Feature
Louise Simone Bennett-Coverley, OM, OJ, MBE

Story Highlights

  • Jamaicans at home and abroad are being encouraged to attend the events in commemoration of the 100th anniversary of the birth of Dr. the Hon. Louise Bennett Coverley, popularly called ‘Miss Lou’.
  • Special events have been organised in Jamaica and the diaspora over a period of 100 days, September 1 to December 10, to celebrate the Jamaican cultural icon.
  • The celebration will highlight Miss Lou’s various roles of folklorist, poet, actress, author, songwriter, comedienne, singer and activist. Persons can view the calendar of activities on the Jamaica Cultural Development Commission’s (JCDC) website at: www.jcdc.org.jm.

Jamaicans at home and abroad are being encouraged to attend the events in commemoration of the 100th anniversary of the birth of Dr. the Hon. Louise Bennett Coverley, popularly called ‘Miss Lou’.

Special events have been organised in Jamaica and the diaspora over a period of 100 days, September 1 to December 10, to celebrate the Jamaican cultural icon.

The celebration will highlight Miss Lou’s various roles of folklorist, poet, actress, author, songwriter, comedienne, singer and activist. Persons can view the calendar of activities on the Jamaica Cultural Development Commission’s (JCDC) website at: www.jcdc.org.jm.

Speaking at a recent Jamaica Information Service (JIS) ‘Think Tank’, Advisor to the Minister of Culture, Gender, Entertainment and Sport, Lenford Salmon, said that diaspora groups in Toronto, Canada; Florida, United States of America (USA) and in London, United Kingdom, are planning activities to honour Miss Lou.

Advisor to the Minister of Culture, Gender, Entertainment and Sport, Lenford Salmon, speaks at a recent Jamaica Information Service (JIS) ‘Think Tank’, held at the agency’s head office in Kingston.

 

“These are pockets of Jamaicans in the diaspora who, often supported by the Missions in their locations, will put on special events,” he said.

Other major events in Jamaica will include Miss Lou Scrap Book launch; Declaration of the Louise Bennett Park at the University of the West Indies (UWI), Mona; Miss Lou Media Quiz; Aunty Roachy Festival; Ring Ding Concert, and islandwide flash mobs in honour of Miss Lou.

The JCDC parish offices have also planned events and activities outside of Kingston, including tribute concerts, displays, exhibitions and cultural competitions. There will also be Miss Lou celebrations in schools during National Heritage Week 2019.

Librarian of the McMaster University in Toronto, Canada, Vivia Lewis, told JIS News that the University will be hosting an event on Thursday, September 19 at the Harbour Front Centre in downtown Toronto, Canada.

The event, which will be held in ‘Miss Lou Room’ at the venue, will feature presentations on Miss Lou’s contribution to Jamaica and Canada as well as performances by Jamaican artistes.

“We are expecting members of Miss Lou’s family to be there and government officials from Jamaica. We are hoping that it’s going to be a key feature of the Jamaican Canadian celebration of Miss Lou’s centenary,” she said.

Miss Lewis said the University is obliged to be playing a major role in the function, seeing that the institution possesses the Miss Lou Archives.

“We had that for many years and as a result, we feel an obligation to take a key role in the celebration of her 100th birthday in Canada,” she pointed out, adding that the archives contain photographs, graphical and audiovisual materials that reflect the life and career of Miss Lou while in Canada.

In addition, she said there will be a film screening of Miss Lou and a panel discussion at the York University in Toronto, Canada, on Tuesday, September 17.

The 100 days of celebration, which began on September 1 with a church service at the Coke Memorial Methodist Church, downtown Kingston, is being spearheaded by the Ministry of Culture, Gender, Entertainment and Sport and several stakeholders.

On September 7, the public, including family members and friends of Miss Lou paid homage to the cultural icon at a floral tribute held at the National Heroes Park in Kingston.

Niece of Miss Lou, Sybil Nurse Reeves, who hails from Queens, USA, told JIS News that she was happy to be a part of the celebration, while lauding efforts by Jamaicans to keep Miss Lou’s work alive.

“I am so happy that I was able to make the trip, to be here and be a part of this, and I am truly happy,” she said.

She is also pleased that Jamaicans have embraced Patois. Miss Lou was an advocate of the language, which she used in her poems and stories while making presentations to local and international audiences.

Mrs. Reeves recalled Miss Lou’s stories about her inability to use the language.

“She couldn’t speak the language in school and she thought that she couldn’t understand why, because they said that she was talking bad, but she said her mother spoke to her like that and loved ones spoke to her like that and they would never talk to her bad,” she said.

“So, that’s when she started researching the language and she told me a lot about where it came from and how she just loved Jamaica, the culture and the people,” she added.

Mrs. Reeves, who was accompanied by seven family members, said she will be looking at various ways of honouring Miss Lou in her community on her return to the USA.

“I am going to remind everyone what we need to do in the 100 days to make sure we keep Miss Lou alive there as well,” she noted.

For her part, cousin of Miss Lou, Grace Grange Johnson, who left Jamaica as a child, said she was impressed with the performances depicting Miss Lou.

“It just shows how much she was loved in life and now she is loved even more in death and everything that she talked about and stood for is going to be upheld in her memory, so this is really good,” she told JIS News during an interview.

Born on September 7, 1919, Miss Lou authored several books, including Jamaica Labrish, Anancy and Miss Lou, and Aunty Roachy Seh.

In 1998, she received the Honorary Degree of Doctor of Letters from York University in Toronto.

On Jamaica’s Independence Day 2001, Miss Lou was appointed as a Member of the Order of Merit for her distinguished contribution to the development of the arts and culture. The Louise Bennett Exchange Fellowship for postgraduate research in Jamaica/West Indian folk language culture at the University of the West Indies and the University of Toronto was instituted in her honour.

Also named in her honour is the Louise Bennett Garden Theatre in Kingston. On July 26, 2006, Miss Lou died in Canada at the age of 87.