Several activities are slated to be held islandwide during September to commemorate the life and work of one of Jamaica's renowned cultural exponents, the Honourable Louise Simone Bennett-Coverley, fondly known as 'Miss Lou'.
The activities, being organised by the Jamaica Cultural Development Commission (JCDC), include: Ring Ding in the Park; tribute concerts; Miss Lou debates; storytelling; library exhibitions; booth displays; and drama, speech and dance presentations.
The events, which will take place in all parishes, are slated to get under way on Thursday and culminate on September 29.
Miss Lou, who was born in Kingston on September 7, 1919, evolved as one of Jamaica's foremost poets, folklorists and educators, and became renowned for writing and performing her pieces in the indigenous Jamaican Patois or creole. Some of her famous poems include: 'Dry-Foot Bwoy'; 'Back to Africa'; 'Colonisation in Reverse'; and 'Noh little Twang'. She passed away on July 26, 2006 in Toronto, Canada, where she resided during the last decade of her life. She would have celebrated her 93rd birthday this year.
The JCDC's Director of Field Services Marjorie Leyden-Vernon says that each year, the agency collaborates with parish libraries, schools and community groups to host events in honour of Miss Lou.
Cultural organiser for the JCDC in St Ann, Wentlyn Mantle, says plans are well under way for the staging of that parish's events at the St Ann's Bay Parish Library on September 28, beginning at 10 a.m.
The scheduled activities include: speech and drama presentations and an exposition. Additionally, he says schools will also be invited to make special presentations under the theme: 'Celebrating Miss Lou'.
"So far, we are progressing quite okay. It is just for us to put the final touches on some of the plans. We are asking the schools ... to come and be a part of the celebration. We are celebrating a great Jamaican icon; she is really one of the persons we look up to. We always look forward to the time when we can celebrate and bring back the memories of this great woman," he adds.
The Westmoreland Parish Library in Savanna-la-Mar will, on Thursday, host an exhibition and tribute concert starting at 10 a.m. The St James Parish Library in Montego Bay will also stage a concert on September 25, beginning at 10 a.m. Later that day, the Portland Parish Library in Port Antonio will host a Miss Lou Jamaica 50 poetry competition and tribute concert, starting at 5 p.m.
Debates and tribute concerts are also scheduled for the Clarendon Parish Library in May Pen, and the Trelawny Parish Library in Falmouth, on September 27 and 28, respectively.
In Kingston and St Andrew, the JCDC will collaborate with stakeholders in Gordon Town, St Andrew, to stage a grand celebratory family fun day event, dubbed: 'Tenky Miss Lou', in the community's square and its immediate environs, on September 29.
Tour of Miss Lou's house
Parish cultural organiser Nahemia Lusan says the activities will be held from noon to 9 p.m., and one of the day's highlights will be a tour of Miss Lou's house where she lived while residing in the community with husband Eric Winston Coverley. The first tour begins at 1 p.m., with the others are scheduled to get under way at 3 p.m., for what is expected to be a fun-filled experience.
"There will be storytellers there (and) we will be giving visitors complimentary lemonade at Miss Lou's house; the entire day will be filled with events for the children. Once you go up to Miss Lou's house, events will be there, in the square at Gordon Town, events will always be there as well," Lusan says, while adding that patrons must register before entering the house.
Other scheduled attractions and events include a kiddies' village; bandana fashion show; showcasing of traditional foods; and live demonstrations of traditional folk forms, including Jonkonnu dances.
The activities will culminate in the evening with a Gyal and Bwoy Concert, featuring gospel and secular artistes; 'Ring Ding Sinting', showcasing cultural pieces from the JCDC Festival of the Performing Arts; and a Nyammins segment displaying traditional foods.
According to Lusan, a number of public- and private-sector entities, as well as stakeholders from communities in and around Gordon Town, will be showcasing their products. These include foods indigenous to the Gordon Town community.
"We will be having a CDC (Community Development Committee) competition with the communities; they will be putting out items that community members made. We will be having a number of persons who will be coming on board from private-sector companies, and (there are) a few more to be confirmed," she disclosed.
Additionally, she says the booths to be mounted will be judged and prizes awarded to organisations based on their displays and representations of Miss Lou and the theme for the Jamaica 50 Independence celebrations: 'Jamaica 50: A Nation on a Mission'.
Launched some four years ago, Tenky Miss Lou has, over the years, received strong support from the residents and other stakeholders of Gordon Town.
"We felt that it was important to keep that legacy alive; the memory of her and what she has done for our theatre, our Patois," Lusan says.
She adds that community members play a vital role in planning the celebrations, noting that the event has also helped to promote community tourism in the area and educate young people about Miss Lou's life and work.
Lusan says a significant number of sponsors have gotten involved this year, which will help to make the event bigger and better.
"We have a number of persons who are (always) willing to give and to assist us with the planning of the programme. This is overwhelming this year," she informs.
Additionally, she says, persons performing at the function will be offering their services free of cost.
"It is just a wonderful reception that we have been getting from the wide public," she states, while pointing out that the events are free of cost.
"We are inviting everyone to come. We want the support of Jamaicans to pay homage to Ms Lou and to be a part of what is happening in their communities," Lusan urges.