Sun | Apr 21, 2019

Nurturing continues in Hyatt's name

Published:Tuesday | October 17, 2017 | 12:00 AMMel Cooke
Charles Hyatt Jr speaks with actress and broadcaster Fae Ellington.
Charles Hyatt Jr speaks at the official launch of The Charles Hyatt Foundation, held at The Boardwalk, The Pantry, Dumfries Road, New Kingston on March 21, 2011.
Charles Hyatt Jr
Charles Hyatt Jr (left) with his father.

Although there was heavy rainfall across Jamaica from Hurricane Irma, so far this year the country has not had a direct hit in a season rife with tempests. However, it does not take a hurricane to prompt Charles Hyatt Jr's memory of being given yet more insight into his late father's personality and impact after Tropical Storm Gustav in 2008, the year after his father died.

Fallen trees blocked the road and as Hyatt Jr told The Gleaner "I took a hand saw and said I will clear the road by myself, if necessary." A man who was passing remarked that Hyatt Jr was doing a good thing and asked his name. When the response was Charles Hyatt, the man spoke about theimpact that the dead actor, playwright, director and broadcaster had on his life. "I was a madman on the street. If it was not for your farher," the man said.

"My father sat beside him on the street and said, 'You are not a madman. Come to me at JBC (the Jamaica Broadcasting Corporation)," Hyatt Jr said.

It is this demonstrated caring and informal intervention on which the Charles Hyatt Foundation, which Hyatt Jr is in charge of, is based. Having been helped, Hyatt was intent on assisting others. And, in their father-son conversations just before his death, Hyatt told the son named after him

"Please make sure they remember me". And he also instructed, "Whatever you do, don't hurt anybody."

The non-profit organisation runs 'Straight Talk', a programme which shows youngsters how to turn talent into a profession much as the senior Hyatt's gift for entertaining others was shaped into a career, where he did the radio serials Here Comes Charley and When Me Was a Bway; acted in numerous plays, including Two Can Play and School's Out, as well as several National Pantomimes, in addition to working on radio.

Hyatt Jr said with Straight Talk he does to schools (so far the then Alpha Boy's Home and Boys' Town) and starts out by asking students what they like to do and invariably gets responses like playing football. He then asks how much time they spend doing what they like to do. "Then we get into the gritty," Hyatt Jr said,"I ask them, wouldn't it be great to get paid for doing what you like?"

That is when there is laughter, sometimes, but Hyatt is not joking, as he says, "I will get someone to come here who is doing what you like." The intention is not only to show them what is possible, but how to go about achieving it.

"A lot of these youngsters are memorising for an exam. When the exam passes, so does the memory," Hyatt Jr said. Straight Talk has been run at The Jamaica Information Service website says Charles Hyatt attended St Aloysious Boys School and St Simon's College in Jamaica, then Theatre Royal in the United Kingdom. However, Hyatt Jr adds that his father was orphaned when he was 13 years old, leading to some very hard times. "He slept under people's houses. He and his cousin had an innate talent to make people laugh," Hyatt Jr said.

And although his parents were dead, Hyatt had learnt life lessons from them. "From he was a pickney, his father and mother drummed into him that whatever you do, do it to the best it can be done," Hyatt Jr said. His father did and that led to meeting people like Louise 'Miss Lou' Bennett-Coverley and Ranny 'Maas Ran' Williams, who were among Hyatt's mentors.

The Charles Hyatt Foundation has also offered a scholarship to a drama student at the Edna Manley College for the Visual and Performing Arts, but in the first year no one with the required academic standard applied.

Since then, there has been no applications. Additionally, there is Good News Jamaica, which puts out positive news about the country on the Internet.

At this point in the evolution of the Charles Hyatt Foundation, Hyatt Jr tells The Gleaner "I have been the director for a long time. I am now at the point where it needs someone who knows how to run a non-profit."