Happy birthday, Lady B!
Published: Friday | March 13, 2009
Prime Minister Bruce Golding (left) in conversation with Ken Jones (centre) and Transport and Works Minister Mike Henry.
She is the mother of the modern trade union movement here in Jamaica, her role as backbone and pillar of the then fledgling movement, unimpeachable.
She is Jamaica's unheralded first lady of style and served as the first home-grown role model for many women. She struggled with the emerging national identity and the role of women in post-Independence Jamaica. Her role in helping to define and place in proper perspective our national identity made her an iconic figure in the decades of the late 1930s into the 1970s. She is The Most Honourable Lady Bustamante.
Revered by the many whose cause she served at the side of national hero Sir Alexander Bustamante, Lady Bustamante represents the last surviving living nexus. She connects us with our struggles for political independence, the rights to self-determination and the creation of many of our institutions now serving the country in politics and labour.
With the great lady now in the twilight of her years, it is fitting to reflect on her selfless commitment and dedication to nation building through her pivotal role in the history of Jamaica. It is more than fitting that we acknowledge this great daughter of the people, who rose to become the mother of the nation.
Rose to the challenge
The story of the life and times of Lady Bustamante is synonymous with the history of contemporary Jamaica. A lady who was called to greatness by her nation and not unlike that nation, rose to the challenge with great equanimity and shone through like a beacon of hope and inspiration to all. Sadly, the nation has come to take her existence and the role she played for granted.
Instead of documenting her contribution over the years, we seemed content to have used her for ceremonial window-dressing and, as her health declined, seemed even more content to let her be. In other cultures, songs would have been written about this noble lady, movies would have been commissioned to document her role and contribution and poets would have been lauding not only her commitment and devotion to duty over the years, but more so, her existence.
Members of the Bustamante Foundation, headed by its chairman, Dr Victor Page and wife Evelyn Page, gathered at Bustamante House on Tucker Avenue on March 8, where the newly established Bustamante Museum is housed, along with a number of specially invited guests, to celebrate the 97th birthday of Lady Bustamante - and it was a most fitting tribute.
Guests were treated to a television programme by TVJ depicting the life and work of the Bustamantes and their contribution to national development. It outlined their impact and outreach over the many decades they served publicly and as private citizens.
This was followed by a DVD presentation of the museum on its opening on February 3, showcasing the event as well as highlighting the long-term hopes and objectives of the foundation. This all created a sense of connectivity and continuity, much to the appreciation of those in attendance.
Following the presentations, guests mingled and moved about the museum, basking in the rich history and legacy. The well-known pianist, Douglasse Burrulace entertained the guests on Lady B's piano with a variety of classics, soul, reggae, pop and traditional Jamaican folk songs. It added a delightful interlude to the proceedings during cocktails.
A birthday cake, depicting 97 in white and pink, was baked by Evelyn Sangster-Barnes, Lady B's goddaughter and niece of former Prime Minister Sir Donald Sangster, who flew in from New York to celebrate. The cake was ceremoniously cut by the president of the Senate, Dr Oswald Harding, and others. It made for a most heart-warming and moving moment.
With spirits soaring in the majesty of the moment, the arrival of Prime Minister Bruce Golding, himself in high-spirits, made the celebrations more poignant. The prime minister being a successor of Bustamante and leader of the political movement the National Hero founded. It all made for a very charming outing, the one expressed regret being Lady Bustamante's absence, due to ill health.
Among the guests present were Transport Minister Mike Henry and his fab wife Dawn Chambers Henry; President of the Bustamante Industrial Trade Union, Kavan Gayle and General Secretary George Fyffe; daughter of former Governor General Sir Florizel Glasspole, Sara-Lou Mena and husband Dr Adolfo Mena and their children, Alex and Christina; Nora Strudwick; Joseph and Clair McPherson; Barbara Gloudon; Stuart and Terry Hanson; Vivian Crawford; Paulette Thompson; Earle Lewis; Alty and Minnie Wong; Ainsley and Marjorie Henriques, Ken and Gloria Jones; Patrick Bailey; Dr Evadne Williams; Richard Waugh; Maxine Burgess; Henry Bryan; manager of the Bustamante Museum, Eddie Shoucair; member of the Bustamante Foundation, Dr Sheila Wynter; chairman of the Bustamante Museum Establishment Committee, Seragh Lakasingh, and wife Effie; Dr Joyce Robinson, chairman of the foundation's scholarship committee, and others.
(From left) Seragh and Effie Lakasingh, Terry and Stuart Hanson and Evelyn Sangster-Barnes enjoy each other's company at Sunday's celebration in honour of Lady Bustamante's birthday held at the Bustamante Museum on Tucker Avenue in St Andrew. - Photos by Winston Sill/Freelance Photographer
Talk-show host Barbara Gloudon (left) in a jovial mood with (from second left), Patrick Bailey, Effie Lakasingh and Evelyn Sangster-Barnes.
The Bustamante Museum has a wealth of information and Prime Minister Bruce Golding (left) and Dr Victor Page, chairman of the Bustamante Foundation, found some of it very interesting.
Claire McPherson (left), husband Joe McPherson and their niece Tracy-Ann Cunningham.
Pianist Douglasse Burrulace provided music for Lady B's birthday celebrations and used her piano in the process. Vivian Crawford enjoyed every minute of it.