Speech

I am deeply saddened to learn of the passing of nationally beloved cultural icon, Hon. Louise Bennett Coverley. A renowned performer, poet and folklorist the “Hon. Miss Lou” as she was affectionately known, was hailed by generations of Jamaicans as the very essence of our Jamaicanness – larger than life, earthy, humorous, warm, good natured, highly creative and full of wisdom.
She was regarded as a close family member, part of our national landscape and a true representative of Jamaican hospitality, graciousness and charm.
Steeped in the Jamaican folklore, she believed passionately in her country, and in her work as an artist, never failed to promote confidence in our extraordinary abilities, skills and talents as a people.
One of the pioneers in Jamaican community development, she traveled all over the country, helping to empower communities to advance the process of nation-building, using culture as a powerful weapon in the process. Her achievements in the development of the Jamaican theatre and the Pantomime Movement in particular, are legendary.
With all her nationalistic pride, Hon. Louise Bennett Coverley had universal appeal, always shining brightly, be it as queen of the historic first CARIFESTA in Guyana, or as visiting performer on stage in England, Panama, the United States, Canada or wherever she was in the world. As a folk philosopher, her depth of understanding of human nature expressed in the Jamaican dialect, transcended language barriers – she was always understood and loved.
In her later years, she lived in Canada, where she devoted her time to caring for her ailing husband, Eric Coverley, who predeceased her. Although she was physically absent from Jamaica, she never lost touch with her roots. On her last visit to Jamaica in 2003, she was special guest of the Government for our Independence celebrations.
The visit provided the nation with a much-needed focal point of unity and brought out our finest qualities as a people. She inspired an amazing outpouring of love and goodwill. Barriers were swept aside and thousands joined hands, as well as hearts, in welcoming ‘Miss Lou’ to her homeland.
From a personal standpoint, Miss Lou was a great inspiration to me. A true example of the finest quality of Jamaican womanhood, she was a strong, courageous defender of the true Jamaican culture. She was my role model and mentor. I will miss her greatly, as will Jamaicans at home and abroad.
On behalf of the Government and people of Jamaica, I extend heartfelt condolences to her family and friends.
Walk good Miss Lou.