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Ontario’s Minister of Citizenship and Immigration, Mike Colle, has presented Cdn$250,000 (J$13.7 million) to Harbourfront Centre in downtown Toronto, Canada, to create ‘Miss Lou’s Room’, in memory of the late Jamaican folklorist, Hon. Louise Bennett-Coverley.
Making his presentation inside ‘Miss Lou’s Room’ on Wednesday, January 31, at the launch of Black History Month in Ontario and six months after the death of the cultural icon, Minister Colle said ‘Miss Lou’s Room’ would be a permanent tribute to honour her.
“Miss Lou’s legacy of storytelling and pioneering promotion of Jamaican culture worldwide will now live on forever through this permanent tribute,” said the Minister. “Black History Month is a time for all Ontarians to reflect on the accomplishments of African-Canadians throughout our history and into the present. Miss Lou’s Room is a fitting addition to this legacy,” he added.
William Boyle, Chief Executive Officer of Harbourfront Centre, which is considered the central hub for art and entertainment in Toronto, said that particular room was chosen because Miss Lou had performed in it many times. Visitors to the room, which is on the second floor of the Centre and overlooks Lake Ontario, will be able to read Miss Lou’s books, listen to her stories, watch videos and view photographs. The room, expected to be unveiled sometime in the Spring of 2007, will also include an interactive programme.
Describing Miss Lou as “a real international jewel”, Minister Colle said the province of Ontario had a role to play in making sure that her legacy continued to flower. “Ontario was her second home and she was a good citizen. She brought Jamaica to us and to the world in a special way,” he said.
Jamaica’s Consul General to Toronto, Anne-Marie Bonner, thanked the Government of Ontario, on behalf of the government and people of Jamaica, for the fitting tribute, which demonstrated that Miss Lou’s legacy would not be forgotten.
“It is the hope that those who have an interest in perpetuating her work will see the province of Ontario as a facilitator and nurturer of creative expression, and the development of arts and culture,” said the Consul General.
Describing Miss Lou as a cultural icon and a daughter of Jamaica who was instrumental in valuing the language, Miss Bonner said the late folklorist “travelled the world lecturing and performing and promoting our culture internationally”.
Paying tribute to Miss Lou, Minister of Children and Youth Services, MaryAnne Chambers said Miss Lou not only made patois acceptable, but also celebrated. She noted that the themes of Miss Lou’s writings were as relevant today as when she wrote them many years ago.
Also in attendance were Miss Lou’s stepson Fabian Coverley; former Member of Parliament, Jean Augustine; representatives of two organizations which Miss Lou served as Patron – Arts & Culture Jamaica Inc. and Women for PACE (Canada) – and the Consuls General of Grenada, St. Lucia, Trinidad and Tobago, South Africa and Burundi.