MISS LOU A LEGEND AND A HEROINE BORN SEPTEMBER 7 1919

Posted: 08/09/2013 in Activism, Africa, Birth, Caribbean, Charts, Current Affairs, ENTERTAINMENT, History, Immigration, Inspirational, Jamaica
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Miss Lou Photo courtesy of the Jamaica Cultural Development Commission

Miss Lou Photo courtesy of the Jamaica Cultural Development Commission

Jason Walker

(SCROLL DOWN FOR CELEBRATION EVENTS DURING SEPTEMBER)

                As I write this it is actually the day after what would have been the 94th Birthday of ‘MISS LOU’ JAMAICA ‘S FIRST LADY OF COMEDY, THE HON. LOUISE BENNETT-COVERLEY O.M. O.J. M.B.E. DIP R.A.D.A., D. LITT (HON). That however does not stop me from reflecting on one of my heroines and a Jamaican and African legend. As a Jamaican who loves my culture and the platform of enjoying the expression of my culture, I am grateful to Miss Lou for helping to create that platform.

                As will be seen in some of the highlights of her life, Miss Lou began celebrating our culture, especially the major African part of our culture, publicly with international impact, at the age of 14 with a poem that was done in Jamaican patois. This poem opened doors for her that would lead her into acting and eventually to spread her talent and the Jamaican language to the shores of England.

                Miss Lou created her legendary platform that was all about Black and Jamaican pride. Throughout her career she fought racism, sexism, classism, bigotry, xenophobia and various forms of oppression. I was fortunate to be born in a time when she was still alive (Miss Lou passed away in Canada in July 2006). I was exposed to her very popular TV show (Ring Ding) on Jamaica Broadcast Television (JBC), the show was a children’s show that focused on Jamaican & African stories, poetry, folklore, art and other cultural manifestations. She always ended her show with her signature “Walk Good! …… Ai yah yah!” followed by a heartfelt laugh that I remember to this day.

The show helped to foster a certain pride in my Jamaica “Africanness”. The show helped (with other things) to give me a certain confident poise, a swagger if you will, about being a black Jamaican and everything that came with African-Jamaican culture. In school her poems were the most impactful and most fun for me. The poems not only used my native in the most beautifully rhythmic manner, they also provided a window to the development of Jamaican culture over the years, while entertaining the reader in the most engaging manner possible. Throughout her career she was the pinnacle of theatre, poetry, comedy, television and other cultural art forms, and wherever she was she fought for and presented through an African-Jamaican perspective.

                All persons who in some way enjoy, are exposed, involved with, impacted by or in some way connected to Black Jamaican culture can thank Miss Lou for her contribution to its development. I am now a father of four and my family resides in the United States, there is a little regret that my children will not be able to be exposed to Miss Lou while she is alive, or to see a show like Ring Ding, however we have her poems, we are blessed to be in an era to see some of her television work and yes at every birthday we do sing her version of the Happy Birthday song. Miss Lou always had a smile or a laugh for all, while being a constant tower of strength for her culture and her people. Thank you Miss Lou, thank you for all that you have given us. May we treasure and carry on. “Walk Good……. Ai yah yah!”

Miss LouMISS LOU

HIGHLIGHTS: Louise Bennett was born on September 7, 1919. She was a Jamaican poet and activist. From Kingston, Jamaica Louise Bennett remains a household name in Jamaica, a “Living Legend” and a cultural icon. She received her education from Ebenezer and Calabar Elementary Schools, St. Simon’s College, Excelsior College, Friends College (Highgate).

Although she lived in Toronto, Canada for the last decade of her life she still receives the homage of the expatriate West Indian community in the north as well as a large Canadian following.

She was described as Jamaica’s leading comedienne, as the “only poet who has really hit the truth about her society through its own language”, and as an important contributor to her country of “valid social documents reflecting the way Jamaicans think and feel and live” Through her poems in Jamaican patois, she raised the dialect of the Jamaican folk to an art level which is acceptable to and appreciated by all in Jamaica.

In her poems she was able to capture all the spontaneity of the expression of Jamaicans’ joys and sorrows, their ready, poignant and even wicked wit, their religion and their philosophy of life. Her first dialect poem was written when she was fourteen years old. A British Council Scholarship took her to the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art where she studied in the late 1940’s.

Bennett not only had a scholarship to attend the academy but she auditioned and won a scholarship. After graduation she worked with repertory companies in Coventry, Huddersfield and Amersham as well as in intimate revues all over England.
On her return to Jamaica she taught drama to youth and adult groups both in social welfare agencies and for the University of the West Indies Extra Mural Department.

