Montserrat’s Vickie Locker to compete in national election, adding to an interesting and diverse life story

Vickie Locker has been an athlete, coach, social-media influencer, foster parent, actress, calypsonian, farmer, entrepreneur, roving reporter and much more. Her latest title: political candidate.

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Pundit, politician, performer. Montserrat's Vickie Locker has been a vessel of versatility.

Friday nights have become a ritual for Vickie Locker. At 8:30 p.m., when many folks are slipping out of their homes to ring in the weekend in style, Vickie is slipping into a “Superwoman” costume. The spare bedroom in her home in Dyer Piece, Montserrat, now serves as a mini-studio. She goes through her checklist. Sunglasses, check! Bottle of room-temperature drinking water, check! Proper lighting, check! She assures that she has sufficient phone data in case a power outage interrupts her Wi-Fi connection. Finally, she positions her Android phone on an old speaker. One by one, her fans start checking in to her Facebook page. At 9 p.m., it’s showtime! Soca music blares as Vickie appears on screen, her arms raised and fists clenched as she sways to the rhythm.

Since 2020, Vickie has been entertaining, engaging and even enraging members of the public as she addresses hot topics in Montserrat via her weekly live stream. What began with a few dozen followers has mushroomed to hundreds, mostly in the diaspora. They tune in to laugh, learn and lament about news on the Emerald Isle, and Vickie has been an eager host, injecting personal experiences while using self-deprecating and even bawdy humor to punctuate her point. Call it melee with a message.

During her show, Vickie often declares that she has multiple personalities. It’s not meant to be taken literally, she says. But this much is certain: she is multi-skilled. Vickie, a mother of two and grandmother of two, has been an athlete, coach, actress, foster parent, calypsonian, entrepreneur, social-media influencer, roving reporter, and more. She has also become a prolific farmer. Throughout her 49 years, she has demonstrated an ability to shift gears and adapt to new disciplines. Along the way she has challenged the status quo and displayed a steely determination.

And now, the woman who answers to the nickname “Storm” wants to bring a wind of change to Montserrat politics. On January 23, 2024, Vickie announced that she will contest this year’s national election. Although she’s currently employed as office administrator for the opposition, Vickie plans to run as an independent candidate. Her platform has a common theme: Change.

“I want to see a Montserrat where everybody is living comfortable and nobody is having to run to England or America for greener grass,” she says. “We can have that greener grass right here in Montserrat. I want to elevate the poor people. I want to lift the morale of the people. Better people bring a better country.”

Vickie acknowledges that her quest will require not only a change of policies but a change of mindsets, the latter being the more challenging. But she’s optimistic.

“I don’t give up because of failure. If you keep going, people will see your determination and someone will follow you. Yes, I will find a lot of opposition and a lot of rocks in the road that I can’t move. But you can go around them.”

EVENTFUL CHILDHOOD

Vickie has been dodging rocks for most of her life. She has also learned to conquer them. While growing up in the Amersham section of Town Hill she witnessed the value of hard work as she assisted her mother, Hazel Locker, who once crushed rocks for a living. Vickie’s childhood was filled with cultural enrichment but also had its share of turmoil.

“I saw a lot of abuse and trauma in my house,” she says. “But I think it’s a strength that God has blessed me with – to go through adversity and not have it affect me.”

Vickie says that if anything it has taught her compassion. “I’ve never abused my children or grandchildren. I’ve done foster-caring, I love animals, I love pets. I visit the prison every week and take them fruits.”

Vickie was a Daddy’s girl. Her father, Joseph O’Garro – nicknamed “Rice Na Pocket” – was a police officer. He took Vickie with him wherever he went, and her attachment to him was unmistakable.

“When I was about 4 years old I was in a troupe at Sturge Park,” Vickie says. “While I was on stage I looked in the crowd and I could not find my father. I walked off the stage, left the park, walked past the cemetery and went all the way to the police station in town looking for him.”

A teenage Vickie.

Vickie first attended the Cloverdale School in Town Hill, then Plymouth Primary (Maple Leaf) and later the Montserrat Secondary School. She was a stellar student, especially in Mathematics, and a terrific athlete.

“I played volleyball, cricket, basketball and ran track and field,” she says. “I won a lot of medals. I won the high jump, and my best event was the 100 meters. The one sport I didn’t play was netball. For some reason I never liked it.”

