By Chelston Lee
In one scoop of sadness and a profound sense of my own fragility, a combination of winter freezing sensation, bitter sadness, and raw shock hurled me between tears and recollection. Immediately, my mind raced back to the last one-on-one lunch meeting that we had together, when Winston Derrick said to me: “Chelston, it’s not about the money or else I would have already closed Observer down. It’s about educating and lifting up the people of Antigua and Barbuda and defending my country.” Then I quickly shifted to my first day on the job at Observer Radio. He was my new “boss” and i was his news director.
The late Winston Derrick
I relocated to Antigua because of Julian Rogers and Winston Derrick. And little did I know that I was leaving Montserrat and going to Antigua to work with family members. Because that’s what working at the Observer Media Group was like: working with your brothers and sisters. And the father figure, Winston, had an outer tough disposition burning with fearlessness, but there was an inner core of caring compassion in the man, that wouldn’t disappoint.
Between an uncanny rest and an unwavering restlessness, Winston would go to war in the name of the hopeless, the wounded, and the left out. Hear his baritone voice with a stint of tenor, saturated with village pride exclaim: "I am just a fooley bwoy from Ovals." And if cultural wisdom, obscure facts, plain-clothes truth and enriching insights were far from the caller’s lips, he did not hesitate to tell the technician: “Just cut he off."
As head of Observer’s newsroom, Winston never held back in emphasizing to me repeatedly the importance of meeting deadlines. “Organize the information to help people and add social interest that will satisfy our listeners, but be as accurate as you can, and remember don’t leave out the politics,” he would say. But in the same breath he remarked, “But you are the news expert, so let me back off and give you room to do your job.” Right then and there I knew he was giving me the freedom to be myself and to soar and perform with excellence, giving the daily news gravitas and delivering breaking news with style and appealing savvy.
“The Boss” possessed the acumen and personality that expanded the reach of my craft. He was a prompter of higher pursuits. While he entrusted the entire news operations of the radio station into my hands, he remained deaf to moving his sense of compassion and justice away from the “voice of the people.” Forceful you say? No! Determined and absolute in his resolute! Winston knows what it’s like to drown oneself in a sacrificial vision. Caught in a metaphorical predicament, where not everyone shared his enthusiasm for press freedom, especially the keepers of officialdom, Winston kept going like the energizer bunny even when the lights were dim. With no media experience and zero support from the political directorate, Winston made the tedious journey from a faxed newsletter, to a Daily Observer newspaper, then onwards to the UK Privy Council. It then morphed into a media group compromising the online “antiguaobserver.com” website, the Observer Printery, Observer Radio 91.1 FM and Hitz 91.9 FM.
Don’t irritate “the Boss” with trivialities; you may get some crude syllables released with immense emotions. He had a laughter that was catching. We all consumed it. There were days of incomprehensible silence and others of peering into the gloom. I recall moments we shared brimming with excitement. He was sometimes defensive and other times angry. But from an unknown infinite place, he would step into a mode of benevolence. “How's your grandmother in Montserrat doing?” he would ask. “Do you need time to go see her?” I would then say, “Boss, I don’t have any more vacation time.“ He would quickly reply: “Don't worry about that man... if you need to go... just go… I will tell HR that I gave you the time.”
Beyond Antigua and Barbuda, Winston was a Caribbean maverick. Whether you are an ordinary person on the street, a curious student, a hard-working professional or a kind parent, you simply cannot measure the contribution of Winston and his brother Samuel “Fergie” Derrick to the Caribbean landscape. In fact, one of his unfinished dreams was to establish Observer Television.
Those of us left here to honour his life’s labour; I challenge us to erect the “Winston Derrick Journalism Foundation” that epitomizes social advocacy, press freedom and mentorship of young journalists. In this single act, we may capture anew his eagle soul. Let Winston become our media icon, shining with the crown jewel of global value. May the “big issues” evoke freedom, interdependency, investigative and courageous thriving.
In whatever form we choose to celebrate the legacy of Winston Derrick, I do not want his soul to rest in peace. I would prefer his spirit to agitate us, inspire us and probe us to “have your say.” And even more, to dance to the mandate of justice, the power of truth, and the scope of love.
To the Derrick family, especially his wife Kim and his children, and to my dear brothers and sisters at the Observer Media Group family, I pray that the radius of Winston’s influence continues to penetrate your lives with confidence and faith. Take my deepest condolences and roll them up in a ball of inspiration! Let the Daily Observer light shine ever brighter and may Winston Derrick continue to speak into the microphone of our souls through the "Voice of the People."