God Bless the Child – The Burgeoning Voice of Bermuda Youth Connect

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Time … moves. So continuity is the lifeblood of any society. The progress of ideas, philosophies, laws, ethics, and political actions is vital in the post-modern world. It stands to reason then, that there won’t be progress if the youth don’t care to make it.

An iconic artist once uttered: “God bless the child, that’s got his own …” Now, pronouns aside – which we must acknowledge in our new reality – the world moves much smoother when young people learn what it means to be accountable, and responsible, at an early age.

Another iconic artist once uttered: “I believe the children are our future. Teach them well, and let them lead the way …” This, is where Bermuda Youth Connect (BYC) enters the narrative. Four young ladies who have been – clearly – taught well, taking the accountability that comes part and parcel with leading the way for their generation of future leaders, builders, and innovators.

Speaking as a collective, the group breaks down their political philosophy, goals, and desired outcome of their efforts in Bermuda’s often hard-edged political arena:

“Bermuda Youth Connect is a Youth Organization created to increase civic engagement among young Bermudians. We are not affiliated with any political party, and our mission is to bridge the gap between Bermuda’s leaders and young people. We also strive to create digital platforms that work to empower young people to be active agents of change.

“We all have various political leanings, beliefs and attitudes, so we leverage our platform to inform, educate, and spread awareness of a broad range of perspectives and ideologies. Our guiding light as an organization is building a better future for Bermuda’s youth.  Young people should have been taught to care about the politics and future of our island, yet there is a huge gap, which makes the future uncertain. We’re working to change that.

“We believe that youth engagement and political awareness are key to a successful democracy. Young people are innovative, disruptive brokers of change; they offer a valuable perspective to understanding issues on our island, and solutions to solve them.”

It’s telling that these ladies avoided exposing any specific political leaning in these statements, instead choosing to cite “various political leanings, beliefs, and attitudes” – and brilliantly leaving room for growth as they mature into whatever political force they choose to become.

Whatever they do become, rest assured that Bermuda will be better for it. They’ve already made a splash on Bermuda’s political scene – entering the arena at a time of historic uncertainty, and demanding that the Youth Voice be heard!

“Bermuda Youth Connect was formed during the historic snap election of 2020. We worked diligently to produce Bermuda’s first-ever Pre-Election Leaders Forum, which was unprecedented.

“At that particular time, there was a need for Bermuda’s voting population, especially youth voters, to have access to an unbiased and informative platform to share the ideologies and goals of each party. This was especially needed since the newly founded party, the FDM, was formed and unfamiliar to the public.

“Since then, we have expanded our organization through work with key stakeholders in the community, charities, and the Bermuda Government, to be a voice for Bermuda’s youth.”

Young voices tend to be informed by ideas that come from all over – especially since the advent of social media, and the often overwhelming deluge of news reports we are all bombarded with hourly. Speaking on their own political influences, they leave space for growth again:

“We don’t have any formal political mentors. We’ve collaborated with a lot of people in the media space, including Qian Dickinson, Déjon Simmons, and Jamel Hardtman. As four Black girls, we are often criticized for being so vocal, so we’re always appreciative of people who remain open and supportive.”

There’s no doubt that these four young ladies form a very impressive ensemble, but they certainly don’t lose a lot of luster individually either!

Currently serving as the Marketing Coordinator for BYC, Veronica Swan-DeGraff holds a Bachelor of Science in Biomedical Sciences from AdventHealth University. She is currently pursuing a degree in Medicine, and has a passion for public health – evidenced further by her service on the DailyMale Health clinic team.

Ajai Peets is a recent graduate of Mount Saint Vincent University, where she obtained a BA in Child and Youth Study. She is currently working as a para-eductor in the Bermuda Public School System, and has consulted on a variety of community and Government working groups and projects.

Halle Teart obtained her Bachelor’s degree in Sociology and Africana Studies at Johns Hopkins University in 2022. Since then, Halle has pursued a career in consulting; where she develops solutions to complex issues facing the public sector. Halle has supported a wide-range of clients from the U.S. state, civil, and federal government, to international non-profit organizations.

Tierrai Tull is a senior at the University of Toronto, studying political science. She is Bermuda’s 2024 Rhodes Scholar-Elect, and is headed to the University of Oxford in the fall. She is passionate about Gender Affairs in Bermuda.

So … they assemble to form Bermuda’s Young Avengers then … Wow!

Aside from being hard at work building their own individual legacies, BYC is also gearing up to continue the stellar work they started in 2020, by bringing a host of activities and events to Bermuda this summer, all aimed at mobilizing youth engagement, and politicization.

“We are looking forward to returning to the island in the summer and hosting in-person events for young people to engage with their community, and political leaders. We are also in the process of preparing for the second season of our podcast, BYC Off the Record, and the second iteration of our FaceTime series on Instagram Live.”

Of course, their work won’t be confined to the time-constraints of summer 2024 – the work will go on!

“In the next two years, we look forward to advocating for a General election debate. In the long term, and as we continue to get older, we want to maintain BYC as an organization that represents the interests of young people in Bermuda. As such, we hope to create more opportunities for young people to get directly involved in our work, and provide the tools for others to mobilize and advocate for change to improve our community.”

The passion and determination with which these ladies speak is inspiring – it can make any politically-inclined citizen get goosebumps at times, and beam with pride at others. But, what about 20 years down the road?

“As a three-year-old organization, we are still in our infancy, and we have so much planned … for our future. We have mapped out our plans for this upcoming year, and are looking forward to those future projects. We are currently in the process of establishing the building blocks of our organization, which we hope will be a firm foundation that will last for 20 years. By that time, we intend to have passed the mantle on to the next generation of young people, to carry out this important task.”

Focused, motivated, and determined to affect positive change for the youth – and, by extension, all – of Bermuda, BYC is on the move! All that’s left for us to do is to continue teaching them well … and let them lead the way.

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