beaches

 

An exotic island of rose-colored beaches and turquoise waters, Bermuda calls golfers, divers, honeymooners and anyone looking for sensational beaches to its pearly shores.  Also, for those looking for rest and relaxation, no other place gently whispers “paradise” quite like Bermuda. Yet the island still has much more to say. The place where the first African Diaspora Heritage Trail (ADHT) Conference was conceived, Bermuda articulates the importance of the development and conservation of black culture and heritage sites and programs.

The ADHT conference was the idea of the late, then minister of tourism David Allen, and was put in place by the Bermudian government almost ten years ago. Annual conferences have been gaining momentum ever since as the ADHT mantle has now been taken up by Bermuda’s Premiere, the honorable Dr. Ewart Brown, who is also the minister of tourism.

According to Dr. Brown, Bermuda’s ADHT initiative endeavors to educate visitors, enhance the economic viability of African Diaspora countries and conserve the essence of African traditions and history. He has explained that there is more to our African heritage than dress, fashion, changing names and hairstyles. "Being an African is more than those things, it is a method of thinking, it is an outlook and above all it is a sense of history.”

Dr. Brown declared that Bermuda has successfully reawakened African heritage in pockets around the world and must not stop now. “It is time to ignite the fire,” he said. "Bermuda is ready to lead in this effort. Under the leadership of Dr. Brown and organizer Dr. Gaynelle Henderson of Henderson Travel and Tours, the ADHT conferences have continuously brought together stellar panels of noted educators, historians, culture experts, high ranking government and tourism officials and even some celebrities.

Bermuda’s own black heritage trail serves as a shining example of what conference participants would like to see developed and maintained in other places of the African Diaspora. Aspects of the history, customs, culture and experiences of slaves and their descents in Bermuda have been officially designated by United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) as part of the Slave Route Project.

Roughly sixty per cent of the islands’ inhabitants are of African ancestry. Most are descendants of the West Indian and West African slaves brought to the islands during the 18th century who are proud to celebrate their culture and heritage with tourists.

Interesting sites on Bermuda’s black heritage trail include the Bermuda Maritime Museum, where visitors can examine the facts, figures and artifacts related to the chilling trans-Atlantic slave trade and the Bermudian Heritage Museum where you can learn about some of the many accomplishments of Black Bermudians in various fields.

St_Peters_ChurchTwo important churches on the trail are Cobbs Hill Methodist Church, the oldest existing Methodist building in Bermuda that was built by slaves by moonlight and the St. Peter's Church, the oldest Anglican church where a historic slave graveyard is still intact. When exploring Bermuda’s ADHT sites, be sure to visit Bermuda's Cobbler's and Gibblet Island where slaves were executed and sometimes beheaded. Many artifacts on these islands have survived virtually untouched.

While doing the black heritage trail or taking in the tune of the waves crashing against the shore, you might hear another rhythm in the background; this is the distinctive drum beat of a troupe of masked dancer whose bright costumes create a whir of vivid color as they move to the pulse of their drums. They are the Gombey dancers, who have become a sort of a cultural symbol of the ADHT initiative.  

The_Gombey_DancersAdorned in decorative colorful clothing complete with trappings like hatchets, bows and arrows, the dancers dress much like the slaves did in the 17th and 18th centuries when they allegedly tried to disguise themselves from their masters. Most of their dress, customs and the artistry of their dance is said to have been of African origin. Visitors are likely to catch a performance by the Gombeys during the holidays or for some special event when they dance and portray bible stories before crowds of people.

In Bermuda, you are likely to hear the legendary story of Sally Bassett as it is told and re-told by many Bermudians. Somewhat a signature tale on the island, it is about one of the most infamous cases of slave brutality in Bermuda's history. Sarah (Sally) Bassett was a slave, who suffered unusual brutality at the hands of her owners and was later accused of poisoning them to death and sentenced to be burned publicly at stake for the alleged crime. People from all over came to witness the execution of this brave lady who told the crowd not to hurry because nothing was going to take place until she got there.

The day she was burned was an unusually hot day, and even now, a hot day in Bermuda is known as a “regular Sally Bassett day”. Legend persists that Bermuda's national flower, the Bermudian, grew out of her ashes. Theatrical re-enactments of Sally Bassett’s life and death are performed from time to time and a statue commemorating this controversial woman has been erected which is a part of Bermuda’s black heritage trail.

For more information on Bermuda’s black heritage trails and ADHT conferences, visit www.adht.net and www.bermudatourism.com.