Review: “Remember the Company” Event

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[Written by Dale Butler]

It was a perfect sunny day on Friday, February 25, 2022, when Minister of Youth, Culture and Sports Dr. Ernest Peets, Jr., Mayor of Hamilton Charles R. Gosling and U.S. Consul General , Mrs. Karen Grissette joined approximately 50 citizens in scenic Barr’s Bay Park, Front Street, Hamilton to hear the epic story of the Businessan American merchant ship active along the Atlantic coast during the slave trade in the early 19th century.

Featuring the historic sculpture “Enterprise” by Bermudian sculptor and woodcarver Chesley Trott [February 2010] Against the backdrop, the decision by Dr. Kim Dismont-Robinson, Director of the Department of Community and Cultural Affairs, and her team to spotlight Bermuda poets and international star Joy Barnum was applauded. But the Companies trip to Bermuda was not a tea for two with scones and jam, but a true story that happened on our shore 187 years ago.

The performers led the way and were open and honest, bringing a sobriety to the event. The recording of the event must be broadcast in our schools and broadcast regularly on CITV. In fact, I recommended that the Minister produce a book to build on the foundation laid by the late Nellie E. Musson [August 3, 1926-June 7, 1989]a descendant of the enslaved people on the Business. Ms. Musson was well ahead of her time. She produced company kids in 1984 and many other books of value and note which are, unfortunately, out of print.

I was delighted to attend with my autographed copy of the book. My first cultural mentor was my aunt Una, who had an extensive library of black books covering Africa, the West Indies and Bermuda, which we had to read in the evenings and then listen to black music. I am therefore grateful to Nellie Musson, who became my second mentor. She was in charge of sending me Dr. EF Gordon: Bermuda’s Working Class Hero at the University of Toronto Press. It was the first biography of his life. When I received author Musson’s book, I used it in class and it was still safe in my briefcase.

I arrived at Barr’s Bay Park to see the Chesley Trott statue, which was surrounded by modern amenities that wouldn’t have been at the landing site back then. In years to come, I’m sure presenters will dress in period costume to add reality to this commemoration. I have no doubt that the poet presentations would have been a delight for the late Cecile N. Musson-Smith and Ron Lightbourne, and now Dr. Shangri-La Durham-Thompson and Joy Wilson-Tucker, et al. They didn’t mince words and feelings and were very passionate.

Author Vejay Steede, who named the Bermudian Historians Collaboration “Heartbeat” when I asked him to chair the historians group years ago when I was Minister of Community and Cultural Affairs, has done a great job as Master of Ceremonies and also presented his poem ‘We Have Arrived.’ It was attended by a cast of Oscar-winning poets:

  • Alan C. Smith: Prepared. Inspired by Chained on the Rock by Cyril Packwood, P. 97.
  • Milton McKenzie: pun
  • Krystal McKenzie: 72 or 78. A Shakespearean sonnet.
  • Andrea Ottley: The Right Hon. William, Earl of Dartmouth
  • Tiffany Paynter: Rooster.

It would take pages to highlight the impact of each poet. I hope they realize how they, the Poet Caravan, have laid the foundations for a troupe of performers capable of rehearsing this afternoon of poetry and powerful songs.

Joy Barnum was not left out, highlighting the seriousness of this era in two songs: Glory and Spirit. Artistic meteor Rajai Denbrook is one of our finest baritones, and he secured that designation with “Deep River” and “Hallelujah the Storm Is Passing Over.” With images of that time planted in our minds by singers and poets, we were transported back to that time. It was heartbreaking to sit there with the story of the event conveyed through provocative statements and songs.

Company Bermuda February 2022 (2)

On February 11, 1835, the ship was forced to take refuge in Bermuda because of a bad storm. It carried 78 enslaved people, called cattle, in addition to other cargo. Detailed accounts can be found on the internet and when one reads their fate, the various twists, it is obvious that there is greater potential for a play, songs or a movie. Present was Mr. George Trott, one of the descendants of Mahaley Mackenzie [Warfield]who disembarked with the captives.

With a vote of thanks from Robin Hamill, CEO of the Bermuda Sloop Foundation, and a moment of silence, it was left to The Spirit of Bermuda to fire the cannon and send us on a journey to discover even more.

– Dale Butler, in addition to music, food and book reviews, is a historian and executive director of Atlantic Publishing House

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