|Birth: ||Sep. 7, 1919|
|Death: ||Jul. 26, 2006|
Poet and activist, and Jamaica's 8th designated National Hero.
Known fondly on her Caribbean island and throughout the Jamaican diaspora as "Miss Lou", Louise Bennett-Coverley was a cultural icon on par with Bob Marley, one of many Jamaican artists she influenced through her poetry in the island's patois. Marley credited her with giving him the pride and conviction to include in his songs words in his own dialect — which until then had been considered a serious marketing liability. Although she lived in Canada for almost the last two decades of her 86 years, due to her husband's health, Bennett-Coverley was considered the mother of Jamaican culture. Her return visits were treated like state occasions. Perhaps her greatest legacy was turning her island's creole — a mixture of mainly English and West African tongues brought by slaves — from a language of shame in class-conscious and racist colonial Jamaica into a proud vehicle for poetry, song, dance and drama, a new cultural phenomenon in its own right. Louise Bennett was born in Kingston, and raised by her dressmaker mother. It was from her story-telling mother and grandmother, and also from customers rich and poor, that she picked up the tales she would soon turn into folk songs, poems or often pantomime in the patois. In her late twenties, Bennett won a British Council scholarship to the Royal Academy for Dramatic Art in London, the first black student to attend the institution. After graduation in 1948, she found occasional work at the BBC, first reading her poems or singing her songs, later producing or presenting programmes in her native patois to the enjoyment of the growing Jamaican immigrant communities in England. The Jamaican immigration inspired her to write one of her most famous poems, "Colonization in Reverse", which was a light-hearted satire that unwittingly predicted the right-wing backlash against Jamaican immigration from many British politicians. Bennett returned to Jamaica in her thirties, seeking a career in entertainment and to educate other artists in what she had learned in England. In 1954, she married the local actor and impresario Eric Winston Coverley, known on the island by his nickname "Chalk Talk." In the coming years, Bennett-Coverley published several books of poems, notably the bestselling Jamaica Labrish (gossip) in 1966, which features one of her best-known poems, "Noh Lickle Twang" (Not even a little accent), in which she berates a friend who came back from living in the US no better off, without any sign of having captured the American dream. She also recorded several albums of poems or songs, often talking over background music. Although these were generally folksy tunes, her technique was seen as a major influence to later artists, rappers and DJs, and won her a reputation as one of the original "toasters", artists who talk or rap to recorded music. Her lifelong motto, now legendary to Jamaicans at home and abroad, was "Howdy an tenky bruk no square" (roughly translated as "caring and gratitude create harmony", a forerunner of Bob Marley's 'One Love'). Due to her contributions to Jamaican cultural life, Bennett-Coverley has been honored with the M.B.E. (1961); the Norman Manley Award for Excellence (in the field of Arts); the Order of Jamaica (1974); and the Order of Merit (2001).and the Institute of Jamaica's Musgrave Silver and Gold Medals for distinguished eminence in the field of Arts and Culture. At her state funeral, Jamaican Prime Minister, Portia Simpson Miller, described Bennett-Coverley as, "our nationally beloved cultural icon, my role model and mentor", and added "walk good, Miss Lou", a traditional, respectful patois farewell to people departing.
National Heroes Park
Created by: C & N Rasmussen
Record added: Jan 03, 2011
Find A Grave Memorial# 63702054