St Mary remembers Tacky
Paul H. Williams, Gleaner Writer
HE MIGHT not have the official national hero status that some people believe he should have, but for the last seven years, St Mary Parish Library has observed a 'Day in Honour of Tacky'. On Tuesday, May 8, for the eighth time, the day was observed at Claude Stuart Park in Port Maria, St Mary.
Tacky was taken from Ghana, where he was a Coromantee chief, and brought to Jamaica. In St Mary, he was enslaved on Frontier Estate, where he was subsequently made foreman. However, he used this position to plan and influence some enslaved people on his estate and neighbouring Trinity Estate to revolt.
On Easter Monday, 1760, Tacky and his warriors went to Port Maria, where they killed the shopkeeper of Fort Haldane, and took gunpowder, muskets and cannon balls. They then went to the plantations killing white people, and by morning light, hundreds more enslaved people had joined them.
Yet, it is said that one of the enslaved from Esher Estate went to inform the militia, who set out to stop the revolt. After the hanging in public of a certain obeahman, the warriors returned to their respective plantations leaving Tacky and only a handful of people to continue the fight.
When the dust had settled, it is said that about 60 whites, and 300-400 enslaved people were killed. However, Tacky's fate is mired in controversy, however. Some accounts claim he was killed by a Maroon named Davy, while others say he escaped behind a waterfall, and was an inspiration for later revolts.
On May 8, Laleta Davis-Mattis, executive director of the Jamaica National Heritage Trust, who was the guest speaker, said Tacky had a problem.
"He knew where he was, and he was not satisfied with where he was," she said. She used Tacky's story to bring home the point that though we may be tolerant of certain negative situations we are in, we don't have to accept them.
"And there is something I also want us to remember today. If you don't remember anything, remember this. The enslaved Africans who came to Jamaica, and those who were born here ... they never, ever accepted their state as slaves. They never did! If they did, then we would never have these wars, these emancipation wars ... ," Davis-Mattis said.
Tacky, she said, had a vision and he worked towards it. "Tacky may not have had something like a Vision 2030, but he certainly had a vision." Thus, she said we need to decide where we want to see the country go. We must decide what environment we want our children to grow up in, and that young people must also decide what they want to take from all that is happening around them.
In making reference to the warriors who abandoned Tacky and returned to the plantations, she said there might be power in numbers, but if there is no great crowd support, press on.
"As you pursue what you know to be right, as you pursue what you know to be right for your country ... you don't need a crowd behind you, and when the crowd goes, pursue your dream, pursue you vision, because your vision must be a vision for this country."
Vision for tacky
Well, Derrick 'Black X' Robinson does have a vision for this country, and it is to have the Order of National Hero bestowed upon Tacky. In his brief address to the small gathering, Robinson, who has been pushing the Tacky national hero agenda in more ways than one, said the next move is an all-island march by the Tacky Heritage Group, which made two presentations, one to the mother of St Mary's André Creary, former West Indies U-19 captain, on his behalf, and the other to Davis-Mattis.
There was a flag-raising and wreath-laying segment in which Member of Parliament for South East St Mary Winston Green and vice-principal of Tacky High, Evorine Henry-Tracey, laid wreaths at Tacky's Monument. Cultural performances came from Tacky High School chanting "Tacky as National Hero long overdue", and a quadrille dance from Faith Builders Early Childhood Centre.
Also in attendance were Lt Col E.V. Johnson, chairman, St Mary Parish Library Committee; A. A. Pottinger, custos rotulorum for St Mary; Councillor Tricia Harris-Smiley; and Kermit Jones, overseer, Pentecostal Church of God, St Mary.