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A woman of virtue

Florenz Webbe Maxwell

Harriet Tubman, Eleanor Roosevelt, Maya Lou Angelou ... despite having the odds stacked against them, they all transformed the lives of others

As it goes with legends, we have read about them and heard glowing stories about them but far too often, we never have the privilege of meeting them and expressing thanks.

For myself and multiple generations of Bermudians there is one such person who has dedicated their life to uplifting others: Florenz Webbe Maxwell.

She’s a woman of virtue who put her head, hands and heart into lifting Bermudians out of educational, social, political and spiritual bondage.

Many got their love of literature from her and it’s her efforts that led to the downfall of segregation. All this, without regards to self-promotion.

I grew up knowing about her yet not knowing her, benefiting from the sacrifices she had made without knowing what she had given up to ensure a better Bermuda for all. What’s the most fitting words to describe her?

Activist, award-winning author, educator, mother, sister in Christ all come to mind.

Her book Girlcott drew recent acclaim in the Caribbean. It’s the story of the 1959 Theatre Boycott orchestrated by the Progressive Group, of which she and her late husband Clarence Maxwell were key members.

The boycott became the watershed moment in the official end to segregation in Bermuda.

Over the past few years I have been richly blessed by having the opportunity to spend time at her feet hearing how Bermuda was, and more importantly, what Bermuda must become.

What stands out in my mind is that she wants us to be unapologetic in the pride of what we have accomplished as a people. Her words to me: “Knowing our history will guide us towards our destiny.”

Two of the most critical ways for us to know our history would be to read books or learn the old way, through our elders’ storytelling.

To this end Mrs Maxwell has helped to introduce a worldwide event to Bermuda: Tellabration. The Berkeley Educational Society, of which Mrs Maxwell is a long-serving member, is bringing the event to Bermuda at 8pm tonight in the History Room on the ground floor of the Berkeley Institute.

Dramatic artist Ruth Thomas, writer and former banker Michael D. Jones and retired teacher and librarian Jennifer Walezholz will participate, along with Berkeley students Angelis Hunt and Katrina Moran.

Tickets can be bought at Berkeley (292-4752, ext 3360), at the Harbourmaster in Washington Mall (295-5333) and from Marva Bridgewater (599-3723).

I am encouraging not only my fellow Berkeleyites, but indeed my fellow Bermudians, to come out and support this event. Your patronage will help provide scholarships for young Bermudians but also show love and appreciation for one of our living legends.

Mrs Maxwell, thank you for all that you have done for Bermudians.

We love you.

<p>About Tellabration</p>

• It’s an international night of storytelling for adults

• It was launched in 1988 in Connecticut; by 1997 it had expanded to every continent except Antarctica

• Storytellers across the world entertain audiences with exciting tales

• It creates a network of storytelling; enthusiasts bond together in spirit at the same time and on the same weekend