JIS News

Jamaica’s Ambassador of Culture, Dr. the Hon. Louise Bennett-Coverley,’Miss Lou’, was in fine form on Monday, March 22 at the launch of the video documentary on her life, ‘Visiting with Miss Lou’, at the Jamaican Consulate in Toronto, Canada.
Although the 84-year-old declared that she had “pain a joint” and therefore could not say much, she went on to recite several of her poems, explained the meaning of a number of Jamaican proverbs and sang several folk songs including ‘Evening Time’, ‘Dis long time gal me neva see yuh’, and her signature tune ‘Walk Good’.
She even corrected an audience member for mispronouncing a Jamaican word.
“It’s not your hand, it’s yuh an. Come mek me hol yuh an gal,” she explained. “If we are going to sing our songs in our language then we must give them the right pronunciations,” she stressed.
Produced by the Creative Production and Training Centre (CPTC), the one-hour video details the life of Miss Lou, and “the crucial role she played in instilling a sense of identity among Jamaicans at a time when in both language and culture we were in danger of being relegated to second class,” said CPTC’s Chairman and Chief Executive Officer, Dr. Hopeton Dunn, who was present for the Canadian launch.
“The video is about telling our own story. Miss Lou told us to be proud of who we are and she engendered in many Jamaicans a sense of self-respect and identity. It is what some of us now call a sense of ‘smadification.’ We a smaddy too and we deserve respect for our language, our culture and our popular expressions,” he asserted.
Dr. Dunn explained that the video was just one in a series that CPTC was producing as the company fulfilled its mandate to help preserve the culture and creativity of the Jamaican people and disseminate it widely to Jamaicans everywhere – at home and abroad.Consul General to Toronto, Vivia Betton, in paying tribute to Miss Lou, acknowledged her “tremendous influence” on Jamaica’s culture.
“When Jamaicans at home and abroad celebrate our Independence, it should always be remembered that Louise Bennett-Coverley was a part of the national movement that made us truly free. Her role in making the vernacular of ordinary people acceptable and fashionable played a significant part in truly emancipating our minds to believe in our own qualities and attributes.”
Dr. Afua Cooper, Associate Director at the Ryerson Caribbean Research Centre (RCRC) also paid tribute to the cultural icon, noting that she was “part and parcel of our growing up. She is a great storyteller, keeper of the history and memories.”
Dr. Cooper, a noted historian, author and poet, said that Miss Lou influenced her personally through Ring Ding, the popular television show from the 1970s, Festival presentations and Pantomime.
Dr. Dunn also presented a plaque to Miss Lou for being selected CVM TV’s 2003 Newsmaker of the Year. He said he was a member of the selection panel and the meeting was one of the shortest on record because the winner was very obvious.
“Last August Miss Lou came home and turned Jamaica upside down,” Dr. Dunn explained. “Everybody came out to wave and welcome our Queen Mother. All who never want to sing folk song start to sing folk song, stores that always sell just foreign stuff were packed out with items of Jamaican heritage and for two weeks, television was transformed to the Miss Lou show.”
In Toronto, the video can be purchased at Burke’s Bookstore, owned by Jamaicans Sam and Rita Burke.

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