Mel Cooke, Gleaner Writer
It is not that he is tired of walking, but Derrick 'Black X' Robinson thinks he has found a different way to campaign for Bob Marley to become a Jamaican national hero.
His latest long walk for that cause, done over about a week in February, started in Port Maria, St Mary, and ended up in Sherwood Content, Trelawny, where he met Usain Bolt's father. It was not a direct route; he and Tashana Earl walked to Kingston where there were three stops on February 6 - TVJ's Lyndhurst Road studio, 56 Hope Road (after which Earl went back to St Mary to attend a meeting and referee a football match) and Culture Yard in Trench Town. Robinson then walked to Nine Miles, St Ann, back down the hill to IRIE FM and on to Sherwood Content, making the required rest stops along the way.
The pair started out at 9 p.m. and got to TVJ at 6:30 a.m.
Stopping in Sherwood Content was planned, but not announced, as Robinson said, "We did not want it to look like we were riding on the big man's name". It was also the place where he handed out the last of seven Gleaner articles about the Marley walk. It went to Usain Bolt's father and "he said 'I have become a fan since you were walking for Tacky. This article is mine'."
Wellesley Bolt's reaction was also critical to the decision to rest the feet and get people to take up the pen.
"We said 'you have done more than enough. Let the people participate. You see the reaction'," Robinson said.
In getting people to participate in the Bob Marley for national hero campaign, Robinson is going to start the Mighty Pen initiative which, in a country with less than three million inhabitants, has a highly optimistic objective.
"We want to get one million signatures for Bob to be a national hero," Robinson said, naming the Tacky Heritage Group and the Silent Majority grouping as the organisations involved.
"We are going to put logbooks in every public library across Jamaica and have people sign them," he said.
There is also an Internet component to the campaign, where the target quadruples to four million signatures worldwide.
However, Robinson pointed out that "the walking is not going to stop. We are going to focus on finishing these initiatives and then we will announce when we will continue the walking and for what".
Fitness pays off
Earl has been on longer walks than the Port Maria to Kingston trek, as she did one from the Marcus Garvey Monument in St Ann's Bay to Kingston for Tacky. The cause - to make him a Jamaican national hero - was the same.
"I certainly believe in what we are doing and I would like to see Tacky and Bob Marley designated national heroes. They have done more than enough to be given that status," Earl said.
A referee and head of the association for those football officials in St Mary, Earl said while the level of fitness she has to maintain helps with the long walks, refereeing a 90-minute match is harder than doing hours on the road.
"Refereeing has many facets. You have to deal with the players, focus on the game, spectators, your own fellow referees, and the whole venue. The walks are easier. You just have to walk and focus and keep up with the time," she said.
There are strategies to walking, such as not going uphill in a straight line. But there are also points suitable for acceleration and deceleration - and knowing when to stop and get treatment before an injury occurs. "It is a planned walk, so you do it in stages," Earl said.
One activity does not preclude the other. After going to TVJ and the Bob Marley Museum on February 6, Earl went back to St Mary for a referee's meeting at 1 p.m;. and officiated at a match which started at 3 p.m. on the same day.
The two emphasise the support they got along the way from members of the public, who "made the walking easier". Jamaica Constabulary Force members DSP Newton in Spanish Town and DSP Dowe in St Mary came in for special mention and Robinson recalled stopping at a shop in Colgate, St Ann, to purchase a phone card. The shopkeeper put a bottle of cold water on the counter as his contribution to the walk.
"People said 'we want to contribute, but we not brave enough to walk or don't have the time'," Robinson said.
"It was just overwhelming. Jamaican people genuine and warm, once they believe in the cause."
Earl made special mention of her mother and grandmother, who were very supportive, while Robinson said his family has been behind him all the way.
And then there was Paulette Kemp, deejay Capleton's manager. "She got up in the middle of the night and baked a pudding and asked Sergeant Harvey to carry it to us close to midnight (on the first leg of the walk)," Robinson said.
"It was still warm," Earl added.