Politics from the soul
Neletha Butterfield ran so fast, her father thought she’d become a professional athlete.
Life didn’t exactly work out that way.
“All I ever ran for is politics,” the 64-year-old joked.
She recounts her 14-year career as a PLP MP in Political Beginnings of the Soul, due out next month.
She decided to write the book last September after discovering that many young people knew nothing about her.
“I thought it was strange they didn’t know who their politicians and former politicians were,” she said.
Their ignorance especially stung because she’s devoted much of her time to improving the lives of young people. She has run Care, a programme for high school dropouts and children with learning challenges, since 1983.
In the 14 years she sat in the House of Parliament, she’s proudest of the eight weeks in 2006 she spent as Minister of Education.
“That really suited me,” she said. “I really felt the pulse of students and teachers.”
She decided to write her memoirs, not just for her grandchildren, but for the people of Bermuda. She wrote from her second home in St Ann’s Bay, Jamaica.
“I don’t have any interruptions there,” she said. She sometimes got so into the work, she forgot everything else.
“Sometimes I [was up] until the wee hours of the morning,” she said.
“One morning I forgot about my tea kettle and burnt a hole in my new stove. I was so mad at myself. I said, ‘Girl, you are going to have to fix your tea before you go into the computer room’.”
But it was all worth it when she held the first copy of her book in her hands.
“I was just going out of my gate when I saw the delivery man,” she said.
“I asked the [security guard] at the gate if she had anything for Butterfield.
“She said no. Then the delivery man called out, ‘I’m looking for Butterfield, mon’. I had to pull my car over and open the box. When I held that book in my hand I cried tears. It was just such a wonderful feeling to see it.”
Political Beginnings of the Soul tells how she first threw her hat into the ring in 1993 because of her concerns about the community.
“I’ve never shied away from competition,” said Ms Butterfield. “I was offered a safe seat. I refused to take it. I thought it was much better to run in home territory.”
She ran in Pembroke West Central, where she grew up.
“When I knocked on doors I was reuniting with old friends and family members,” she said. “A lot of people greeted me with my childhood nickname, Honey.
“When I lost in 1993, I felt only encouraged by how well I’d done. I vowed to work harder the next time.
“I was inspired to run by Jennifer Smith’s success, but I did say if I lost again I wouldn’t be trying five times, like she did.”
She was elated when she won her seat in 1998 with Wayne Perinchief.
“We won a considerable amount of votes,” she said. “That was the last time we ran in dual seats. It was a lot harder when we switched to single seats in 2003.”
She remained in the seat until the 2012 election when the PLP ran David Burt, now the Premier, in Pembroke West Central instead.
Her hope is that her books motivate and inspire others.
“Also, it is historic and they can see the sacrifices I have made,” she said.
The book is her third. She released Speeches for the Soul in February and Workshops for the Soul in April.
Political Beginnings of the Soul will be available on October 26 at People’s Pharmacy, The Bookmart and Care.
Details of a launch party are still being worked out.
“It will be a book launch with a difference,” she said. “I want to support other female authors, so I have invited them to come to the launch.”
She is already writing her fourth book and hoping for a December release. So far, the working title is The Soul of a Community Leader.
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