PEP COLUMN: If you roast me today, you can’t roast me tomorrow
Back in 1675 – during the cruel and evil slavery era – a network of enslaved Blacks or Africans residing on several plantations across Barbados, spent three years meticulously hatching a plot to overpower and destroy the white slave master class, and to take over control of the island.
Unfortunately for the network of revolutionaries, a female domestic slave by the name of Anna (alias Fortuna) overheard one of the rebels trying to persuade a reluctant teenager to join the plot. Anna spoke with the young slave, discovered that the uprising was due in two weeks’ time, and persuaded the youth to go with her to inform her slave master Judge Gyles Hall.
Judge Hall, in turn, went in haste to the Governor, Sir Jonathan Atkins, and he immediately mobilized his corps of military guards to arrest the known conspirators. Governor Atkins also declared martial law, and within days more than 100 African-Barbadian suspects had been arrested and subjected to a barbaric process of interrogation, torture, trial and execution.
Seventeen of the Black suspects were immediately found guilty and sentenced to death, with six being burnt alive and 11 beheaded and dragged through the streets of Speightstown.
It was against this background of utter horror and barbarity that the shining, imperishable heroism of an African-Barbadian revolutionary hero known simply as “Tony” emerged.
Tony, described by his captors as “a sturdy rogue, a Jew’s negro”, was in the presence of another captured rebel who was being prepared for death by burning at the stake. The “Provost Marshall” or superintendent of security was in attendance, and he proceeded to urge this unfortunate man to confess and to name others before he died. The obviously terrorized black man responded by calling for water – a sign that he was prepared to speak and to divulge information.
Thereupon, Tony, in an effort to save the lives of other black revolutionaries, immediately spoke up and admonished him as follows: “Thou fool, are there not enough of our countrymen killed already? Art thou minded to kill them all?”
This rebuke caused the condemned man to remain silent. And, in obvious resentment, one of the white spectators shouted to Tony: “Tony, sirrah, we shall see you fry bravely by and by!”
Tony’s response to this threat of the most horrible death imaginable was to declare proudly and defiantly, “If you roast me today, you cannot roast me tomorrow”, and to bid the executioner to proceed.
Tony was burnt to death – one of 42 heroes who were executed for having the audacity to claim their freedom and dignity. Five others committed suicide in jail, while 70 were either deported or sent back to their so-called “owners” after a savage flogging.
Tony’s example and his immortal cry of courage and defiance – “If you roast me today, you cannot roast me tomorrow!” – should be remembered, honoured and cherished by every generation of Barbadians. What magnificent and exemplary courage, dignity, brotherhood and solidarity!
As we celebrate this month of Independence, we implore all Barbadians to be ever conscious of their great heritage, and to carry themselves with such dignity, courage and self-respect that they show themselves to be worthy sons and daughters of our magnificent “Tony”.