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Miss Lou statue a fitting tribute

Sunday, September 09, 2018

The quote that “True icons are larger than life, unforgettable with an elegance that's mesmerizingly timeless” certainly depicts the late Mrs Louise Bennett-Coverley, better known as “Miss Lou”, whose statue was unveiled in Gordon Town square, St Andrew, on Thursday evening.

That Miss Lou was a giant of her time and an exceptional human being is incontestable. Indeed, we remember well the flood of tributes in her honour after her passing in Canada in July 2006, many of which spoke to her courageous defence of Jamaican culture and relentless promotion of the island's folklore worldwide.

That she succeeded in those tasks spoke to her skill as a communicator, talent as a performer, but more so her sharp intellect and warm personality. Indeed, Miss Lou had the ability to put people at ease with her infectious chuckle that came with such spontaneity and generosity of spirit that you could not help but laugh on hearing her expound on matters.

Older Jamaicans will remember with pride her humorous radio shows, including the weekday lunchtime monologue titled 'Miss Lou's Views', in which she not only made light of current affairs but highlighted sometimes pressing social issues, giving us reason to pause and think.

For a fact, Miss Lou was more than a mere performing artiste. She was a social commentator and ambassador for a people who, in the early days of Jamaican statehood, were looked down on by the upper classes.

At the time of her passing, we noted in this space that Miss Lou's ability to maintain her dignity while confronting bitter opponents of Jamaica's culture spoke to her character as a decent human being who eventually created opportunities for other Jamaican artistes, many of whom are, to this day, paying homage to her.

Erecting the statue of her in Gordon Town, the community in which she lived for many years, is indeed fitting and presents an opportunity for the country and the community to further preserve her legacy.

Mr Peter Clarke, who told this newspaper that he has been living in Gordon Town for 50 years, expressed not only his pride at the development, but said he is hopeful that it can bring more recognition to Gordon Town.

“The fact is that people will be coming here just to see this statue and to take a picture just like how they go to Bob Marley statue down by the National Stadium,” Mr Clarke said.

“So improving the environment and the environs will then make the whole package a whole lot more attractive. That means that the word will get out and more and more people will come and they will all want service — even a soft drink, a patty, whatever it is,” he reasoned.

He may very well be right, but achieving that will require an effort by the community to make sure that visitors — both local and foreign — feel welcome. It will also require targeted marketing and promotion which the Jamaica Tourist Board can and should provide, similar to what is being done for Trench Town Culture Yard and other heritage attractions islandwide.

The custos of St Andrew, Mrs Marigold Harding, is reported as saying that the initiative to erect the statue was first expressed by the Gordon Town Community Council on August 12, 2012, and was supported by 320 people representing the wider community.

While the plan to unveil it during Jamaica's 50th anniversary of independence celebrations fell through, the planners remained committed to the project. For that they should be commended, because The Honourable Louise Bennett-Coverley, Order of Merit, Order of Jamaica, and Member of the British Empire, has etched Jamaica's name in the annals of history with her writings, larger-than-life stage performances, and patriotism.