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‘Ideal father who taught us respect’

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Honouring heroes: twins Cole and Che Durham believe in the importance of handing on knowledge and values to younger generations, just as their father Eugene did for them (Photograph by Blaire Simmons)

Honouring Bermuda’s heroes will always be important to twins Che and Cole Durham.

Their father Eugene is one of them.

He was only a child in 1959 but the Theatre Boycott had a tremendous impact on him, ultimately shaping his way forward.

Because he wanted to give back, he became a teacher and also began advocating for others: as a member of the Anti-Hanging Campaign, the Progressive Labour Party, the Bermuda Workers Socialist Party and the Anti-Apartheid Coalition.

“He was 8 when the Theatre Boycott happened,” said Cole, who with his brother will attend the event’s 60th anniversary celebrations at City Hall today. “He saw how much of a shift there was, how it changed the community and how important it was to fight for those rights. It affected him deeply.”

Mr Durham lost his life to cancer last July, but over the course of 33 years mentored hundreds of young black males as a teacher at Warwick Secondary School, Purvis Primary School and Southampton Glebe Primary School.

“His death was like losing one of my best friends,” said Che. “He was the ideal father. He didn’t treat us like we were his [peers]; he taught us respect, honour, pride and gave us security.

“Our father didn’t know his father so he wanted to give back as a teacher, to be a positive male role model. He thought that every young, black male should have at least one positive male role model in their life.”

Mr Durham also worked hard at raising the 24-year-old twins, teaching them to be “politically conscious and socially conscious”.

“He always gave us a review of the history he knew of his family,” said Cole, explaining it was how he learnt the story of his grandmother, Dorothy Durham, an indentured servant who worked in the US and at hotels here.

Their father’s teachings ultimately led them to get involved as volunteers themselves. The pair have taught martial arts to young people at Aerie Sports Centre and, for six years, served as mentors with Raleigh Bermuda, a programme that challenges youngsters to reach their full potential through local training and overseas expeditions.

“Both Che and Cole are alumni of ours,” said Tina Nash, the charity’s executive director. “They went in 2012 [with Raleigh Bermuda] to Costa Rica and Nicaragua and, although they’ve stepped back this year, they volunteered every year since, acting as mentors to our young adventurers. They’ve been really instrumental in helping support the continued growth of young people through our programme.” Raleigh gave the brothers the chance to go in on “a personal level” with everyone they mentored, all of whom were between the ages of 17 and 24.

In their talks, they included stories of those who helped shape Bermuda. Cole stressed the importance of highlighting the efforts of such people at appropriate events such as National Heroes Day, that Bermuda will observe on Monday.

“That’s the spirit my father kept with him,” he said. “It motivates us to stay close to youth communities so we can pass on what we know.

“It’s a shame that the PLP are not doing more for National Heroes Day and that [the carnival organisers have rebranded], changing the name from Bermuda Heroes Weekend Carnival to Bermuda Carnival. We’re not honouring our heroes. We’re forgetting our history, our values.”

Added his brother: “We should keep that spirit alive; that spirit for change to move things forward so we don’t live within a system where you feel oppressed.

“We’re not honouring our heroes to the extent that we should. It’s more about having a party, a holiday, than remembering what they did for us. We should remember our heroes so we don’t forget their efforts. In the future we should try to emphasise more of Bermuda’s heroes [as part of the holiday] and people should talk to their children so our history isn’t lost.”

The 60th anniversary of the Theatre Boycott, which led to the desegregation of Bermuda’s theatres, restaurants and hotels, will be celebrated at City Hall today between 12.30pm and 1.30pm

Loving family: pictured, from left, are twins Cole and Che Durham with their father Eugene, their brother Hasan and his children, Nkenge and Nadhira (Photograph supplied)