At age 11, Vickie’s life took a significant turn. She was adopted by her aunt – her mother’s eldest sister, who lived in Toronto. As part of the adoption process, Vickie’s surname was legally changed from Locker to Stephenson, which was her aunt’s married name. To this day, Vickie still uses Locker but must use her “government” name Stephenson for formal and business purposes.

Upon migrating to Canada in 1986, Vickie soon encountered culture shock. Her adopted parents were caring but strict and deeply religious, and Vickie faced many restrictions, including being forbidden to wear jewelry. The freezing weather was also punishing. With her home life rigid and the climate frigid, Vickie returned to Montserrat in 1989.

“I missed my mother. I missed my siblings. I was in a home that didn’t have any kids. My adopted parents loved me, but it’s not the same as a mother’s touch.”

Vickie, now 15 and a blossoming young woman, soon struggled to re-adjust in Montserrat as well. “There were a lot of older men who wanted to [date] me at a young age. I didn’t like it, and my mother didn’t like it. I saw several of my schoolmates getting pregnant. It felt like there were a lot of predators in Montserrat. My mom and I decided that it’s best that I go back to Canada and continue my education. So I went back in 1991.”

Vickie moved in with her elder brother in Toronto. She attended C.W. Jefferys High School in Toronto, where she played shooting guard on the basketball team. She later attended community college. But in between her accomplishments, she experienced profound adversity, including brief homelessness. At one point she was disconnected from her entire family for more than a year. “They probably thought I had died.”

Vickie says that at 17 she was basically on her own. “At one point I was in a shelter. I saw a lot of things on the street, people using drugs around me. Going through that experience let me know that I was mentally strong.”

She eventually reconnected with family after a chance meeting in downtown Toronto with a Montserratian who recognized her from back home and told Vickie that her mother is desperately looking for her.

BUSINESS OPPORTUNITY

Vickie remained in Canada until 2002, when she returned to Montserrat for her father’s funeral. By this time, she was now a mother of two – her son Terrence, who was born in 1994, and daughter Taijah (2001). During her visit back home, she made an observation.

“There was no nightlife in Montserrat, no place to go and watch movies. When I was in Canada I had a part-time job working with Blockbuster Video. One of their stores was closing down and selling out all their videos. I bought a whole bunch of them. I had a lot of videos in Canada, VHS and a lot of DVDs. So I shipped them to Montserrat.”

Vickie built a small shop near the family home in St. John’s and opened a video rental business. She charged $10 for a two-day rental ($2 extra for late returns). At the time, it was the only business in Montserrat that rented videos exclusively.

“I became the hottest thing on the market. I even put up a board [screen] and people would come by and watch movies. Young people came by to hang out and play dominoes. I even had people working for me.”

Vickie’s venture not only proved popular but lucrative. “I was able to buy my house after that. I bought a car.”

Vickie also had a regular job, with Monair Travel. She worked at John A. Osborne Airport, where she would check in departing passengers. When airplanes arrived, Vickie would often be the first person passengers saw before disembarking. She would walk to the tarmac, secure the plane’s propeller blade with a strap, and collect the flight manifest from the pilot.

Vickie in front of her video store in St. John’s.

CALYPSO CALLING

In 2006, with her video business flourishing, Vickie – on a dare – ventured into a field that would bring her the most recognition: Calypso.

“Someone bet me that I couldn’t go on stage and sing,” she says. “So I did it, I won the bet, and I haven’t stopped singing since then.”

Vickie registered for the Festival calypso competition. She also entered the inaugural Euphony Vibes Female Calypso Show. Singing as “Vee Breeze” she performed Festival Fever and On Your Own, finishing fourth out of 10 competitors. In 2007, with new writer Keithroy “De Bear” Morson on board, Vickie reinvented herself, changing her calypso name to “Storm” (“I felt like I was now stronger than a breeze”). Vickie dethroned Silvina “Khandie” Malone to claim the Female crown. She would also win in 2008 and 2010 (there was no local female show in 2009).

WATCH VICKIE’S CALYPSO DEBUT (2006)

Vickie worked hard at her craft and could be often heard by neighbors in St. John’s rehearsing for hours on end. She also developed a reputation for creative stage presentations. During her performance of On The Road To Good Health in 2008, she distributed fresh coconut water to members of the audience. For Talk Talk Talk in 2010, her presentation featured then Chief Minister Reuben T. Meade, who was a good sport considering the topic centered on politicians’ broken promises.

