Warrior, freedom fighter, civil rights activist, pastor, brother, son, charismatic hero and champion of all people of colour. These are just a few of the references many particularly Black Bermudians might use to describe Rev. Dr Kingsley Tweed.
The colonialists particularly of the 1950s and 60s looked upon the fiery orator, who helped energise the 1959 Theatre Boycott, as a frequent voice on the soapbox that rallied support for the cause, which brought the establishment to its knees and helped force desegregation within that institution and many other industries school, hotels, restaurants, hospitals.
To them he was, at once, a Marxist, communist leaning insurrectionist, one they looked to eliminate from the face of the earth. A carpenter by trade, Rev. Dr Tweed was an active member of the Bermuda Industrial Union, briefly occupying the position of general secretary, before being forced to flee his homeland due to the then Governor, Major-General Sir Julian Alvery Gascoigne, decreeing him an insurrectionist in need of killing. Rev. Dr Tweed is the acknowledged Dad of St Paul’s AME Church pastor Nicholas Tweed, a magnetic orator and people’s advocate in his own right.
TNN’s Trevor Lindsay caught up with Rev. Dr Tweed outside of the Bermuda Industrial Union ( BIU ) during a recent visit to the Island and gleaned a few valuable insights into specific aspects of the life and times of the great man, which we offer in his own words.
Who exactly is Rev. Dr Kingsley Tweed and which part of the Island did you come from?
“I’m Kingsley Eugene Tweed, the son of Helen Grace Muriel Perinchief Tweed and John Caesar Tweed a very outstanding ice-delivery man.
“He had cows and goats and chickens and ducks, and we lived in a rather interesting place called Devonshire West, and I grew up, up there with my mother and father and 11 other brothers and sisters.
“Now, we had some ups and downs, but not serious ups and downs, where we were ashamed or offended to know one another. We had an argument and it stayed behind the screen door, and that is the way, in my opinion, how families should conduct their affairs, rather than make them an assemblage of public events.
“And so, basically and fundamentally, I’m just that, an ordinary African Bermudian. That’s important, because it speaks to the history of who I am and, perhaps, who you are and that goes to the very core of how we see ourselves in relation to social priorities and, perhaps, it helps us to get our political priorities straightened out and then we can deal with the larger areas of economics.”
On being forced to flee Bermuda.
“Bermuda for me, personally, was rather troubling. We had a governor in Government House. And let me tell you his name, (because) he can’t trouble me any more or hurt anyone else. But his name was Lieutenant General Gascoigne actually Major-General Sir Julian Alvery Gascoigne and he stated, publicly, that he, ‘wanted Tweed tried for insurrection’, and insurrection within the confines of the British Empire was a treasonable offence, a hanging offence.
“So, he wanted to put it mildly to hang me. To execute me.
“This was in 1959-60 and was publicly recorded. You can find it at Q Gardens in Britain, where you can find it if you choose to look for it. Most of it has been redacted for another 40-years. The first part of his offensive behaviour to myself and a number of other Black Bermudians I mean, deeply offensive stuff he ought not have been the governor of Bermuda or any place else on God’s earth, but that’s the way it was.
“And so we had to run away to save our lives and that’s just what the truth is all about.
“He wanted me dead. ‘Hang him!’ he said. ‘Hang him! Kill him! Make sure he’s dead!’
“And (do) you know what the saddest part about that is? He had some Black union members agreeing with him, that’s the saddest part.
“I knew that White men liked to kill Negroes, now people of colour and don’t use that term, because I find that deeply offensive but we always find some of our people, people that look like us, coloured people, people from ‘Negro-land’, which never existed. And they agreed with him and said, ‘Make him a martyr’. Let him go to heaven or hell, wherever dead people go when they’re dead.
Trapped in America.
“I got to the nearest land mass, which I didn’t enjoy staying, and I got trapped there. They arrested me there and, on the advice of the Bermuda Government, they though they were dealing with, not only a Marxist, a socialist, but an armed and dangerous communist of the Bulganin and Khrushchev, Gromyko era.
“But after careful examination for three months at 34th Street Immigration Center, they decided that I wasn’t the person described by Conyers, Dill and Pearman.
“And so they said, ‘Well, listen. If we send you back to Bermuda your life will not be worth a Bermuda sixpence or an American dime’.
And you can trace this back through the Information Act “Captain Wild Blood said, ‘Listen. We want you to stay here, because we like what you do with our children. Our sons and our daughters at Maury Street, St Luke’s African Methodist Episcopal Church,’ an organisation where I helped found Blazer Youth Development Corporation.
“But, let me say this, the Blazer Youth Development Corporation, Captain Wild Blood said, ‘We’re not going to deport you. What we will do is give you voluntary departure, but you can go to Canada and we’ll furnish you with the necessary paperwork which you just show it to the necessary persons coming back into America and you can stay.’
“I said, ‘Well, I want to leave here as soon as I can.” Because the Vietnam War was raging and we were burying Black men, who had no cause with the Vietnamese, and I took a very strong stand on that proposition, because I was dogmatically and emphatically opposed to what was going on in Vietnam.
“And I said it before Malcolm X and Muhammad Ali, ‘No Vietnamese put a chain around my neck and shackles on my feet and chained me in a slave-ship’. And so it was just a different conversation we had with the Americans.
Tweed finds trouble in the Motherland.
“But, anyway, they let me get on a plane and I went to Britain, where I was trapped. I went down to Zimbabwe for a while and had some problems down there, because they were fighting a war with a gentleman, who declared a unilateral declaration of independence for Northern Rhodesia, a UDI, which I also found destructive for the African population, who had no say in what was going on. And I either, because the Queen of Great Britain the supreme monarch at the time she didn’t raise her voice against it, but it appeared that she acquiesced with everything that was going on there, which I found very disturbing.
“I find it deeply disturbing, frankly be very careful here Kingsley with all of the royal family. I just find they’re not so royal after all, because they’re who they are and what they are. They put a very low evaluation on the price of my humanity and yours and that’s still the case to this very day.”
Off to say farewell to a monarch … from reasonable distance.
“Now, I would like to continue this conversation, because I suspect I have a lot more, very important items I’d like to discuss with you, but I have a pain in my back and I have to catch an airplane, because I’ve got to go back to see my monarch’s funeral service at Westminster, a place I’ve never been to and never want to go to, because they want to put me next to Sir Winston Churchill and that’d be dangerous to me.”
Already featured in the video ‘Voices Rise’, might a book of the life of Kingsley Tweed be forthcoming?
“If I had someone to write it, because my writing is indecipherable. But that, perhaps, is something that I have to look at futuristically.
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