BERMUDIAN’S HOME AWAY FROM HOME

BERMUDA BENEVOLENT ASSOCIATION:   It would be interesting to find out just how many of our young Bermudians know about the Bermuda Benevolent Association. It was several years ago that I myself was made aware of it and how fascinating it was to find out the names of so many Bermudian families that migrated to other parts of the world and especially the United States.  Interestingly the first name came to the fore was that of the Founder of the Bermuda Benevolent Association  Bermudian Clarence William Robinson. Though his foresight the foundation of this Association was laid. Though his influence many well-known compatriots became sincere, faithful and useful members. He served as President of the Association for ten years and six years as the chairman of the Trustee Board as the organization grew in strength and membership.

This was not the only contributions of Mr. Robinson. He served as a lay reader of the Protestant Episcopal Diocese of New York for twenty-seven years. He served eighteen years as lay Chaplain of the Riverside Orphan Home and organized the Chorus Club which raised funds for the benefit of the Children of Riverdale. He dedicated lots of his time to support the child Welfare and Police Athletic activities.

Mr. Robinson passed away in April 1938 on a visit to his home here in Bermuda. Bermudians in American should always remember the contributions of Brother Clarence William Robinson and say thank God for his vision. As should Bermudians in his homeland have the desire to learn about the contributions made by our fellow Bermudians from years gone by.

THE BERMUDA BENEVOLENT ASSOCIATION : from my research of it would make any Bermudian proud to be associated with the organization. In 1997 it entered its Second Century of service.

At the end of the 1800s, many Bermudians were seeking to broaden their horizons and migrated in large numbers to what they refer to as the land of opportunity. New York, Boston, Philadelphia. Pre-eminent amongst them were Clarence W. Robinson, George L. Joell and William A Jones.  They met in New York and discussed the idea of forming a Society of Bermudians. The result of their collective efforts was the formation in 1887 of the Bermuda Benevolent Association. Brother Robinson was the moving spirit . Described as a man of Sterling Character  he led this Association through its formative years. Early officers were George L Joell as First President and he served until 1899; Edward R. Darrell, Treasurer, Miss Elmyra Caisey, Recording Secretary and Mr. Robinson filling the position as Financial Secretary until 1909 when he took over the position as President untill 1919. Research shows that under his leadership the Association grew in strength, prestige and service.  Several other Bermudians served in significant roles in the Association and held membership. Such persons as Elton E. Bean who served as President for forty-seven years and sixty-nine years of membership. He was one of the first persons to meet  Ms.Marjorie Bean(who acquired the status of Dame) on her way to Wilberforce University in 1928.  Some other members were C. Gerald Butterfield, Esten Curtis, Frederick Key who served  at one time in the Independent Order of Oddfellows in Bermuda. The Association was incorporated in 1920; it purchased its home and Headquarters in 1932 at 402 West 146th Street; and burned its mortgage in 1947; formed a Juvenile Branch in 1932 and a Young Adults group in 1955. They didn’t stop there; before the event of free education in Bermuda, a scholarship to the Berkeley Institute was established and a substantial donation was made towards the establishment of a Science Department; The Association became a Life Member of the National Advancement of Coloured People; they setup an investment Committee in 1955 to prepare themselves for any future financial assistance they may need. Interesting to note was the large role the Association played in both  overseas States and Bermuda. Amongst some events of the Association as it travelled through Milestone after Milestone are many noteworthy contributions.  The Association contributed to many well-known Charitable Organizations. Their mandate was similar to that of  the many Orders of Friendly Societies here in Bermuda.  They took care and assisted families during hard times and burials. Contributions were made annually  to Packwood Home, Matilda Smith Williams Seniors Home and Pembroke Rest Home . They contributed to A. Copeland Simmons  Scholarship Fund of Allen Temple AME Church Somerset  all located here in Bermuda. With many of their membership it showed they may have gone of in search of greener pastures but they never forgot their roots. Like many organizations they struggle to keep their dream alive with a connection for Bermudians and non-Bermudians living in overseas lands.This seems to be taking place with many of our black institutions world-wide.  Yet we can be assured that as Bermudians we can boast of an Association and Historical connection to our many ancestors,brothers and sisters and give thanks for the foresight of the Founders of this Organization and their contributions so many years ago to our History.

 

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