Sun | Sep 22, 2019

Miss Lou storyboard tells story of Jamaica’s most revered cultural icon

Published:Saturday | September 7, 2019 | 12:08 AMLynford Simpson/Gleaner Writer

There will be a special component to the 100-day centenary celebrations for the life of Jamaica’s most revered cultural icon, Louise Bennett-Coverley, courtesy of a storyboard that has been created by prominent businessman Kevin O’Brien Chang.

The storyboard will be a key part of the centenary celebrations, which got under way with the official launch on Sunday, September 1, by the minister of culture, gender, entertainment and sport, Olivia Grange, during a service at Coke Memorial Methodist Church in downtown Kingston.

O’Brien Chang told The Gleaner that he was inspired to create the storyboard for the country’s “greatest cultural icon” while talking to a member of staff of the Ministry of Culture, Gender, Entertainment and Sport, Joan Archibald, about Miss Lou.

“She mentioned that a young lady she knew said, ‘You know, I love Miss Lou, but I don’t know that much about her,’” O’Brien Chang shared.

“I thought, ‘That’s a common sentiment’. There are a lot of young people that have this great love, this great affection for Miss Lou, but they are not quite sure why, and you can’t blame them,” O’Brien Chang said.

He noted that the popular television show for children Ring Ding, which was hosted by Miss Lou and broadcast on the now-­defunct Jamaica Broadcasting Corporation on Saturdays, ended in about 1980.

LIMITED FACTS

O’Brien Chang lamented that there were not many facts out there about Miss Lou, who died on July 26, 2007, at 87 years old.

“So I said to Joan, ‘We should work on a storyboard telling the people about Miss Lou in terms of her contribution to Jamaica’s cultural development’.

“We have been working on it, partnering with the Ministry of Culture, and so Fontana has come up with a storyboard, and we’re going to distribute it to all the schools in Jamaica,” said the businessman.

The Fontana director said that high schools, which number more than 150, will receive framed storyboards, while the more than 1,500 other schools, including those at the primary level, will receive storyboards that are laminated 11x17 copies.

“In this way, all the schools can know what Miss Lou was about – why as Jamaicans, we revere and love her.”

Said O’Brien Chang: “She created our culture almost single-handedly, making dialect acceptable, putting it in print in The Gleaner.”

The Fontana director, political and social commentator, and author pointed to the longevity of Miss Lou’s poems, like ‘Dutty Tuff’, which was written 77 years ago but still inspires young people, who like to perform it during the annual competition of the Jamaica Cultural Development Commission around the Emancipendence celebrations.

“The pride that Jamaicans have around the world, whether it is our athletes or musicians, that pride wasn’t there before Miss Lou,” he stated.

O’Brien Chang pointed out that when nobody spoke proudly in Jamaican dialect, when we were still a colony of Britain and ruled by the English, Miss Lou spoke out.

He said that by empowering the language, Miss Lou made Jamaicans proud of other aspects of their heritage.

The first paragraph of the storyboard states who Miss Lou was, including how she championed Jamaican culture longer than anyone else. It explains how she put Jamaican dialect in print nationally.

Paragraph two explains why Jamaicans respect and revere Miss Lou. This, O’Brien Chang explained, is because she “spoke to us and for us as no one before. She knew Jamaican culture better than anyone else. She inspired West Indian cultural emancipation”.

Paragraph three of the storyboard is in Miss Lou’s own words – ‘this is who I am’.

Paragraph four details how the cultural giant fought for black liberation in the same vein as Marcus Garvey, and, later, Peter Tosh and Bob Marley, whom she inspired.

Paragraph five highlights the national and global impact of Miss Lou.

“She made us proud to be Jamaican and created a culture that conquered the world,” O’Brien Chang said.

All universities in Jamaica, as well as Jamaican missions and embassies overseas, will be presented with framed copies of the Miss Lou storyboard.