Vickie has also achieved some historical marks, including being the first winner of the annual William “Ruler” Murrain Crowd Favorite Award (2007) and the first to represent Montserrat in the popular Regional Women’s Calypso Competition (2011).

Photo courtesy ZJB Spirit of Montserrat
Vickie sings “Talk Talk Talk” during the Calypso Finals in 2010 as Chief Minister Reuben T. Meade, left, reacts to her lyrics.

“When I first started singing calypso, it was frowned upon by my family because we are staunch Adventists,” Vickie says. “But eventually they used to tell me things like, ‘Vickie, I like that song! That one sounds good!’ So I actually helped to create some [religious] leniency in my family.”

Both of Vickie’s children have competed in junior calypso, with Taijah winning the competition during St. Patrick’s Week in 2014.

In recent years, Vickie has struggled to recapture the magic from the early part of her calypso career. During the years in which she has failed to advance in the competition, she has taken on the role of pundit, providing live commentary on Facebook during the calypso finals and drawing hundreds of followers.

Photo courtesy ZJB Spirit of Montserrat
Vickie wins the local female calypso competition for a third time on December 21, 2010 at the Montserrat Cultural Center. From left are fellow competitors Maxcine Lee, Joy “Dynamite” Williams and Maggie Destouche.

UPSETTING THE APPLE CART

Calypso has taken a subordinate role in Vickie’s life as she focuses on her fledgling political career, which actually began in 2019. That year, Vickie was a senior clerical officer within the Ministry of Agriculture, Lands, Housing and Environment. She wanted to contest the national election, but, per policy, she would first have to resign her post.

Vickie wanted assurance that she could return to her job if she failed to earn a seat in the legislature. But there were no guarantees. She also did not agree with restrictions on free speech for civil servants.

“To be able to serve your country you should not have to give up your livelihood,” she says. “They say you’re free to run for office, but you’re not really free, because you have to give up something. It’s like a slavery type of mentality.”

So Vickie mounted a legal challenge. With attorney Warren Cassell leading the charge, she took her grievance to the Eastern Caribbean Supreme Court.

Montserrat Reporter archives
Vickie’s challenge to the election guidelines regarding civil servants was chronicled in the local newspaper.

READ THE CASE FILE OF VICKIE STEPHENSON VS. DEPUTY GOVERNOR LYNDELL SIMPSON

It was an interesting and groundbreaking case for Montserrat. Cassell made several compelling arguments on Vickie’s behalf, but in the end the challenge was unsuccessful. On November 6, 2019, the judge issued a protracted opinion. In part, he stated that running for public office should be taken as a serious venture, and if civil servants are assured they will retain their positions if they fail, many would simply “have a go” – creating a frivolous environment.

Vickie now faced a dilemma: resign and run for office, or postpone her political aspirations. She chose the latter. Although she lost the case, she shed light on what had been a controversial issue for years, and she was commended in many circles for her courage. Had she won that case, she would have gone down in Montserrat history as a pioneer.

“I was disappointed, but you just have to keep moving,” she says. “I fought for people to be free. I think Warren did his best but these court cases need more in-depth work. A lot of the laws and rules in the Constitution stem from slavery times. If you look at other islands, civil servants are not disgruntled. They’re making money and they’re happy because they changed a lot of their laws.”

On January 13, 2021, Vickie finally contested an election. She ran for president of the Montserrat Civil Service Association. However, she could not unseat incumbent Nyota Mulcare. Vickie lost, 147 votes to 47.

BACK IN THE TRENCHES

Three years later, Vickie is no longer a civil servant and now free to contest the national election. She has assembled a team and also outlined a series of policies she would like to see implemented. Her ideas have a distinct nationalist theme.

“One of the first things I would like to see is the minimum wage increase from $1,800 to $3,000. That will let Montserratians know we want them to stay. It’s not an incentive . . . it’s a necessity. Right now, it’s hard to make money, it’s hard to save money. I have no problem with people coming in from other countries. They help build the economy and they pay taxes. But I would like us to bring back more of the indigenous Montserratians. I would also like to see Montserratians in the diaspora being able to vote in our elections. That will give them a sense of inclusion and make them feel connected to Montserrat and want to come back.”

As for her political prospects, recent history in Montserrat elections has revealed that party affiliation is powerful. Most independent candidates have failed to earn one of the nine coveted seats. But Vickie remains hopeful and would be content even as a backbencher – to start. She felt subjugated as a civil servant and now wants to get back in government, but this time armed with the means to enact change.

