The members and representatives from social and sporting clubs across the island, and a very special thank you to the President of Leopard’s Club International, Mr Cal Bean and the members of his executive
committee for inviting me to speak.
Though I accepted the invitation to speak with you all tonight before I accepted
the Premier’s offer to serve as Minister of National Security, the opportunity
that this evening presents to speak to the leadership of some of the most
important institutions in our community is not lost on me.
Many of you will know that my interest in this club, in particular, is long-
standing, and my passion for what organisations like ours can achieve in
holding the social fabric of our country together stems directly from my
experience over the years of having found comradeship, brotherhood (and
sisterhood), wisdom and guidance through my affiliation with this and other clubs.
Even as I acknowledge what this club life means to me, I think it important to
put nostalgia and fond memories in their proper perspective. As a society, we tend to gloss over the hard work, discipline and dedication that goes into achieving success, but I am here tonight to say to you that we need to really drill down on why our clubs are still standing today and take from that reflection some instruction as to how we thrive going forward.
When we talk about survival – and we think about where our clubs are going,
we cannot make those decisions lightly, as it is our responsibility to hold and
reverently cherish the torch – so that when we pass it on, as our forefathers
passed on to us, we have done our job to ensure, that our clubs thrive for
another 50 + years.
We cannot afford to be afraid of change and progress, though. We would be
doing a disservice to the legacy of our Founders if we do not enhance the legacy
and footprint of our Clubs.
Back in the day, when these clubs were founded, Bermuda at the time was a
racially divided island. Every organisation we can think of was divided as either black or white. Many of our clubs evolved due to persons being unable to join clubs that were considered ‘white’ only.
One thing that I think needs to be said out loud is that the dependence on
individuals to carry projects forward or relying on that same one person to do
the hard work on group projects needs to go the way of the dinosaur.
But if we want to attract and retain motivated and capable people in key
decision making roles in our clubs, then we need to clearly identify and
articulate the ideals and values that we want our clubs to represent.
The belief in a cause greater than ourselves is the bedrock for any calling to public service, be it charitable, philanthropic or political.
As the challenges that society faces become more and more complex, I believe that a return to simple core principles will provide the grounding that is needed to make our clubs thrive once more and also to achieve the generational impact that our young men and women need and deserve.
This meeting tonight means that the representatives from clubs across the
island are at least curious about what can be done. We need to turn that
curiosity into action.
Before we can act, we need to plan. Before we can plan, we need to understand.
Here are a few things that I invite you to consider:
We must seek to all do our part to strengthen our Black institutions like the
Leopard’s Club…we must find ways to involve our young people, touch and
inspire their lives, provide them with the lessons we have learned and the
wisdom we have acquired….and we must do this to encourage them to become
a part of the next 50+ years. This is critical to our survival.
Many of our clubs have the same or similar origins. So many sacrifices were
borne by a few for the lasting benefit of so many. Remembering where we
come from helps us to stay humble by remembering that all of our success…all
of our achievements are not just our own….it came from the love, support and
hard work of those who encouraged us when we were full of doubt….it came
from the people who gave up opportunities or sacrificed for us to be where we are today.
Our clubs have a social responsibility in dealing with our societal issues. Most
of these young men who are currently in crisis are our young black men. Many
of the growing homeless/unsheltered are our black families – some with ties
to our Clubs. We have to understand our local needs and see where our club
and clubs like us stand. We cannot, in 2022, be oblivious to the scourge of
violence and homelessness that is gripping our community. It is time for us to stand, deliver and recognise the role of this Club, its members and our sister
clubs and their members in the 21st Century.
Those courageous men who built these clubs in a time of hardship and
segregation would expect nothing less. We must see where we fit in and accept the role in present-day Bermuda. It may range from community meetings to coming up with solutions to this violence. It may entail partnering with sister clubs, perhaps, and having a feeding program for the homeless.
Why are we here? Each club will have a charter or a constitution which
governs what the club does, but we really need to grasp what our clubs
exist to do.
What do the books say? All clubs should utilise internal and external
assistance to review their current financial state to understand where
debt needs to be addressed. Are you stable or have concerns about
What has led to and what can correct the situation? Have you, for instance, assessed the state of your buildings, finances, security, membership, programmes etc.? If the executive cannot do it, then maybe a separate committee can or will you be forced to pay for
such an audit to indicate the club’s strengths and weaknesses?
What are the rules? Are the rules in place conducive to and supportive
of members making use of club facilities? Do the rules reinforce safety
and security for members and guests who come here?
In fact, it is imperative that executives do an audit of their strengths
and weaknesses with a view to strengthening their foundation. Such
an assessment might start with your economic affairs.
Is it possible for a club to grow its membership? Do you actively seek
out new members? What do you offer a new member? Have the rules
been examined to ensure they are relevant?
How do we cope with a more technological world that has
entertainment readily available at home with smartphones and TVs so
many might feel they do not need a club? Are there strategies for competing against the large TV and the constant use of cell phones?
Years ago people were happy to come to the club to see a football match, for example on the big screen but now they have a big screen TV at home, and its use does not appear to be costly for live sports and programmes etc. what is the solution for that?
What are the current benefits being offered by the club? Can they be
improved on in any way?
Are we asking people to join?
Have we looked at our constitutions or set deadlines for revisions so
that the club stands ready to accept members?
Have you set a membership target, and do you have committees that
assist with getting new members?
Should your club have a hostess committee who would meet and greet
new guests while developing an effective safety committee? The goal of a hostess committee would be to know your customer and to be aware of possible danger based on what they see and hear.
Should members be surveyed to find out their needs and interest in
Has the club looked at its finances from bingos to special events?
Has the club examined its security and safety before something goes
wrong? Are fire exits clearly shown as regulated with no blockage?
Most clubs have female members. Do they feel involved? Where do
they take their ideas? Are female members prepared to chair any
committees for development and or fund-raising?
As I close, I am reminded of a Yoruba saying – A West African tribe:
“I am because we are – we are therefore I am.” If our clubs are to survive, we MUST do it together.