Mon | Aug 15, 2022

Tacky hero-status advocate in danger of losing his voice

Published:Wednesday | May 11, 2022 | 12:05 AMPaul H. Williams/Gleaner Writer
Derrick ‘Black X’ Robinson
Derrick ‘Black X’ Robinson

For over 17 years, Derrick ‘Black X’ Robinson has been walking as part of his campaign for national hero status for Tacky (Takyi), leader of the 1760 Easter Rebellion in St Mary. He has done at least 25 walks, sometimes in chains, lasting various distances. He and his advocacy are a regular subject in mainstream media. His face and voice are also all over social media, hosting a call-in programme. Tacky, he even called himself.

The Kingston native walks, talks, and dreams about the Tacky story incessantly. “Whenever there is a reason, I want Tacky’s name to be called, in every media house I want Tacky’s name to be called. I just want Tacky’s name to be called somewhere,” he revealed. But how did he become this relentless and indefatigable campaigner for the ascension of Tacky to Jamaica’s highest national award?

Born in Kingston’s Victoria Jubilee Hospital, Robinson moved to St Mary, at age four, to live with a woman whom he called ‘Granny’. At age 14, he returned to Kingston to live with his father and his siblings. He got involved in the performing arts, singing and acting more so, and for 12 years, he was part of the Carifolk Singers. By the time he returned to St Mary, the woman who raised him had long passed.

In a discussion with people in the parish, he asked them what they wanted for St Mary. They told him “development” and national hero status for Tacky, of whom he knew little or nothing. He did his research and was smitten by Tacky’s heroism, which ignited a redemption fire, not as extensive as the ones that burned down several plantation properties during the uprising, but which has been burning for over 17 years.

There was a point when he believed that he had done enough and wanted to pass on the baton. But there is no one as committed to the redemption of Tacky’s name as Robinson. And so when the 10th anniversary of his campaign rolled around, he was re-energised and marked the milestone with another march.

VILIFICATION TO REDEMPTION

About his persistence, he said: “It’s where we coming from, and where we ought to go. We are very African conscious, and this is really one of the greatest stories in human history, and we should not lose this story.” It is a story of vilification to redemption.

Now, after all the drudgery, sweat, tears, and frustration, Robinson seems to be halfway into the attainment of his objective, for, recently, the Government declared April 8 as Tacky National Day. Yet he believes that Barbara Blake-Hannah and Culture Minister Olivia Grange, too, have a part to play in this recognition from the Government.

“This gesture is a win for the entire St Mary. It’s a win for the entire Jamaica and the entire African-minded people … It’s a great victory, it’s a great step, and it’s a step that will precipitate other steps. We are tremendously ... honoured,” he told The Gleaner. In comparing his efforts to a relay, he commented: “I just want to run a wonderful leg.”

So the race to honour Tacky continues, with Robinson forever at the helm, firmly holding on to the baton. However, he is now having his own personal fight, to save his voice box, and perhaps his life. And time is running out.

It was the increasingly raspy sound of his voice that raised the red flag. Medical attention was sought, and a tumour growing on his voice box was identified. Then a couple weeks ago, Robinson checked himself into the University Hospital of the West Indies. It turned out that the tumour on his voice box is cancerous and inflamed. He was discharged on Wednesday morning to return for follow-ups. His options include the removal of his voice box, the main instrument for his advocacy and for expressing his poems, songs, and thoughts.

Despite being very positive, Robinson seems to be very much aware of the gravity of the situation that he is facing. “I’ve run my leg of this relay, and in a little while, my welfare will be out of my hands. Vulnerability is my dark unknown,” he wrote in a Facebook post hours after The Gleaner last spoke with him.

VULNERABILITY

“I’ve never experienced unrestrained vulnerability, never know what it is like NOT to have an option. Now, for the first time I’m facing vulnerability, for the very first time I’m facing the inability to articulate orally, for the first time in my consciousness the existence of my dignity will be in the power of other human beings, I can make no appeal, life is a chronicle of tragedy and triumph.”

And should he lose his voice box, he said he would do more writing, “the beginning of something wonderful”, another medium through which the fight for national hero status for Tacky would continue. For his own fight, he said in another Facebook post upon being discharged on Wednesday morning: “When next I’m admitted, it will be to do life-transformation surgery. We thank Almighty God that it will be a life transformation, and pray that it will not be a life transition event.”