More than 5,000 students have already passed through Miss Lou’s Room since it was officially opened less than a year ago in Toronto, Canada.
William Boyle, Chief Executive Officer of Harbourfront Centre, home of Miss Lou’s Room which was created by the Canadian government to honour the Jamaican cultural icon, said the space has surpassed all expectations and no one has left the room without learning about Miss Lou and her legacy.
He made these comments recently at an event billed, “A Celebration of Miss Lou’s Legacy,” organized by the Consulate General of Jamaica, and Arts and Culture Jamaica Incorporated, and which featured the re-launch of Miss Lou’s first publication, ‘Laugh With Louise: A Pot-pourri of Jamaican Folklore, Stories, Songs and Verses’.
Miss Lou’s Room, officially opened last year on the first anniversary of her death, provided the perfect backdrop to the “Celebration” which featured film clips from a television documentary on her life and presentations by comedian Owen “Blakka” Ellis, dub poet Motion, and authors Honor Ford-Smith and Olive Senior, who all spoke on how Miss Lou influenced their work. Blakka also performed two poems from the book – “Independence” and “Miss Marie Come.”
Jamaica’s Consul General to Toronto, Anne-Marie Bonner, said Miss Lou’s example and contribution can never be forgotten.
Owen ‘Blakka’ Ellis beats the drum during his presentation at ‘A Celebration of Miss Lou’s Legacy’ held recently in Miss Lou’s Room at Harbourfront Centre in Toronto, Canada.
“We must ensure that others take up the mantle of social commentary in our own voice. Miss Lou’s Room and the programmes that continue her use of language, songs and storytelling can only help in continuing this legacy,” she said.
The Consul General encouraged everyone to purchase a copy of Laugh With Louise which was first published almost 50 years ago in 1961 by the Institute of Jamaica. Describing the publication as “a little treasure of book filled with poems, Anancy stories, recipes and folk songs – all the things Miss Lou loved,” Ms. Bonner said the book was also re-launched in January 2008 at a conference held at the University of the West Indies in Miss Lou’s honour.
Ms. Senior, an acclaimed author and winner of several literary awards, noted that Miss Lou opened the gates, not only for a long list of distinguished spoken-word artists and performers, but was also a profound influence in freeing up the so-called literary heavyweights from the straitjacket of conformity.
“Miss Lou did not say we must throw out or disrespect the English language. What she affirmed was that we should also claim respect for our own language alongside our inherited English tongue. This opened a gateway for writers such as myself who were struggling to find our own voices, one that would allow us to be true to ourselves and to the culture we come from while writing ourselves into global culture,” she stated.
Mr. Fabian Coverley, Miss Lou’s stepson, presented copies of “Laugh With Louise,” to Mr. Boyle and former Mayor of Toronto now Chief Commissioner of the Ontario Human Rights Commission, Barbara Hall.
Those in attendance included members of the Coverley family; Jamaican-born Minister of Health Promotion, Margarett Best; Executive Director of the Institute of Jamaica, Vivian Crawford; President of Arts and Culture Jamaica, Cherita Girvan-Campbell; Fairness Commissioner, Jean Augustine; members of the consular and diplomatic corps, and a wide cross-section of Jamaicans.