Tue | Sep 19, 2017

Miss Lou Archives launched at National Library of Jamaica to promote her great legacy

Published:Friday | October 21, 2016 | 10:00 AMJason Cross
Olivia ‘Babsy’ Grange (right), minister of culture, gender affairs, entertainment and sport, greets Miss Lou’s son, Fabian Coverley (centre), and Professor Mervyn Morris (left), Poet Laureate of Jamaica, during yesterday’s launch of Miss Lou Archives at the National Library of Jamaica.

Jamaicans will now have access to a personal collection of unpublished material, including photographs, recordings, diaries and letters that were all a part of the life and works of one of Jamaica's cultural icons, Louise Bennett Coverley, popularly called Miss Lou.

The National Library of Jamaica yesterday launched The Miss Lou Archives at its offices on East Street in downtown Kingston.

Miss Lou was born in Kingston, Jamaica in 1919. She died on July 26, 2006 in Toronto, Canada.

Throughout her years, she was a well-recognised poet and a major advocate for the use of Jamaican dialect. She also conducted numerous lectures at universities overseas.

Minister of Culture, Gender Affairs, Entertainment and Sports Olivia 'Babsy' Grange said that Miss Lou taught Jamaicans how to value their culture.

VALUING OUR CREATION

"She taught us to value the creation of our people, to accept our ways of expression, to celebrate our unique Jamaican 'swag' and spirit and to be confident in who we are. As Jamaicans, we have developed confidence in ourselves and in our compatriots. Thanks in large part to the lessons of Miss Lou, the mother of Jamaican culture," Grange said.

She continued: "Miss Lou cannot be confined to our glorious past. She is still relevant today. Her legacy lives on in us and is very much alive at the National Library ... . Miss Lou has played so many roles in Jamaican culture."

Joy Douglas, chairman of the Board of Management at the National Library of Jamaica, said Miss Lou had a way of making people feel good about themselves through her work.

"I am a product of Miss Lou. The key thing about it is that Miss Lou always tried to make us feel good about ourselves, even when she spoke about some of the very serious issues that we confront in this society. She found a way to smile about it and speak about it in a manner that would cause us to transform ourselves, so as to transform our society," Douglas said.

Miss Lou's son, Fabian Coverley, quoted a line from the late American poet, Maya Angelou, to express what his mother meant to him and people in general.

"I quote from a friend, the late Maya Angelou: 'I've learnt that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did but people will not forget how you made them feel.' Miss Lou made us feel happy, proud to be who we are, and that feeling has been with me all my life. With the archive now at the National Library, it will facilitate keeping the memories of Miss Lou alive," he said.

jason.cross@gleanerjm.com