Conscription has been my battle but not my only focus. The young black man is dear to my heart and as one I will always do what I can to make sure we do ourselves better. In the last three years I’ve met many people who have all been a part of my development including people that disagreed with me. Today as I bid a temporary farewell I share my thoughts on my experience and Bermuda through my eyes as a black man.

For too long, I’ve listened to people talk about the failures of young black men. For too long, I’ve witnessed young black men failing themselves. For too long, I’ve been reminded that I live in a society where young black men get very little respect from their own. For too long, I’ve heard that the only way to correct the failures of young black men is through violent force and suppression.

Well I believe differently. I believe that the saviour for young black men is the saviour for all men and women black and white alike. The saviour for young black men is education. We must teach them that rejecting education is like rejecting life. We must teach them to lose the fear of failure and gain the wisdom to succeed. We must focus more time forcing books in their hands rather than forcing guns in their hands when they turn a certain age. We must remind them that an educated person does not necessarily reflect a person who holds any sort of degree but rather a person who isn’t afraid to learn, be taught, and most of all, listen. We must be honest with them and let them know that education may not guarantee them success but it definitely should not hinder it. The day we do these things and stop rewarding them for good behaviour is the day young black men will start to exceed expectations.

Young black men are fighting against each other. They are killing each other and going to prison for committing heinous crimes. They are fighting and killing their cousins, former class mates, former teammates, old hustling partners and former neighbours, not realizing that just because they are no longer friends with certain individuals doesn’t mean they have to be enemies.

Young black men need to stop worrying about being loved, liked, and popular among their peers and start being effective and productive in society. They must speak up about injustice or risk never being heard. They must surround themselves with people that believe in a better way so that together they can create better opportunities for those following behind them. They must understand that trying to live life easy may end up being harder than they would have ever imagined.

So where do the Bermudian people stand in all of this? The Bermudian people have often been hypocritical. Bermudians claim they want better for young black men, but do they? I’ve witnessed a march on parliament for everything but civil and human rights as it pertains to conscription. Conscription, which is something that affects only young men in Bermuda once they turn 18, is an archaic law that many blindly support. Because young men — mainly black men — are looked at as uncontrollable, we all must be placed in an institution that was put in place to suppress people. Because young black men seem to be the enemy to everyone, including themselves, they must be forced into serving in the Queen’s military to be disciplined. Because all young black men do is sit on walls they are having their rights and privileges as free citizens taken away. Something just doesn’t sound right here.

The stand that I and members of Bermudians against the Draft have taken is a matter of right and wrong, not popularity. If right and wrong were determined by popularity we’d still be enslaved today, segregated today, and wouldn’t be able to vote today. The stand I take today is one that your children and grandchildren will someday benefit from — the same way you are now benefiting from the stands that your ancestors took. I don’t expect you to agree with me because you love me or disagree with me because you hate me but I’d like you to listen to my message and carefully access the information and then maybe you’d understand me a bit more. To my friends that have remained silent, please note that your silence hasn’t gone unnoticed. However, I forgive you.

I tried to educate you Bermuda but you didn’t listen and then when I spent a night in a cell you started to pay attention. You understood that it’s not about discipline or giving back to Bermuda. It’s about control and force upon us. I’ve always stated that if forcing young men into Warwick camp was to better the next generation why we don’t force them into Bermuda College? Well, an uneducated community is easier to control and manipulate, isn’t it?

People have made judgments based on how the message has been delivered. I say don’t judge a person based on how they have said something, judge them based on what was said. Many people like talking about how we were treated in the past and so on, but refuse to look at conscription as a piece of history that has lived way past its time. Bermuda, let’s not be so blinded by the past that we fail to see and fix the problems of today. Let’s stop treating young black men with such disdain. We must show them respect. We must not just expect them to respect their elders but to respect all people and by depriving young men of their rights we are showing them no respect. What we are teaching them is how and why it’s necessary to disrespect.

Right now, more than ever, we need to love and respect each other. It’s time to realize that together we must push for positive change. Our message must tell everyone that the best way forward is not to take steps back. We need to stop praying until something happens and start making things happen with the resources that God has given us.

We need to get the message out that the best way to silence our critics and opposition is not through violence, not through hate, but through success.

We must remember to do things because we love to do things and because we believe it is the right thing to do and not for people to love us or because it’s popular.

We must remember that most battles weren’t won overnight and that the tougher the battle, the sweeter the victory will be.

As I head out in pursuit of higher education, please understand that I am not trying to be better than anybody. I’m trying to become a better me. I want to know what they know... I refuse to settle or be content... The day I become complacent in life is the day my life is over...every time I accomplish a goal another one is set and until I am unable to take another breath I will continue to set standards in my life.

I believe that together we can create a society that is comfortable and welcoming to all; a society that doesn’t discriminate or degrade but expresses love and respect for all of its citizens regardless of lifestyle, race, gender, age, and so on.

Bermuda, let’s stop being so dishonest, let’s stop being so hypocritical, let’s take a stand against the modern day injustices that exist, let’s rise together in search of a better tomorrow. We must set ourselves free and prepare the next generation of leaders to continue the fight as we still have a long way to go, in the name of love, in the name of respect, in the name of the most high, in the name of forgiveness we must remind them that free is no man who takes no stand.