the island. Organisers are seeking meeting spaces and will be reaching out to the community to provide locations.
Curb said it was grateful to the Human Rights Commission for its expression of support for this valuable initiative.
It said it had reached out to the community to find facilitators, mediators and skilled individuals who would be willing to facilitate the truth and reconciliation meetings. Volunteers to come forward are Caitlin Conyers, Gwendolyn Creary, Frances Eddy, Hashim Estwick, Cordell Riley, Michelle Scott, Jodi Virgil, Stacey Lee Williams and Lynne Winfield.
Ms Winfield said that the small group dialogues would be skilfully facilitated to achieve greater empathy and understanding.
“Confronting something does not mean it has to be confrontational. Participants will be able to speak about their experiences in a supportive environment,” she said.
“Telling one’s stories is cathartic for those who have been traumatised, and listening to other people’s stories leads to greater empathy and understanding. It allows our humanity to come through and the empathy created, displaces cynicism and distrust.
“Help create the change you want by becoming actively involved to create a racially equitable and socially just Bermuda that our children will be proud to inherit.”