Thinking globally, acting locally
We mark the 40th anniversary of the launch on June 26, 1981 — South African Freedom Day — of the Anti-Apartheid Movement in Bermuda
The theme for the anniversary of the launch — “Thinking Globally, Acting Locally” — includes layers of meaning. This theme is most appropriate given the unprecedented challenges facing our entire planet at present.
This series of opinions is geared to promote a community-wide conversation reflecting that legacy. The Corporation of Hamilton is collaborating by flying the symbol of the democratic fruit of that global effort, the flag of South Africa, at City Hall on Friday and Saturday.
The international anti-apartheid movement was key for South Africa, but also had a positive impact in the overall global community during the last quarter of the 20th century. Accessing lessons from that era could help in 2021.
If considered metaphorically, “Thinking Globally” also speaks to reflecting on the “Big Picture”. We are called to avoid reactivity as we exercise our responsive muscles. Progress is best leveraged in focusing on what we are for rather than against.
The accompanying photograph by Blaire Simmons demonstrates an intuitive composition, in his aligning four people holding the South African flag; that symbol of an iconic transformation. Two people are on the top step and two at a lower step. Blaire’s composition symbolically addresses a relevant reality: liberation transforms hierarchy.
On the left side, Blaire positioned Liana Hall, daughter of the late activist Julian Hall, at the “top” with the flag. At the “bottom”, Blaire positioned myself, Glenn Fubler, a father, friend of Julian and activist.
Be reminded that we are all much more than our “labels” — father, daughter, etc.
That said, societies have suffered from centuries of patriarchy — the domination of men over women — and we are called to transform that hierarchy to foster a humane society.
The struggle for democracy in South Africa became an iconic human effort in transforming a hierarchy that included bizarre laws, reinforced by police-state brutality and buttressed by global partners.
On the right side of the photo, Miles Manders, a “struggling” musician/artist and activist, is on top. At the bottom is Charles Gosling, the Mayor of Hamilton, and partner in an iconic local business.
While Miles and myself supported the local protest against weapon sales to South Africa in 1970 — before Liana’s birth — in the 1980s Charles lobbied his family business, convincing them to end the sale of South African wines. These engagements reflect some momentum towards social and corporate responsibility locally, with Liana’s generation receiving that “baton”.
Blaire’s composition of the photo could be entitled “Let’s Level the Playing Field”.
The decision by the Corporation of Hamilton to fly the flag of South Africa at City Hall is monumental, given the venue’s significance. There were a number of relevant events held there:
• In August 1969, City Hall was the venue for the pivotal Black Power Conference, co-ordinated by Pauulu Kamarakafego, the former Roosevelt Brown
• The conference was a paradigm-shifting learning opportunity for locals and scores of overseas participants, as international connections were fostered
• In August 1970, a group of members of the Black Beret Cadre, including Miles and myself, responded to the announced intention of the British Government to renew sales of weapons to the apartheid regime, by burning a Union Jack at Nellie’s Walk in protest
• The anchor for a sustained local movement took place on June 26, 1981 with about 20 people — mostly teachers — picketing the Bank of Bermuda for its involvement in a South African loan
• Archbishop Trevor Huddleston, the chairman of the British Anti-Apartheid Movement and a mentor to Archbishop Desmond Tutu, spoke at a forum at City Hall in 1985
• In 1987, championing South African voting rights, an event at City Hall honoured Kamarakafego for his leadership in the campaign for local voting rights. “Roose” was visibly moved by this first-time local recognition. Noel Gibbons was also honoured for his solidarity in refusing a lucrative offer to play cricket in South Africa
• In 1988, another anti-apartheid lunchtime event was staged on the steps of City Hall. A friend of Ron Lightbourne had family connections with Stevie Wonder, a champion for the global movement. With the collaboration of BTC, Stevie made a virtual presentation to those gathered at City Hall — from California.
From that anchor event on June 26, 1981, the anti-apartheid movement in Bermuda evolved over a decade from those 20-odd protesters to a coalition of a variety of organisations, including the three largest unions. Most importantly, the local movement — despite the lack of digital connectivity in those days — was able to work closely with global activists, notably in America and Britain.
We were able to think globally and act locally, benefiting the planet.
• Glenn Fubler represents Imagine Bermuda