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Edna Manley College celebrates Ranny Williams

Published:Tuesday | October 30, 2018 | 12:00 AMMel Cooke
Ranny Williams
Amina Blackwood-Meeks.


Last Thursday, the Edna Manley College of the Visual and Performing Arts, celebrated theatre practitioner, comedian and Garveyite Ranny Williams, a day before his October 26 birthday. The Jamaica Information Service (JIS) website states that Randolph Samuel Williams, popularly known as Mas Ran, was born in Colon, Panama, in 1912, and came to Jamaica when he was six years old. He died on August, 11, 1980.

'Colon Man a Come,' was presented in tea meeting style, with dance, music and drama students participating.

The college's orator, Dr Amina Blackwood Meeks, linked the most recent edition of the institution's three year-old (He)) Art of the Matter: Talking on Purpose series, to not only show the students and the public the possibilities within art, but also links with the college. "This year we have been looking at art forms in Jamaica, the college either gave birth to, or is heavily contributing to," Blackwood Meeks said, naming dub poetry with Mikey Smith and Oku Onuora among them. "In Jamaica, there is something called comedy. Comedians have come out of the college, and some teach here," she said, Owen 'Blakka' Ellis falls into both categories.

"Where is this tradition coming from? On whose shoulders do we stand?" she asked. "Clearly we stand on the shoulders of Ranny Williams."

However, there is more a fun and laughter to Williams' art, with Blackwood Meeks pointing out that in his comedy, Williams "turned historical figures on their head, and showed how ridiculous they are." But there is one historical figure who Williams took very seriously.

At 18 years old, he was invited by Universal Negro Improvement Association (UNIA) founder Marcus Garvey, to organise events at Edelweiss Park. "What kind of head space would he (Williams) have been in at that time? And what kind of organisational skill would he have had for Garvey to say 'you run this thing'?" Blackwood Meeks asked. "We also have to contemplate what Williams did not get, because he was linked to Garvey."

On its website, the Little Theatre Movement (LTM) says Williams and Lee Gordon, who performed as the duo Amos and Andy, appeared in the second Pantomime, 'Babes in the Woods,' and appeared in over 29 stagings of the annual production. He also wrote 'Jamaica Way' and 'Quashie Lady'. The Ranny Williams Entertainment Centre at 36 Hope Road is named after him.

Analysis of Peter Tosh's spiritual grounding and an examination of the Calabash, Reggae Sunsplash and Rebel Salute festivals have been a part of the old [He]Art of the Matter: Talking on Purpose series. The college says the series is "designed to facilitate an engagement and exchange of ideas between students and leaders of the creative and cultural industries and their counterparts in business and community development."