Bring to Simmer

Why Pastor Leroy Bean was the perfect chef to keep Bermuda's gang violence from boiling over
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 Sometime in the mid-nineties, Bermuda started to slide into a nightmare. Gangs started to form across the island, and soon, murder would become as commonplace as any other form of unnatural death Bermudians had learned to cope with. 

Decades later, and it feels like we’ve come through the worst of the – overwhelmingly – black-on-black violence that threatened to rip this island nation to shreds at certain points along the way. 

Our deliverance has been fuelled, in significant ways, by Pastor Leroy Bean and his Anti-Gang Task Force. Working in collaboration with other local frontline agencies, Pastor Bean and his team have moved mountains to help families, preserve peace, and save lives. 

His story, however, began long before he was appointed to any government post. 

“My journey to reduce gang violence started long before 2017. As a matter of fact, it began over two decades ago. After reflecting on my upbringing, I noticed the disparities that were experienced by many Black families, which had existed for hundreds of years. After losing my maternal grandfather at the age of 14, with whom my family lived, I began the thrust to become an advocate to reverse the trend of violence – whether it be gang-related or otherwise.” 

Violence has always been a part of the black experience in the West – so reversing the trend of violence is something we should all be mindful of. Pastor bean expounds on why victories along the way can be fleeting at best, and hollow at worst: 

“While there have been many notable milestones that range from individuals launching into their personal goals and visions, to seeing gang violence being reduced from October 2017 to our present time; I wouldn’t necessarily refer to them as successes, because I believe that one murder is one murder too much. However, the steps that have been taken by the gang task force have created – and will continue to help create – a foundation to combat this epidemic called gang violence in the future.” 

Currently, Pastor Bean and his team oversee many programs designed to alleviate the strain that gang violence puts on society – programs conducted in local schools daily. These programs, along with a few other ‘pillars,’ characterize the work that Pastor Bean and his team does. 

“The work for the Gang Violence Reduction Team (GVRT) entails four main pillars: The first is prevention, which involves preventative mechanisms to educate young and old about the pros and cons of antisocial behaviour. It is also comprised of support groups within the primary and middle schools through our ‘I am’ Program. 

Pastor Leroy Bean (Photograph by Akil Simmons)

“Restorative Justice sessions are regularly held within the high schools, along with one-on-one personal counselling. The Redemption Program also plays a very important part in dealing with therapeutic aspects of work disciplines, financial planning, and life skills – which are critical in many of these young people’s lives. The high school work program is eight weeks during the summer, along with daily visits to the primary, middle, and high schools. This allows us to do periodic checks to ascertain the general pulses of individual clients. 

“The second pillar is the intervention aspect, which is typically used when individuals find themselves in a conflict, and need immediate therapeutic intervention. At times it can involve having to remove certain individuals from their various environments. 

“The third pillar, negotiation, is also used when it is deemed necessary. This may entail coming to an agreement that is amicable, and that suits all the parties. 

“The last pillar is relocation. This normally involves helping individuals to get off-island to start a new life. I must emphasize, that this is not protective custody, but is a relocation to increase hope for a better future, within individuals. The GVRT is made up of four team members who touch base with numerous individuals for a total of approximately 1,500 contacts per month.” 

Keeping in touch with families and individuals who are at risk is not an easy task, so it’s vital that Pastor Bean has a team he knows he can trust. Lives, after all, are literally at stake. 

“One of the things I’m extremely proud of is having a dedicated team that has an altruistic spirit, and works endlessly for the Island of Bermuda. Each one brings a personal skillset that assists in meeting the needs of the individuals with whom we work. I would personally like to thank Darren Woods, Bishop Lynn Landy, and Cadre Smith for their hard work.” 

Humble, unassuming, and very approachable, Pastor Bean eschews the arrogance of politicians, choosing instead to focus his considerable talent and energy on those who need it the most. 

“I believe my personal place in Bermuda is to be an advocate – to bring about change – for the downtrodden, and those who have been disadvantaged. This, I believe, means raising a standard that rises above political agendas to tackle the systemic roots that have plagued the people of Bermuda since its inception.” 

Standing on principle, justice, and love, Pastor Bean rejects the politicization of violence in any form. 

“I believe the time for self-aggrandizing must stop. The political games must stop. The self-serving deals cannot go on anymore if we are to see true change for our current generation and the ones to come. Gang violence cannot be politicized. We cannot capitalize on the disenfranchised. We must address the systemic root. 

“My recent book, Gang Violence is By Design: Exposing the Lie, speaks to these systemic issues. While the book itself might make some feel uncomfortable, if they truly embrace the truths, it will bring equality and justice for all those who find themselves under this Mephistophelian system.” 

Pastor Bean seems to live the old axiom, “In serving one another, we become free,” every day. He serves to protect life, give hope, and reverse centuries old trends that were learned well during slavery. In this endeavour, Pastor bean and his team move outside the schemes, machinations, and illusions of politicians – and live in the hearts of countless generations their efforts will bring forth. 

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