Lessons of independence and interdependence
Not one to practise tooting my own horn, I had mixed feelings when inducted an honorary fellow by the Bermuda College. My wife, Deonn, reminded me that Jesus once said, “Don’t hide your light under a bushel”.
I recalled how in 1999, it was only when I reminded the Progressive Group that sharing their story offered invaluable insights for upcoming generations that they agreed to reveal themselves.
So I decided to take my own advice.
This honour sparked my reflections on lessons from the journey, which may be useful.
Families offer first lessons.
My father William’s mother died when he was 5, so her four sons were raised by their father, Charles Rivers Fubler. Those youngsters developed some sense of independence, collaborating within their family.
In 1939, Bill married Lorraine Darrell, whose family nurtured her independence. She had completed her studies at the Berkeley Institute and eventually enrolled in a trainee-teacher programme at the Central School.
Demonstrating interdependence, the newlyweds joined Bill’s eldest brother, Walter and Aunt Iona, living in the small homestead, where my two older brothers and cousin were born.
Bill leveraged his independence, working his way up to the position of captain at Belmont Hotel in the emerging postwar hospitality industry.
In 1949, my parents purchased a cottage in the North Village area of Pembroke. I was born that November, in my maternal grandmother’s home in Flatts, spending the working week with Granny — interdependence — and weekends at home during preschool years. This allowed Lorraine to continue teaching at Elliott Primary, travelling on her pedal bike — independence.
Lorraine’s sense of interdependence, expanded, attending Heard Chapel AME and teaching Sunday school at St Paul AME. She joined the Missionary Society, providing a helping hand, locally and globally. Late in the 1950s, one member, Wynona Jennings, travelled to Liberia to establish a residential school for orphaned children. Lorraine championed this project, demonstrating solidarity — heightened interdependence.
This climate nurtured my journey.
Solidarity was the focus of the newly appointed minister at St Paul — the Reverend T. Wendell Foster in 1957. His life journey in America included being orphaned at 12, and living with various relatives before enlisting in the Navy in his late teens. Completing enlistment, Foster leveraged a college education and became an ordained minister. He subsequently brought this independence to Vernon Temple AME in Southampton in 1954.
Understanding collaboration, Foster canvassed neighbourhood clubs, encouraging men to rally to excavate a basement hall at Vernon Temple, where on weekends the wider community enjoyed movies that the reverend borrowed from the nearby Naval Base. This beehive of activity raised funds, providing scholarships for college education for a number of young people; including former Speaker of the House Stanley Lowe, Reginald Burrows and others. Former premier Alex Scott still celebrates that marvellous time he enjoyed as a youngster at Vernon Temple.
Those lessons of independence and interdependence were transferred to St Paul when Foster was reassigned in 1957. My mother was one of the many attracted to that energy, resulting in that spirit influencing my early life.
Foster married a Bermudian, Helen Heyliger, and the newly-weds were reassigned in 1959 to an AME church in America.
It was not until the 1980s that I re-engaged with Foster, two decades later. By that time, he was the first Black city councillor on the New York City Council, representing the Bronx. Additionally, he was a member of the American Committee on Africa, and we reconnected, collaborating on the global anti-apartheid movement — an expression of solidarity.
This included getting his friend, noted actor Ossie Davis, to participate in a fantastic Bermuda production called Foundations ’84, in April 1984, which celebrated the 150th anniversary of emancipation.
Nelson Mandela’s maiden visit to New York, in 1990, was co-ordinated by a committee that included Foster, who ensured that the Reverend Canon Thomas Nisbett, Ottiwell Simmons and myself participated in that celebratory weekend.
The Reverend T. Wendell Foster, who offered lessons to many on this island, died in September 2019, and some 30 Bermudians travelled to New York for his home-going celebration. They joined hundreds, including the first Black Mayor of New York, the late David Dinkins.
T. Wendell’s legacy remains to foster present and future generations.
His widow, Helen, is donating to the Westgate Book Drive in recognition of the solidarity which her family maintains with all of Bermuda.
• Glenn Fubler represents Imagine Bermuda