She lectured extensively in the United States and the United Kingdom on Jamaican folklore and music and represented Jamaica all over the world. She married Eric Winston Coverley in 1954 (who died in 2002) and has one stepson and several adopted children. She enjoys Theatre, Movies and Auction sales.

Her contribution to Jamaican cultural life was such that she was honored with the M.B.E., the Norman Manley Award for Excellence (in the field of Arts), the Order of Jamaica (1974) the Institute of Jamaica’s Musgrave Silver and Gold Medals for distinguished eminence in the field of Arts and Culture, and in 1983 the Honorary Degree of Doctor of Letters from the University of the West Indies. In September 1988 her composition “You’re going home now”, won a nomination from the Academy of Canadian Cinema ad Television, for the best original song in the movie “Milk and Honey.”

In 1998 she received the Honorary Degree of Doctor of Letters from York University, Toronto, Canada. The Jamaica Government also appointed her Cultural Ambassador at Large for Jamaica. On Jamaica’s independence day 2001, Bennett-Coverley was appointed as a Member of the Order of Merit for her distinguished contribution to the development of the Arts and Culture.

Born in 1919 in then-colonial Jamaica, Miss Lou began writing, then performing, verse in dialect from the age of 13 – at a time when standard English was considered the norm and the ideal to which most people aspired. She began acting in 1936, while in high school, and was spotted by impresario Eric Coverley (who would later be-come her husband). In 1945, she won a scholarship to the Royal Academy of Dramatic Arts in London. While there and still a student, she hosted the live radio show, Caribbean Carnival on the BBC. During a second stay in London, she hosted another program for the BBC, West Indian Guest Night, which introduced emerging West Indian talent. In Jamaica, her verses, written in dialect, were published in The Daily Gleaner; she also performed them onstage and on-radio along with her prose monologues. She hosted radio shows, Laugh with Louise and Miss Lou’s Views, which were on the air for 15 years, as well as Lou and Ranny. Onstage she appeared in a number of productions including the annual Jamaican Pantomimes, from 1943 until 1971, without interruption; retiring from the stage in 1975. For 12 years, beginning in the 1970s, Miss Lou hosted a popular TV program, Ring Ding, which allowed children from all parts of the country to participate and showcase their talent in the performing arts. In 2003, she hosted another edition of Ring Ding, produced in Jamaica. Her film credits include Calypso and Club Paradise; while her song, “Going Home”, used in the film Milk and Honey, was nominated for a Genie Award. In 1989, Louise was appointed Ambassador-at-Large for Culture by the Jamaican Government. Over the years, she has performed and lectured throughout the world, promoting Jamaican history and culture, and creating awareness and pride among Jamaicans for their folk stories and songs. Her works are said to “have a sophisticated and subversive, political dimension and pillory both pretension and self-contempt. They ridicule class and colour prejudice, and criticize people ashamed of being Jamaican or ashamed of being Black.” (Gazette, York University, 1998)

Honours: Several including, Member of the Order of Merit for her distinguished contribution to the development of the Arts & Culture, Jamaica, 2001; inclusion in Who’s Who in Black Canada (1st & 2nd editions, 2000 & 2006); recognized by the International Theatre Institute, Jamaica Chapter, as the “Most Important Theatre Personality of the 20th Century” (2000); Member of the Order of the British Empire for her work in Jamaican literature and theatre; Norman Manley Award for Excellence; Order of Jamaica for work in the field of Native Culture; Honorary Degree of Literature, York University (1988) and University of the West Indies (1982); Gold Musgrave Medal for contribution to the development of the arts in Jamaica & the Caribbean (1978).

Works: Recordings: Include Yes, M’Dear: Miss Lou Live (1983); The Honourable Miss Lou (1981); Carifesta Ring Ding (1976); Listen to Louise (1968); Miss Lou’s Views (1967); Jamaica Singing Games (1953); Jamaica Folk Songs (1953). Poetry: Jamaica Labrish (1966); Anancy and Miss Lou (1979); Selected Poems (1982). Other publications: Aunty Roachy Seh (1993); Laugh with Louise; and Anancy and Miss Lou.

Education: Royal Academy of Dramatic Art, England; St. Simon’s College; Excelsior College; Friends College for Jamaica.

Hero: Her mother, Kerene Robinson.

Motto: Use a smile to cover sorrow.

2013 CELEBRATIONS OF THE LIFE OF MISS LOU

Islandwide Celebration for Miss Lou during September

 

The Jamaica Cultural Development Commission (JCDC) has planned a number of activities during the month of September to celebrate the 94th birthday anniversary of the late Hon. Louise Bennett – Coverley, OM, OJ, MBE.

