In June 2014, I performed “The Revolution Will Not Be Televised” as the talent segment of a larger show, known as the Alpha Beautillion, a national program for young men to showcase their academic skill, personal talent, and speaking ability.
I was born and raised in Bermuda – an island geographically small but globally significant. Even though it occupies just 21 square miles of land and has a population of about 65,000, it has one of the highest GDPs per capita in the world and is a global financial centre. A country the size of a small town playing host to big international businesses, it has always fought an an internal battle to maintain balance. The local government is pressured with finding ways to expand the economy while preserving national interests. Island politicians are expected to resist the individual temptations of the cold wide world of capitalistic opportunity. There is constant debate over “native” and “foreign”; and there is an inexplicit division between black and white, rich and poor, people with deep-rooted cultural backgrounds and people who give Bermuda its metropolitan atmosphere. Thus, as seen in many small, rich countries, the socioeconomic issues here are a little more complex than what meets the eye – and the history of racial, political, and economic relations in Bermuda plays an important role in their every aspect. Bermuda’s GDP per capita is nearly $90,000, but the income gap between black and white Bermudians continues to widen; both the costs of living and political tensions remain high, and the overall presentation of social cohesion is, well, “sketchy”.
In truth, the subtle social problems of a rich old little British colony cannot be expressed in words, and like many other places around the world, the tensions between different factions in Bermuda’s society cannot be felt just by walking through the streets. As a result, it’s easy to ignore the issues. (That’s where spoken word and poetry come into play.)
I cannot sing, dance, or act. So when it came to performing a talent, I decided to express Bermuda’s current state of bottled emotions through a modernized rendition of The Revolution Will Not Be Televised by Gil Scott Heron. Written during the civil rights movement, Heron’s lyrics were seen as a rallying cry for people to “wake up” to current events. My intent was to do the same. As his same lyrics were recited, a backdrop video of modern-day events played, alluding to the fact that the same issues protested in the old civil rights movement are all too visible today: Locally, Bermudian issues of economic disparity and social discontent; globally, issues of police brutality, political corruption, and corporate colonialism.
Speaking on his famous piece from the civil rights movement, Gil Scott Heron explained it best by saying that, “…the thing that’s going to change people is something that no one will ever be able to capture on film. It’ll just be something that you see, and all of a sudden you realize… I’m on the wrong page, or I’m on the right page, but on the wrong note and I’ve got to get in sync with everyone else to understand what’s happening in this country.”
And so, as historic words from the civil rights movement were vigorously recited, scenes of uncomfortably similar current events played in the background. And although top government officials were present, I would label this piece as more of a political statement than a full on protest.
In an ever-changing world full of uprisings and citizens who are actively engaged in societal problems, there still are many who remain without a clue. Much like in the original, the point of this poetic expression of emotion was not simply to “take a stand”, but to encourage others to do so – and that starts with paying attention.
From my little island to the world at large.
For more info on the Alpha Beautillion, click here.
Ryan Robinson Perinchief was born and raised in Bermuda, a British Overseas Territory in the Atlantic Ocean. Accepted into LLB Law at Durham University, Ryan is first spending a gap year in Brazil through Rotary International’s Youth Exchange Program.