“MISS LOU” - LOUISE BENNETT-COVERLEY
JAMAICA’S NATIONAL TREASURE
THE LOUISE BENNETT-COVERLEY HERITAGE COUNCIL (FL) INC.
The Louise Bennett-Coverley Heritage Council (Fla.) Inc. was launched to preserve the legacy of Jamaica’s cultural icon, Louise Bennett-Coverley, affectionately called “Miss Lou,” and share Jamaica’s rich folkloric culture. Through Edutainment - education through entertainment - the Council helps Jamaicans in South Florida celebrate, enjoy, and pass on our cultural heritage to the next generation.
With proceeds from our programs, and donations from individuals, and corporate and community organizations, the Council provides annual scholarships to talented students at the Edna Manley College of Visual and Performing Arts in Jamaica, and to students at the Broward College in South Florida.
Major support for The Louise Bennett-Coverley Heritage Council provided by the Broward County Cultural Division, the Cultural Council, and the Broward County Board of County Commissioners.
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Donation of Tablets by the Louise Bennett-Coverley Heritage Council to Students at the Edna Manley College of the Performing and Visual Arts.
Shammia Reid - School of Visual Arts - Year 2
Joel Higgins - School of Visual Arts - year 3
Nelthashaye Williams - School of Drama - Year 3
Jasmine Collins - School of Drama - year 1 (absent for the presentation)
Goldiana Walker - School of Drama - Year 3 (absent for the presentation)
Louise Bennett-Coverley - 2020-2021 Academic recipient
Victoria Taffe - School of Music, Performance Major - year 4
On behalf of the students of the Edna Manley College, a heartfelt thank you for your continued support. Melody McDowell - Asst. Senior Registrar - Edna Manley College of the Performing and Visual Arts. Kingston, Jamaica. Dec.2020.
Norma Darby – spreading warmth of Jamaican culture in Florida
Norma and Val Darby
The Gleaner - Nov. 22, 2020 Lynda Edwards and George Graham
Louise Bennett-Coverley is buried in Jamaica’s National Heroes Park, but ‘Miss Lou’ lives on in Florida. Her life’s work is vibrantly showcased by the Jamaican Folk Revue and the Louise Bennett-Coverley Heritage Council– thanks to Jamaica-born Norma Darby.
Darby founded the Folk Revue after attending the Miami International Folk Festival, which featured cuisine, music, songs and dances from around the world. Jamaica’s only representation consisted of the island’s food and beverages.
“I saw the ways in which other countries showed off their cultural heritage,” Mrs Darby says. “And I thought, Jamaica has a wonderful culture, why not put it on display, too?”
At the time, her husband Percival (everybody calls him Val) was a professor at Florida International University, and she had trained as a medical technologist. But they shared a passion for the stage.
“We met in 1957 during a production of Sunday Cost Five Pesos by my church’s theatre group,” Darby recalls. “He was a budding comedian and singer who played the lead role of Woody Mahoney in the LTM’s Pantomime production of Finian’s Rainbow. Even when he forgot his lines, his ad libs were hilarious.”
Darby decided to form a representative group to perform Jamaica’s traditional songs and dances at the folk festival. But where was she to get her performers? And her material?
She and her husband had joined the Jamaica Association of Florida to meet other Jamaicans when they moved to Miami in 1973. So, she enlisted members of that group to help put the show together. She set out to collect folk songs from the Jamaican community in South Florida – and discovered talented performers in the process.
Darby recalls that it was the proverbs, songs and dances they collected that made her fully appreciate the appeal of her native culture. Growing up in Jamaica, she had been taught to emulate British culture and to shun Jamaican folklore and Patois. At the private school she attended, she learned folk dances and songs from the British Isles, not Jamaica.
“They had us dancing Scottish reels,” Darby said, breaking into incredulous laughter. “Imagine!”
Now, she is a passionate advocate for Jamaica’s cultural heritage.
“Old time Jamaican culture is the repository of the history of the Jamaican people, defining who we are,” she says. “It is the legacy and cultural identities of our African, Asian and European forefathers, which makes our culture so unique.”
The wave of enthusiasm that greeted the Folk Revue’s first show surprised her.
“We were the ‘poster child’ of the folk festival – winning the coveted prize for the best cultural display,” she said.
Invitations from various festivals poured in after that. And the Jamaican Folk Revue has been going strong ever since. From the beginning, their concerts included Miss Lou’s poems, but they were not the main attraction.
Jamaican Folk Revue
Cheers and Applause Greet Unveiling of Miss Lou Statue
There were loud cheers and spirited applause from the massive crowd, which gathered in Gordon Town Square, St. Andrew on Friday, Sept. 7, to witness the unveiling of a life-size bronze statue in honour of Jamaica’s late cultural icon, Hon. Louise Bennett-Coverley, affectionately called “Miss Lou.”
Celebrating Miss Lou's 100th
As part of the Miss Lou 100th anniversary celebrations, The Louise Bennett-Coverley Heritage Council (Fla) Inc., commissioned articles on Miss Lou from Jamaican writers living in South Florida for distribution to local Caribbean newspapers.