 

These activities will be held in each parish across the island and includes Exhibitions on the life and work of Miss Lou in collaboration with Parish Libraries; Concerts featuring her works in poetry, storytelling & songs; a special ‘Storytelling’ feature for the ‘Tweenie Weenie’ children; and bringing back ‘Ring Ding’ time, in Montego Bay.

 

Below is the list of islandwide activities:

Parish

Date and Time

Activities

Venue

Description

St. Mary

Monday , September 2 – Saturday  September 28, 2013

Special Anniversary Display on the life and works of Miss Lou

St. Mary Parish Library, Port Maria

Exhibition will run daily Monday – Saturday

9:00am –  5:00pm

St. Thomas

Thursday September 5 – Saturday 7, 2013

Special Library Exhibition

St. Thomas Parish Library, Morant Bay

Special three day Display on the life and works of Miss Lou

Westmoreland

Friday September  6, 2013 commencing at 10:00am

   

 

Official Opening Ceremony of Pictorial Exhibition

Westmoreland Parish Library

Featuring performances of Miss Lou’s poetry, storytelling and songs. Exhibition to run daily September 6 – 28 – 9:00am – 5:00pm

Mondays – Saturdays

 

Kingston/St. Andrew

Friday September 6, at 10:00am

Library Exhibition

Kingston/St. Andrew Parish Library, Tom Redcam Avenue

Exhibition to run from September 6 – 13, 2013 Monday – Saturdays 9:00am – 5:00pm

Kingston/St. Andrew

Saturday September 7 at 4:00pm

‘Tenky Miss Lou Poetry Hour

Louise Bennett Garden Theatre, Kingston

A staged performances of Miss Lou poems and songs

St. Catherine

Saturday September 7

Library Exhibition

St. Catherine Parish Library, Spanish Town

Exhibition to run from September 7 – 21, 2013 daily from 9:00am

St. Catherine

Saturday September 7

Library Exhibition

Greater Portmore Library

Exhibition to run from September 7 – 21, 2013 daily from 9:00am

Trelawny

Friday September 13, 2013 at 10:00am

Official Opening of Library Exhibition Ceremony

Trelawny Parish Library, Falmouth

Guest speaker

Exhibition to run to September 28, 2013 daily from 9:00am

Hanover

 

Wednesday September 18, 2013 at 10:00am

 

Official Opening Ceremony of Pictorial  Exhibition and Storytelling Corner for “Tweenie Weenie” Library

 

Hanover Parish Library, Lucea

 

Featuring Internationally renowned poet Jean Breeze. Exhibition runs until September 28, 2013 daily from 9:00am

Manchester

Friday September 20 at 9:00am – 1:00pm

“Tenk God Fi Miss Lou” Tribute

Manchester Hugh School Auditorium & Grounds

A special tribute featuring panel discussion, exhibition and concert

Portland

Monday September 23, 2013 at 10:00am

Library Exhibition

Portland Parish Library, Port Antonio

Exhibition to run from Monday September 23 – Friday 28, 2013

9:00am – 5:00pm daily

Monday – Saturday

St. Ann

Thursday September 26, 2013 at 10:00am

Miss Lou Birthday Celebration

St. Ann Parish Library, St. Ann’s Bay

Official Opening of Exhibition, Guest Speaker, a special feature of an  essay competition and performances

 

St. James

Thursday September 26,2013 at 10:00 am

Miss Lou Mo Bay Ring Ding

Saint James Parish Library, Montego Bay

Featuring presentations from  Culture Clubs across the Parish

 

Thursday September  26, 2013 at 4:00pm

Miss Lou Poetry Extravaganza

Portland Parish Library, Port Antonio

A special tribute featuring a poetry competition and performances

Clarendon

Thursday September 26, 2013 at 4:00pm

Miss Lou Concert Tribute

Clarendon Parish Library, May Pen

A special concert featuring poetry, storytelling, drumming & quadrille

St. Elizabeth

Friday September 27, 2013 at 1:00pm

Miss Lou Poetry Competition and Awards Ceremony

St. Elizabeth Parish Library, Black river

A special dialect poetry competition in honour of Miss Lou’s work in dialect, guest speaker, awards ceremony and performances

Information provided by Jamaica Information Service, JCDC, and Who’s Who in Black Canada

Jason Walker is a freelance writer who has had an award winning journalism career that spans 20 years. He can be followed on twitter at www.twitter.com/jasonwalker_ or emailed at jasonarticle@gmail.com

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Comments
  1. Edna Walker says:

    Thanks for the reminder, Jason. Good article. It not only reminded, but educated, me on some of Miss Lou’s achievements. Her memory will truly live on.

    Edna Walker

    Like

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