Slavery –verses– Cup Match A Friendly Society Legacy

Mixing Business With Pleasure SlaveI’m not much of a sports guru when it comes to some forms of sports.  I have to at this point in time express my views on this new suggestion by a well-known organization that one of the days of the celebrated cup match special held in Bermuda every year during the month of late July early August be changed from the name Somers’ day to Mary Prince day. Most Bermudian have heard or read the  story of Mary Prince because of her drive to fight for an end to slavery and had her narrative written. She has been highlighted as one of Bermuda’s Heroes. A title well-earned for her suffering. Each  year this celebration  still causes much discussion among the people of Bermuda. When the abolition of the slavery law was passed in England in 1833 this made the holding of slaves illegal. Upon receipt of this official news on August 1 1834, the house of Assembly in Bermuda passed the Emancipation Act freeing some 5000+ slaves. This was for many the most important social change to have taken place in Bermuda. It still however had its ups and downs but all persons on the Island were doomed to adjust or die trying to escape the injustice. For the Black population to have been given their freedom albeit without any real means of financial support the rights to at least have some of the privileges enjoyed by the white population of this island was accepted for at least the time being. At least two Friendly Societies were formed before 1st August,1834. The Young men’s friendly Institution in 1832 and the St. George’s Friendly Union in 1834.The Friendly Society provided a strong support system for the Black people of Bermuda and to have initiated the game of cricket between themselves  each year was one way to share among themselves ideas and plans going forward. So they celebrated a day of coming together each summer  socially among the various lodges which consisted of Odd fellows of the Grand United Order and the Independent Orders. Most were descendants of slaves. So popular did these outings become that the game of cricket grew among them and it eventually was played for a cup hence the name Cup Match. Although the game of cricket was played in Bermuda by officers of the British Garrison in the 1840’s. It certainly did not involve the black population of the Island. So the game took on a life of its own within the Friendly Society movement with so much excitement  and vigor the results that this form of sport brought to the population left little to be desired. Several friendly games  were played among the lodges prior to 1902 as families gathered with picnic baskets with its most sumptuous food waiting for all to partake at the end of the fun-filled day. By 1902 in its very humble beginnings the first game was played between two fraternal lodges The Somers Pride of India #899 of the East and Victoria and Albert #1026 in the West. The game of cricket became more competitive and as it grew each year it was decided to turn the event over to two clubs Somerset club in the West and St. Georges’ Club in the East. Since 1944 it has become a two-day public holiday.  The days are now referred to as Emancipation day and the other as  Somers’ day. There’s lots more to learn about this game but my aim is to show why I feel that the suggestion of making the change from  Somers’ day to Mary Prince day is a bit disturbing. I certainly agree with the change from Somers’ in my humble opinion  the name  Somers’ should never have  been considered in the first place to identify the first day of this notable game for obvious reasons. However I feel to give the name of Mary Prince as the change would do her an injustice she deserves a statute that will stand in honour of her and tell her story not just on one day but be viewed every day after all did we not honour Sally for her contribution to the ‘Me Too’ movement albeit so many years in coming she was well ahead of her time in fighting for that form of injustice not just to her but many  who endured the same fate. I don’t expect a statue for every slave but Mary Prince should be considered. I know I’m not just a single voice in the wilderness wishing for something like this for Mary. When we look at the ravages of Slavery  Bermuda had its share of disgrace, fear and pain, was there any regrets? When we think of slaves they were like sacrificial offerings free for the taking. When we bring to mind Sarah ‘Sally’ Bassett , Mary Prince, Hetty Ingham, Minna Love and so many others can we really be content to take one day and name it after the sacrifice of one slave?  Here is where Slavery versus Cup match(cricket). We should not forget that it was the brain child of Friendly Societies that brought this game to the fore of our black people.  Why not name the day after an outstanding cricketer from the very early beginnings when the game was introduced. Let the name reflect what the game really stands for, a friendly gentleman’s game full of vigor and anticipation of who will win in the end.   Emancipation day is already representative of the freedom of the slaves. Let the name of this incredible holiday “Cup Match represent the true meaning of cricket and the descendants of those slaves who first introduced it into our community.

Here of late so much has been said about Mary Prince the horrid treatment she received even questions should she have been put on our heroes list. Well we are still trying to give her, the recognition she so justly deserves. The Cultural committee under than affairs minister Lovitta Foggo quickly put up a sign at Devonshire Bay with Mary Prince Park displayed on it. It will rarely be seen and it’s no beauty around it Surely a slave that endured that amount of brutality from at least 5 masters deserves better than that. So here comes along change the name of one day of the cup match to Mary Prince Day. Well!! I haven’t changed my mind Mary deserves a day of her own and a statue. Why! because who among us is going to call the changed name of cup match and say I’m going to celebrate Mary Prince Day. When Bermudians ask the question it’s are you already for cup match and Mary Prince Day is left in the shadows. Call me an a die hard believer but one day they’ll get it. Bermudians are set in their ways and no amount of name changing will make them relate to Mary Prince as one of the days of the cup match celebration. All hail when the statue arrives I keep on praying that sometime soon Mary has her own special holiday maybe on Hero’s Day.

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