Monday, July 31, 2006

"Walk Good" Miss Lou!

Tribute to The Late Hon. Louise Bennett-Coverley, O.M, O.J., M.B.E., Dip R.A.D.A., D. Litt (Hon)

(September 17, 1919 - July 27, 2006)

Jamaica's Cultural Icon, the Honourable Louise Bennett-Coverley, died in Toronto, Canada on Thursday, July 27, 2006.

"Miss Lou", as she was affectionately called by the Jamaican people,
was a household name in Jamaica. Her contribution to Jamaica's cultural development was second to none. She was a Culture Preserver and earned the title Jamaica's Cultural Ambassador.

She was a Jamaican Poet and the country's leading Comedienne. Her poems (which were in Patois) brought out all the various facets of the Jamaican culture.

At first, Louise Bennett used to be 'out of favour' with educated Jamaicans who looked down at Patois since they believed in speaking Oxford English.

Miss Lou made Jamaicans proud of their Patois and was instrumental in helping them to recognize that this unique dialect will always remain a part of their cultural heritage.

She was a Poet, Storyteller, Actress and Broadcaster who devoted her life to the study of Jamaican folklore.

Some of her publications were:

Verses in Jamaican Dialect - 1942

Anancy Stories and Poems in Dialect - 1944

Anancy Stories and Dialect Verse - 1950

Lulu Says: Dialect Verses with Glossary - 1952

Laugh with Louise: A collection of Jamaican FolkLore, Stories, Songs and Verses - 1961

Jamaican Labrish - 1966

Anancy and Miss Lou - 1979

Lawd … Di Riddim Sweet: Explains the context of a number of Jamaican folk songs and poems

Aunty Roachy Seh: Collection of monologues in prose - 1993

Louise Bennett's poems will always remain current and relevant in the Jamaican society. She was successful in her mission to have folklore recognized as an important part of the Jamaican Culture and because of her perseverance, Patois was 'legitimized'.

Miss Lou brought respect to the Jamaican Culture especially the Dialect. She made Patois an important part of the Jamaican Culture and was instrumental in its international recognition.

Miss Lou had several sound recordings which included "Anancy Stories", "Listen to Louise" and "Miss Lou's Views".

She promoted the Jamaican Culture by lecturing and performing throughout the world on this subject and was a Celebrity within her own country, Jamaica, W.I.

The famous Jamaican weekly radio show - "The Lou and Ranny Show" had Jamaicans (including myself!) glued to their radio every week that this comedy was being aired. "Miss Lou" and "Mass Ran" became an inseparable duo in the Jamaican theatre and were loved dearly by the Jamaican people. Ranny Williams ("Mass Ran") died some years ago.

Louise Bennett, along with Ranny Williams, took part in leading humourous roles in several Jamaican Pantomimes and television shows. Going to these Pantomimes was a Jamaican tradition for us Jamaicans. I will always cherish the memories of attending these annual Pantomimes!

Miss Lou was inducted as a Fellow of the Institute of Jamaica at the Little Theatre in Jamaica.

Miss Lou hosted several radio shows in Jamaica and was the host on the famous Jamaican children's TV show "Ring Ding".

Her outstanding contribution to the development of Arts and Culture in Jamaica earned her several awards.

In recognition of her work as an Author, Dramatist and Comedienne, she was awarded the M.B.E. (Member of the Order of the British Empire); for her work in Jamaican Literature and Theatre - the Norman Manley Award for Excellence; the Order of Jamaica (O.J. - Jamaica's highest Order) for her work in the field of Native Culture and the Gold Musgrave Medal in 1978 in recognition for her contribution to the Development of the Arts in Jamaica and the Caribbean.

On Jamaica’s Independence Day in 2001, Miss Lou was presented with the Order of Merit (O.M.) for her distinguished contribution to the development of the Arts and Culture.

She received Honorary Degrees of Doctor of Letters from both the University of the West Indies, Jamaica, West Indies and the York University, Toronto, Canada.

She was also appointed Cultural Ambassador at Large for Jamaica by the Jamaican Government.

Louise Bennett was married to Eric Coverley who pre-deceased her.

I could not end this Tribute to this great and outstanding uncrowned queen of Jamaica without quoting one of her famous poems. Here it is - Enjoy!:

This poem relates to a Jamaican returning from the United States of America without a 'twang' (accent) which is unlike a Jamaican!

"No Lickle Twang"

Me glad fi see yuh come back, bwoy,
But lawd, yuh let me dung
Me shame a yuh so till all a
Me proudness drop a grung.
Yuh mean yuh go dah Merica
An spen six whole mont deh,
An come back not a piece better
Dan how yuh did go weh?
Bwoy, yuh no shame? Is so yuh come?
After yuh tan so lang!
Not even lickle language, bwoy?
Not even lickle twang?

An yuh sister what work ongle
One week wid Merican
She talk so nice now dat we have
De jooce fi understand?
Bwoy, yuh couldn improve yuhself!
An yuh get so much pay?
Yuh spen six mont a foreign, an
Come back ugly same way?
Not even a drapes trousiz, or
A pass de riddim coat?
Bwoy, not even a gole teet or
A gole chain roun yuh troat?

Suppose me laas me pass go introjooce
Yuh to a stranger
As me lamented son what lately
Come from Merica!
Dem hooda laugh after me, bwoy!
Me couldn tell dem so!
Dem hooda seh me lie, yuh wasa
Spen time back a Mocho!
No back-answer me, bwoy - yuh talk
Too bad! Shet up yuh mout!
Ah doan know how yuh an yuh puppa
Gwine to meck it out.
Ef yuh waan please him, meck him tink
Yuh bring back someting new.
Yuh always call him 'Pa' - dis evenin
When him comes seh 'Poo’.

This is truly The Jamaican Culture!

"Miss Lou, I salute you! Walk good, Miss Lou!"

May her soul rest in peace!

("Walk Good" was popularly used by Miss Lou and is a Jamaican "goodbye"!)