Ujima Radio – Black History Month 2022
From birth – The Parish of St Mary in Jamaica, to death – Jamaica St, Bristol.
Both these places have defined Roy, born Lurel Roy Hackett in 1928. His Parents were Harrold and Ida but he was brought up by his Grandmother Lillian Beckford until the age of 9. He had two Brothers Headly and Whitcliffe and one sister Ruby. Roy has come from a long line of long livers. His grandmother was 104 when she passed and his own mother was 93.
Roy grew up among various nationalities of Chinese, Lebanese and European descent, all these diverse nationality neighbours, were Jamaican Citizens, so it is no surprise he had an innate sense of inclusion and cultural acceptance at an early age. When he saw injustice, it interfered with his equilibrium and he’d rebel to bring balance and put things right.
Children started school at the age of 7 in Jamaica, but on his first day his grandmother insisted that Roy should be educated with the 9 year olds. After all, at 7 he could already read and write. On that first day she would not leave his side until they agreed to advance him to the class with 9 year olds.
Her determination paid off. He proved on the spot to the teachers that he could read, write and count and went straight into the class with 9 year olds the very day he started school. His grandmother made sure of it… She insisted he wasn’t kept back. In fact SHE taught him to read and write.
As a teacher herself, this came naturally to her. Roy continued to be two years ahead throughout his educational journey and was indebted to his grandmother ever since.
At the age of 10, Roy was living back at his fathers house, going to school and helping at home like most children his age. But by the age of 15 1/2 he left home because of a disagreement with his father who wanted him to work on his tobacco farm every Friday. But Roy wanted to be at school and go to college and be educated. He felt so strongly about this, he ran away, but it came at a price. He cut ties with his father and didn’t see him again for 37 years. He missed family gatherings and the support network. This devastated Roy but life went on and he had no regrets.
At Bennett College in Kingston he studied book keeping and accountancy and after 4 years he received his Diploma. His first job in accountancy was for a pharmaceutical company followed by a role in the Coffee industry until landing a job with Tate and Lyle (the sugar people) in Clarendon.
Roy came to the UK in October 1952. Whilst his first two children were born in Jamaica, his last child was born here in the UK.
Before arriving in Bristol, he spent time and lived in various cities including Liverpool, Wolverhampton, Nottingham, London and Newport.
Roy arrived in Bristol in 1957. Because of his background in Book Keeping and Accountancy, finding a job should not have been too big a deal. The biggest challenge at that time was finding somewhere to stay. No hotel or guest house, not even a space a damp paraffin smelling 1900s post war rundown house welcomed him. It was refusal after refusal and that’s when a cold, dirty and exposing shop doorway on Ashley Rd became inviting. It was his home for a night. That experience taught him something about himself – that he was tough and resilient. It also taught him that he didn’t want anyone else to go through what he did whatever their colour. That’s the backstory to Roys welcome into Bristol.
Roys first job in the UK was in Liverpool. He did wood cutting. He stayed for 3 weeks and earned £4.10 shillings a week. Next stop Wolverhapton where he worked in an ice factory. Then onto London where he worked as a tea boy on a building site. Then, the same job at Hinkley Point Power Station in 1956, followed by a stint in Newport Wales where he worked at the Robert Mcalpine factory. All this before arriving in Bristol and landing a job at St Annes Board Mill and the Gas Board.
At one interview, ironically they told him…… ‘They didn’t employ Africans’. Roy, although recognising his African heritage said ‘I’m British’. It was an ace card he just had to pull out. He told them he was born in Jamaica which is part of the Common-Wealth. That makes him British!
Suffice to say not only did Roy get the job, but he eventually ended up becoming the foreman, managing the all white team. Way to go!
From the time Roy got his first job, he was never out of work. He was employed until the day he retired as a Social Worker with Avon Social Services in 1993.
Despite being employed all his life, his voluntary and campaigning work started when he recognised the inequality that existed in this country. Incubating in his mind in the 50’s and coming to fruition by being an activist soon after.
