In a culturally rich launch event, The Louise Bennett-Coverley Heritage Council unveiled its plans for the celebration of the 100th birthday of Jamaica’s cultural icon, Rt. Hon. Dr. Louise Bennett-Coverley, “Miss Lou”. The Council hosted civic and faith-based organizations, as well as media and community influencers at the Sunrise Soccer Park Recreation Hall, in Sunrise, Florida on Tuesday, July 2.
Dubbed, “Miss Lou Full Hundred,” and under the distinguished patronage of the Consul General of Jamaica, Oliver Mair, the celebrations will kick off at the Royal Palm Beach Community High School on September 6. On September 7, it moves to the Coral Springs Center for the Arts. The event will feature a rare Florida appearance by the multi-award-winning Jamaican Folk Singers, Labrish with “Dat Bumpy Head Gal”, Joan Andrea Hutchinson, as well as a throwback to Miss Lou and Mas Ran with Malachi Smith and Maxine Osbourne, plus a selection of folk songs by the Tallawah Mento Band.
Dr. Marcia Magnus, a founding members of the Council, shared, that the idea of celebrating Miss Lou came out of discussions she had with Norma Darby (co-founder of the Council and the Jamaican Folk Revenue) and the eventual introduction to Valrie Simpson (of the Broward County Library system) whose involvement helped to establish a home for what started as the LBC Reading Festival. She was emphatic in noting that Miss Lou was not a comedian; she was a poet and social commentator who would sometimes “cuss off the government”. Dr. Magnus highlighted the achievements and contributions of Miss Lou, who as a 14-year-old girl, took on the establishment and proudly wrote and performed a poem in Jamaican dialect. Despite being gravely criticized, she “pushed on” and went on to write several books, perform in the annual Pantomime for years and successfully hosted radio and television programs, all which set the stage for Jamaican patois to be recognized as a national Language.
In his usual unconventional style, Jamaica’s Consul General, Oliver Mair, urged the audience to continue to support their culture and to be “Proud Jamaicans”. During his speech, he broke into a call and response session, where he identified things Jamaican – Usain Bolt, Reggae, White Rum, dip and fall back, jerk chicken and Miss Lou, to the enthusiastic audience response “I am Jamaican and I’m proud”.
“We invite the community to join us as we celebrate and preserve the legacy of Miss Lou”, stated Colin Smith, President of the Louise Bennett-Coverley Heritage Council. “Over the course of the year we have held a number of events including our annual reading festival, but the centenary celebration will allow us to make a major impact and help us to continue to present scholarships and work with the Edna Manley College and the Louise Bennett Basic school in Jamaica as well as Broward College here in Broward County.”
The evening also included video clips of a documentary on Miss Lou, which was produced by Joan Andrea Hutchinson and Island Stylee, and the Jamaican Folk Singers in performance. The Sierra Norwood Calvary Baptist Church Cultural Group brought nostalgia with the well-loved ring games, and Malachi Smith and Maxine Osbourne role played Miss Lou and Mas Ran. Refreshment was provided by JURA and Eddy Edwards was MC for the program.
Tickets for the Miss Lou Full Hundred are available online atwww.louisebennettheritage.com and selected retail outlets. Sponsors for the event are The Jamaica Tourist Board, Lasco Chin Foundation, JN Bank, Broward County Library, Friends of the Broward Library.