“Being The Change You Wish To See In World”

February 9, 2015

[Opinion column written by Glenn Fubler]

“Be the change you wish to see in the World” – Ghandi

The first meeting of the Progressive Group [PG] took place on Sunday, February 8, 1959, in Flatts. They came together with a shared passion to see change in Bermuda. Having ‘walked’ Ghandi’s ‘talk’, they have left a legacy from which today’s generations can benefit.

Most residents in the ‘50’s had become frustrated with a seemingly immovable system of exclusion. This small group took action, addressing those challenges. With open minds and hearts they initiated the Theatre Boycott, which brought about the most significant change of our Island in the 20th Century.

Those ‘ordinary’ people were prepared to access the extraordinary potential within themselves and their community. By maintaining anonymity, they removed ego from the equation, thus empowering the wider community during the Boycott. It was that sense of collective responsibility that sustained a climate of peace, bringing success within two weeks.

Authentic humility was a quality shared by those dozen or so. Let’s focus on a few examples.

Izola Harvey rallied to ‘be the change’. While several months pregnant, she insisted on filling the role of a colleague who didn’t show, to secretly distribute leaflets.

Clifford Maxwell sought to ‘be the change’ as a Math Teacher at Bermuda Technical Institute; often tutoring ‘outside’ students. Those benefiting, included Harry Soares and Ken Richardson. Both credit Clifford with critical voluntary assistance in their academic progress, eventually leading them to assume senior positions within Government.

It was that spirit of generosity that energized Clifford and other PG members. By 1960, Clifford became the President of the Bermuda Union of Teachers and was also active in the campaign for the Right to Vote – the Committee for Universal Adult Suffrage [CUAS].

Roslyn Williams and her husband, Edourd, had hosted those secret meetings. It was in the ceiling of her kitchen that the copying machine and Boycott supplies were hidden. The demonstration of courage by Roslyn and Izola was transformative.

Only months after the Boycott, Roslyn hosted meetings, including PG members and others, at her home around the matter of the Right to Vote. Out those discussions the CUAS was formed. Roosevelt Brown promoted the idea of holding a series of Island-wide meetings which included stakeholders on either side of the debate. While Roosevelt remained behind the scenes as the organizer, Roslyn became the key speaker, supporting the Right to Vote.

That campaign, over several months in 1960, concluded at Hamilton Hall on Front Street and the Royal Gazette reported that Roslyn laid out her argument in ‘reasonable and resonant tones’ to a diverse crowd of 800 residents. Only a few would have known of her role in the Boycott when she emerged centre stage giving voice to a vision of what Bermuda should be. In spite of initial resistance, that initiative led to conclusive changes and ensured the Right to Vote we all enjoy.

Roslyn William’s courage and generosity were evident. She left her job teaching at Elliott to join her husband to run the Youth Centre in St. George while they also established a hydroponic farm on Paget Island. St George youngsters from that era recall the nurturing environment provided by the Williams’ at the Centre.

Likewise, Dr. Maxwell’s legacy of service to students from the Tech, Berkeley the College and in the community, is confirmed. These members of PG, like their colleagues, have offered all of us an example, as we face today’s challenges.

They have demonstrated that people – regardless of their station in society – have the power to make a difference. Putting aside ego, they empowered the wider community. They modeled generosity, promoting practical solidarity,

Through the CUAS, they demonstrated how including all sides in a debate, leveraged positive change. Given the nature of today’s challenges, we might consider moving beyond the level of debate and with open minds and open hearts, explore a deeper dialogue around today’s complex realities that we all face.

More 50 years ago, these pioneers succeeded by ‘being the change’. Today, we might draw from their example as we shape our future.

- Glenn Fubler

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  1. mj says:

    Mr. Fubler, can you tell us what changes you have helped implement being part of the labour relations.. how many people have you assisted that have come to you over the years for assistance? fast forward to today and give us just a bit of how the department works and how you have contributed. thanks

  2. stunned,,, says:

    another cs who should have been permanently furloughed since 2003