Conference: island under a ‘cloud of trauma’

  • Trauma revealed: Richard Honigman, left, Samvedam Randles and Christiana Awosan were panel members at the Adverse Childhood Experiences conference hosted by Family Centre (Photograph by Fiona McWhirter)

    Trauma revealed: Richard Honigman, left, Samvedam Randles and Christiana Awosan were panel members at the Adverse Childhood Experiences conference hosted by Family Centre (Photograph by Fiona McWhirter)

A psychologist warned yesterday that the island could be under a “cloud of collective trauma” after generations of racial injustice.

But Samvedam Randles said it could be difficult to tackle problems that people were faced with every day.

Ms Randles said: “It is very hard to see your own trauma when you live in it, it is normal to you, but when you are with other cultures ... suddenly you have all these mirrors that are able to speak to you in a way that is very hard to do when you sit in it.”

Ms Randles added: “I do not know anything about how your island is structured but it would have to be such a priority to sit with this, to sort this out, not about white or black, but what is our collective trauma on this island — that we simply keep swimming in and we can’t shift?”

She was speaking as part of a panel at the Adverse Childhood Experiences conference, alongside Richard Honigman, a chairman at New York and Grenada-based vulnerable children’s charity Reach Within, and Christiana Awosan, a family therapist and researcher, who works in New York and New Jersey.

The two-day event, scheduled to end today, was organised by Family Centre at the Hamilton Princess & Beach Club. It brought together Bermudian and international experts to raise awareness of childhood trauma and how to deal with it.

Sharol Simmons, a retired clinical social worker, told the conference she had been involved with the Commission for Unity and Racial Equality, the first official government body set up to promote equal opportunities and bring the island’s people together.

She said: “We conducted several workshops, not enough in my opinion, bringing whites and blacks together to talk about this whole issue, It was very good.

Ms Simmons added: “There were some whites who just couldn’t get it. So I sit here, listening to this discussion, and I’m just listening and talking again; this just continues in Bermuda.”

Ms Simmons said: “I, as a black person, know what I have gone through, and am still going through.

“I have a nine-year-old grandson who’s going through it now, raising issues about the colour of his skin, and he’s fairer than myself, but he made a comment that bothered me about ‘I don’t want to be darker’.

“And I said, OK, where is that coming from? It’s not coming from the home environment.

“So I raise the question here, as a black person. I’m tired of it, I’m retired but I’m tired of this crap, this racism in Bermuda.”

She said the only change she had seen was through the work carried out by Citizens Uprooting Racism in Bermuda.

Ms Simmons asked the panel — two of whom were white — what they felt and thought when they heard black people “stand up and talk about this situation with respect to racism?” She added: “I do understand there’s privilege that comes along with racism, but where is the humanity from whites in this country?”

Ms Randles, a German-born psychologist and trainer who has lived and practised in and around Boston for 30 years, said she could “feel the tiredness” from Ms Simmons.

She added: “I do not know Bermuda that well but I can imagine that there is a cloud of collective trauma here that is very hard to address because you all live in it and you’ve lived in it for generations.”

The panel was earlier asked: “What story would we tell if we got it right?” Dr Awosan suggested the newspaper headline: “Racial trauma is real and white supremacy is dead.”

She explained that would mean people could then “really acknowledge” the trauma of racism, slavery and colonisation.

Dr Honigman told the conference strong relationships in families and society could bring change, such as improvements in educational achievement and a fall in levels of drug abuse.

He said that the island would start to see a “major decrease” in conditions like asthma, obesity, heart disease, cancer and high cholesterol over generations.

Dr Honigman added: “All these illnesses have been tied to adverse childhood experiences that have gone unrecognised and under-addressed.

“And society would improve, there would be more money available for beneficial aspects of society rather than having to make remediation.”

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Published Oct 12, 2018 at 8:00 am (Updated Oct 12, 2018 at 7:30 am)

Conference: island under a ‘cloud of trauma’

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