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Robeson's shining example lights up US Embassy

Published:Tuesday | January 24, 2012 | 12:00 AM
Damion Crawford, state minister in the Ministry of Tourism and Entertainment, unveils the Paul Robeson plaque with Susan Robeson (second left), chair of the Paul Robeson Foundation; United States Ambassador to Jamaica, Pamela Bridgewater (second right), and student Kathy Smith, outside the Paul Robeson Information Resource Center at the US Embassy in Kingston yesterday. - Rudolph Brown/Photographer

To Susan Robeson, her grandfather was a citizen of the world, who lived by five core values that helped to shape the life of the icon, Paul Robeson.

The award-winning United States (US) documentary filmmaker and chair of the Paul Robeson Foundation is in Jamaica for a three-day visit to unveil a plaque and the naming of the Paul Robeson Information Resource Center (IRC) at the US Embassy in Kingston, in commemoration of the great African American singer, actor, athlete, author, lawyer and civil rights activist.

"There were five basic principles that guided his life. Strive for excellence, be the best you can possibly be through hard work and discipline, aim for perfection instead of just being as good as or better than someone else; success without advancing the interest of our people as a whole was worthless; the pursuit of knowledge is a quest that never ends; have the courage of your conviction and be willing to make sacrifices to do the right thing; And when life gets tough, step into it, not away from it," she shared yesterday during the naming ceremony at the US Embassy, located in St Andrew.

Culture as a tool

US Ambassador Pamela Bridgewater said Robeson, who paid a historic visit to Jamaica in 1948, used culture as a tool and platform to fight injustice.

"Paul Robeson faced many challenges throughout his life, but he remained a sterling and shining example of patriotism, pride, elegance and humility," Bridgewater said.

Born the son of a runaway slave in New Jersey, US in 1898, Robeson was one of the forerunners of the civil rights movement. He became a global figure campaigning against racism and participating in peace rallies worldwide.

At the ceremony, Kathy Smith of Manchester High School read her winning entry on Robeson in the US Embassy's 'Name the IRC' essay competition.