Arts & Culture

Petition falls flat

One, one signature fails to fill Miss Lou's basket

BY RICHARD JOHNSON
Observer senior reporter
johnsonr@jamaicaobserver.com

Thursday, September 07, 2017

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TODAY marks the 98th anniversary of the birth of renowned folklorist Louise Bennett-Coverley, better known as Miss Lou. It also marks the closing date of a petition to have her named an official National Icon.

Up to yesterday, the signatures for the petition was nowhere near the 15,000 required for it to be considered for discussion by the Office of the Prime Minister, which organised the portal on its Jamaica House website. The petition attracted 1,477 signatures or just shy of 10 per cent of the target.

The petition, created by public commentator and newspaper columnist Kevin O'Brien Chang on May 12, calls for a new category of national honours be created for Miss Lou, and that she should be made our first official National Icon, noting that other widely acclaimed individuals like Bob Marley and Usain Bolt could be added in future years.

It further states that Miss Lou — who is know for her work as a poet, actress, writer, and broadcaster — insisted on the inherent worth of Jamaican expression, established respect in the people for their language and tradition, and helped bring about emancipation from mental and linguistic slavery.

Veteran actress and broadcaster Fae Ellington weighed in on the petition's failure to attract the required number of signatures.

For Ellington, a number of factors contributed to the lack of support.

“When I first got the notification about the petition, I decided to vote. I went to the site and voted... for days I did not get the confirmation e-mail. So I called the Office of the Prime Minister and the JIS (Jamaica Information Service), who were managing the portal. So I believe there are some persons who may have signed and were not registered; it may not be many, but it's a possibility,” she told the Jamaica Observer.

Ellington also theorised that the petition was not properly publicised and limiting it to the website only was short-sighted.

“You cannot only use social media to spread word on a matter such as this. A large number of persons who would have been interested in something like this do not access social media. This needed to be circulated to churches, schools, community groups in order to get the word out. All JCDC's (Jamaica Cultural Development Commission) parish offices and the head office should have been points to collect signatures,” said Ellington.

She said the issue of a National Icon and what it means needed to be explained, as for many Miss Lou is already an icon and, therefore, there was no need to sign a petition. In addition, she said there are individuals rooting for her to be named a National Hero and by signing this petition they would be supporting a lesser rank and status for the popular folklorist.

Miss Lou died on July 27, 2006 at the Scarborough Grace Hospital, after collapsing at her home in Canada where lived for the last decade of her life. She is interred in the cultural icons section of the country's National Heroes' Park in Kingston.

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