So let’s go back to 1962 when Roy helped set up the Commonwealth Coordinated Committee or the CCC, together with Guy Bailey. The aim was to challenge the establishments to combat Racism in the city. This committee was amalgamated with the West Indian Development Council and the West Indian Dramatic Society which he was already a part of. Eventually in 1972 all three committees synergised to become the Bristol West Indian Parents and Friends Association. He was soon joined by Owen Henry, Auldley Evans and Prince Brown.
For over 50 years Roy held positions as Public Relations Officer, Treasurer, Secretary, Deputy Chair and Chair. Naturally he eventually became an honorary member. But it was the energy of this committee that changed the complexion of race relations in Bristol and beyond. This committee was formidable. They didn’t just talk in each other’s front rooms, they acted and people reacted.
They Challenged, they Championed and they Campaigned. CCC .
So to campaigning and the biggest campaign of all time the Bristol Bus Boycott of 1963 with Roy up front and Dr Paul Stephenson as the spokesperson, not forgetting Guy Reid Bailey, (who went for the job) Owen Henry, Delroy Douglas, Audley Evans, Cliff Drummond Bill Williams and Jim Williams.
This campaign galvanised Windrush generation men and women to make a bold statement. No way were they standing for this blatant and overt racist action. Not giving people jobs on the buses because of the colour of their skin?
No way were they going to roll over and hope in time things would change. They collaborated, in homes and in community centres. They managed to get the attention of Harold Wilson, leader of the Labour Party on board, he later became Prime Minister. Tony Benn MP for Bristol South East got involved and other high profile people including Sir Learly Constintine, and of course with the support of the whole community including Bristol University and other organisations, the Bristol Omnibus Company came to a halt and fell to its knees. People refused to travel on the buses. They walked, begged lifts and showed their rebellion. Peacefully. Some people lay on the road in protest, INCLUDING Roy. The protest gained international attention.
The boycott went on for almost 4 weeks. We all know what happened after that. Those meetings in the front room were not held in vain. This was the catalyst that triggered the first Race Relations act of 1965, making it a criminal act to discriminate on the grounds of race or ethnic origin. Roy was part of the movement that made history and we are proud and grateful to realise that Dr Paul Stephenson, Guy Ried-Bailey, and Barbara Deterring are still with us sharing that legacy today.
The 60’s revolution continued with Roy helping to bring the Racial Equality Council to Bristol in 65.
The very first St Pauls Festival in 68. A way to say thanks to the existing community and also a way to say ‘Hey, this is us and we are here to stay’.
In the 70’s, Roy worked as a social worker for young people. He had a passion for our future generations. In his letters to officials and authority, he would always write ‘for the benefit of our children and future generations. Roy believed in young people. He was part of a team that arranged exchange visits to Jamaica, France, Belgium, Germany and Austria. His vision was to widen their horizons and recognise that the world belongs to us all.
Roy received many accolades over the years but one or two of them hold extra special significance. The commendation from the Office of the Jamaican High Commission in 2013, various community awards including the Ecom Media Paul Stephenson Award for his contribution to Race Equality not to mention his MBE in 2020.
Amid the accolades, he has also received apologies. One in particular from the Transport Union UNITE, They said ‘sorry’ for excluding Black people from working on the buses. The apology came 50 years after the Bristol Bus Boycott campaign.
Over the years Roy was a board member for various organisations including St Werburghs Community Centre. That was a special place for him. His affiliation with VOSCUR and The Care Forum span 30 years.
So we come to the final chapter – In his later years, Roy developed dementia, and his rapid decline made life very difficult for his family and friends. But even up to last year, he was there at City Hall celebrating and commemorating Windrush Memorial Day.
Roy Hackett a beacon in his family’s eyes, a role model and hero to his children and step children, grandchildren and step grandchildren. A man of principle and pride; a pioneer and trailblazer; a strategist; a smart dresser with his cool hat and waistcoat. A calm and dignified presence; a peace maker, a freedom fighter, a man with a unique social and moral compass, a dignified and elegant gentleman.
He is survived by his 3 children, 4 grandchildren, and 3 great grandchildren.
Roy never stopped working for justice and equity for all. If we have learned anything from him, we will not stop either. His legacy will live on.
Dr Roy Hackett MBE Rest In Everlasting Peace
Written and Researched by Broadcaster Sherrie Eugene-Hart E-Com Media