“Even in the opposition seat you could shake certain tables,” she says. “My first term is really just to get into politics, not jump on a team that doesn’t share my goals and values. I want people to see what I’m about and what I bring to the table and see where it goes from there.”

One of the first things I would like to see is the minimum wage increase from $1,800 to $3,000. That will let Montserratians know we want them to stay. It’s not an incentive . . . it’s a necessity.

VESSEL OF VERSATILITY

Vickie’s political future will rest with the electorate, but even if she falls short, she has more than enough to fall back on. Her video business became obsolete more than a decade ago when streaming services such as Netflix became popular. Today, one of her main avenues for supplemental income is through farming.

In 2019, the Government of Montserrat gave Vickie a two-acre plot of farm land in Duck Pond, just northeast of Salem. She harvests okra, cabbage, tomato, string beans, lettuce, season peppers, cucumber, pineapple, and more. Meanwhile, her property in Dyer Piece features more than 30 species of fruits, including 22 coconut trees. All were planted by Vickie.

Vickie’s skills are not confined to the farm. She has coached children in cricket and has been a foster parent and mentor. Vickie, who jokes that she has been accused of creating “drama” through her live chat, has actually appeared in two plays: Chadd Cumberbatch’s 1768, about the St. Patrick’s Day rebellion, and Edgar Nkosi White’s Montserrat, A Comedy Divine: The Jumbie Play, an audio production.

But Vickie says the most important role of her life is ongoing. She has been guardian for her 8-year-old grandson Javair since he was two months old. Her daily schedule revolves around him, whether preparing him for school or transporting him to track and field and soccer practice in Little Bay. She has also passed on the tradition of self-sufficiency by teaching him farm work.

“I’m molding a track star,” Vickie says of Javair, who earned 12 medals during the recent annual Sports Day competitions. He was Boys’ Class 2 champion and earned the most points for Brades Primary School. In May of 2023, Javair represented Montserrat in the Starters Invitational track meet in Anguilla, winning silver and bronze medals. “You have to start them from young,” Vickie says. “I saw his talent from early on. He’s also a good student and he doesn’t get into trouble.”

Javair’s father – Vickie’s son Terrence – now lives in Canada, the land of his birth. Vickie’s daughter Taijah is serving in the United States Army and is based in Hawaii.

Vickie with grandson Javair Stephenson.
Javair displays some of his many track and field medals.

LOOKING AHEAD

Vickie says she plans to continue her Facebook live show even if she is elected. She says it’s important to remain connected with the masses by utilizing the power of social media. However, she has modified her approach. For a time, she lashed out at her detractors within the government, often indirectly. It eventually led to her dismissal from her job as a civil servant. But she has evolved.

“There are certain things I used to joke about that I no longer do. You realize that everybody has a family. I would put myself in the same situation and say, ‘Vickie, would you like that?’ I’ve moved into a different direction and it has been positive because I now get more people watching my live. I’ve gone from about 500 views to 11,000.”

She hopes that level of popularity will translate into support at the ballot box.

Vickie Locker, who each Friday night transforms from a mild-mannered grandmother to a social-media caped crusader, now hopes to be a superhero for Montserrat.

“I love people,” she says. . . . “and I like fairness.”

Vickie participates in International Women in Farming Day on March 8, 2024 in Brades. Vickie had a stall during the event and sold an abundance of fruits and vegetables.
Photo credit: Discover Montserrat
Vickie, center, plays the role of Petty in the Chadd Cumberbatch play 1768 in March of 2018 at the Montserrat Cultural Center.
Vickie conducts her Facebook live stream January 12, 2024.

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Vickie's calypso songs

On Your Own (2006)Festival Fever (2006)
Teach Dem (2007)De Storm (2007)
We Have Not Changed (2008)Road to Good Health (2008)
Father Come Down (2009)Make Room For One More (2009)
Talk, Talk, Talk (2010)Next In Line (2010)
Open Your Gates (2011)Done De Place (2011)
Things That Make Me Sad (2012)The Letter (2012)
Lady And A Warrior (2015)No Fussing Around (2015)
Romeo Must Die (2016)Five Cat (2017)
Kaiso On The Pulpit (2018)We In Trouble (2019)
COVID Woes (2021)Happy Birthday (2022)

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