Column: Let’s Use Heritage Month To Reflect

May 11, 2017 | 1 Comment

[Opinion column written by Glenn Fubler]

We can be our best in addressing difficult times, based on the stories we tell ourselves about ‘who we are’. When we recognize our capacity to make a difference in our own lives and that of our community, we act from our Best Selves, we act with courage.

The above paraphrase from Former-President Obama’s acceptance speech for the John F Kennedy Profiles of Courage Award on Sunday evening, May 7th, captures something of the significance of observing Heritage Month.

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During this May observance, our entire community is invited to reflect on our shared stories, a period to examine those accounts of collective progress. This month provides all of us the opportunity to review our personal and family stories and those from the wider community, in order to draw inspiration as we engage current challenges facing Bermuda and the Globe.

Obama concluded his speech agreeing with Martin Luther King’s favourite quote that the ‘Arc of the Universe bends towards justice’. He went on expressing the view that this ‘bending’ is the result of people accessing their courage, acting from their Best Selves – working together.

The former President reminded us that progress is fragile and therefore must be renewed continually. So during this Heritage Month, we can reflect on times that any and all of us have faced challenging circumstances, transforming them for the greater good.

There are numerous people who demonstrated ‘Profiles of Courage’ over Bermuda’s history. Gladys Morrell campaigned along with others, for more than three decades in order to secure the right for Women to Vote in 1944.

Dame Lois Browne-Evans insisted that the Progressive Labour Party run Dorothy Thompson – a white candidate – in a ‘safe seat’ in that watershed General Election of 1963. Dame Lois maintained her support for this unpopular move amongst supporters, on the grounds that she felt this would facilitate our biracial community accessing our ‘Best Selves’.

There is the story of Edward DeJean who came to the island from Canada, married to Marion his Bermudian wife, with two infant children. When Edwin Skinner’s death left a vacuum at Howard Academy, DeJean left his secure employment with Master’s and courageously took over that secondary school so that it could play its vital role for so many youngsters; with little or no resources.

In the subtext of Obama’s speech, he cautioned us, on how we process these stories. There is always the temptation to respond to challenges from a place of victimhood. However, Obama points to how accessing our Best Selves is empowering.

Those exemplars mentioned above, offer us stories of inspiration, individuals overcoming the odds with a spirit of generosity, for the general good of the Island. There are also numerous stories at the personal, family and neighbourhood level.

My eldest brother, Darrell, was the first local, black male student to attain the Cambridge University ‘A’ Levels around 1960, studying at Berkeley Institute. When Darrell – to the surprise of many- -didn’t receive the Bermuda Government Scholarship, my father – who had never had the opportunity of attending secondary school himself – approached officials insisting on a meeting with the Governor to discuss this matter.

William Fubler who worked at the Government Quarry, where employee were colloquially known at that time as a poor working devils, pursued the issue until he had a meeting with the then- Cabinet Secretary. This head civil servant explained that the Berkeley principal F.S. Furbert decided not to recommend Darrell for the scholarship, as F.S. considered him something of a rebel. I never knew this story of my father’s courage until a few years before his death.

There is my friend, Charles ‘Joe’ DeShields who turned around his life in his late-30’s, and has recently retired after two decades as senior bartender at Mid Ocean Club, to buy out his family homestead along with his daughters who he had put through university. In later years, Joe was able to facilitate his son Shannon’s personal transformation, a real story of courage.

I can think of courageous people such as Kalmar Richards who took over as principal of CedarBridge Academy two decades ago, in the face of real challenges. An exemplary local educator, reportedly she knows each of her several hundred students by name within the first few weeks of the school year. She personally greets each one, several mornings per week, reminding them of ‘who they are’ so that they might access their Best Selves.

Let me encourage fellow residents to take the opportunity of this Heritage Month to reflect on their personal stories and those in extended families, neighbourhoods and the Island and share these stories with others, especially young people. In those stories there would no doubt be some examples of the power of courage in challenging circumstances, so that we can appreciate ‘who we are’.

Let’s use that inspiration to remind us of the potential of accessing our Best Selves so that we can make some difference; personally, in our families and in our Island and our World.

- Glenn Fubler

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  1. Community First says:

    Well said Mr. Fubler- thank you.

    There are so many stories of courage in Bermuda and we can remind ourselves of the generative power of asking engaging questions and seeking understanding.

    For far too long, asking a question to powerful people is seen as a intrusion on their privilege not a right or an opportunity of every community member.

    I trust as we move further into Heritage Month, we honour those who displayed courage before us and find our own courage with integrity and commitment to shifting and assisting our Bermuda bend towards justice.

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