Fri | Feb 28, 2020

St Thomas to host inaugural poetry festival

Published:Tuesday | January 22, 2019 | 12:15 AM

Game changers in St Thomas are thinking big this year as they continue to advocate for and establish new ways to sell their beloved parish.

One such initiative that will go down in history is the inaugural staging of what is being called the St Thomas Heritage and Poetry Festival set for March 31 at the Lyssons Beach.

Event lead and one of the parish’s most notable advocates Omar Ryan told The Gleaner that the festival’s inspiration comes from the rich historical legacy of St Thomas, which he revealed has a unique African heritage in comparison to other parishes.

“It was in St Thomas more than 11,000 free Africans came after Emancipation and brought with them customs of the Congo, particularly located in the eastern side of the parish. These customs are responsible for Kumina and Pocomania. This is the birthplace for Rastafari, ideally because of our African heritage. Rastafari is now truly a global cultural force that started right here. We have one of Jamaica’s favourite heroes that identifies with African people’s causes, the Right Excellent Paul Bogle. I am of the view that these types of legacies, coupled with our natural scenic and picturesque mountains, unexplored beaches and the vibrancy of the people, must be celebrated to remind the people of St Thomas of their true identity and strength,” he said.

The festival is to be a showcase of Kumina and Nyabinghi drumming, poetry, literature, drama, storytelling, products, fashion, and a variety of food, to include jerk, vegetarian, and various items made from coconut, among other creative initiatives of the locals.

Ryan noted that the event will send a true message of hope for the ‘forgotten land’.

Economic initiative

According to him, “We trust we can use this as an economic initiative to bring heritage tourism to St Thomas and make this festival in time the largest and most attractive in the Caribbean.”

Set to perform so far are the Port Morant Kumina Group, Wise Words, Steppa, Amaziyah the Great, Cherry Natural, Meeka Nyota, and Ryan, who goes by the stage name Melenin, among a few other notable local poets who are in the final stages of confirmation.

Sponsors such as the Tourism Product Development Company, Irie FM, Bless to Bless Foundation, and Oriental Food Store in Morant Bay are already on board.

“We are currently seeking additional sponsors and persons interested in booth spaces. We are also interested in getting the Ministry of Culture and Entertainment on board as an important partner,” he said, adding that he hopes the festival will serve as an inspiration to the people of St Thomas to show them they are not hopeless.

Persons wishing to get involved in the St Thomas Heritage and Poetry Festival may contact Omar Ryan at