Booking Booker

A quick follow up on the story in today's RG that Cory Booker was not allowed in to speak at Cedarbridge. (Limey in Bermuda has a great rundown on the public speech he delivered - linked in the first sentence. There was no point in me rewriting it here.)

The real story, not the garbage excuse Government Information Services was obliged to concoct today (don't blame them, that's their job), is that the whole thing at Cedarbridge was enthusiastically booked - only to be shut down. Kalmar Richards, the principal, was very positive about bringing Mr. Booker in to speak. Then, suddenly and without explanation, she canceled.

According to my source, a pretty good one at that, a message was delivered that the event can no longer go ahead and 'that's all we can say on that'. So it wasn't the principal who was the problem, a decision clearly came down from on high.

Big surprise there. Clearly the Minister/Cabinet got wind that a powerful message of unity, tolerance, respect for diversity and personal empowerment would get delivered, and figured that it had no place near those impressionable young minds. As for any concerns about the appropriateness of the message, Randy Horton, Minister of Labour Home Affairs etc, is familiar with Mr. Booker, so there was no worry that what was going to be delivered would be inappropriate - quite the contrary.

What this incident highlights is the PLP's ruthless exclusion of alternative opinions from the public school system. The public school teachers have been, probably slightly less so now, staunchly PLP. Public school students have been presented with an extremely pro-PLP line for many years now, preceeding the PLP's win in 1998, and it has only got worse since. The UBP never stood up to the Ministry of Education as it should have, to this day - by all accounts - the Ministry is unaccountable to anyone other than itself.

A little story to highlight this.

Every year in February I end up at Cedarbridge to watch some Bermuda Festival event in the Ruth Seaton James auditorium. February, is also Black History Month. There is always a prominent display on the bulletin boards commemorating Bermuda's black history - something I have absolutely no problem with and support.

But what I do have a problem with is that I've so far been unable to find any black UBP members, past or present, in these displays. Maybe they were somewhere else, but not on the displays in the main lobby. No John Swan, no E.T. Richards, no Stan Ratteray, no Pamela Gordon, not a black UBP member in sight. In fact, Black History Month was more like PLP/BIU history month. It was all Lois Browne Evans, Freddie Wade, Dr. Gordon, Dr. Barbara Ball (white union activist) even current PLP MPs but no-one from the other side.

Before I get angry emails accusing me of being a racist, I have no problem with honouring black PLP members, or BIU members or anyone else white or black during the month. But at the exclusion of UBP members it screams of hypocrisy and intentionally presents an inaccurate picture to our students.

So, it wasn't a surprise for me to hear that Mr. Booker (purely because of his UBP connection) had been prevented from presenting. Would the Ministry have acted in the same manner if the PLP had brought him in to speak? Of course not, they'd have fawned over him and PLP MPs would have been lined up in the schools looking to score some points.

The problem of course, was that the government couldn't allow the UBP to be associated with a speaker of such stature and with such impeccable credentials who would deliver a powerful message about diversity - one that would fly in the face of the story that is carefully crafted for our young public school students.

All of this speaks to the intentional exclusion of a broad range of political views in the public school system. That can only be bad for the community.

I'm sure that there are individual teachers who do a better job of being balanced in their own classes, but the deliberate political manipulation of our students by the Ministry and the PLP must stop.

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