Louise Simone Bennett-Coverley
(September 7 1919
, Kingston, Jamaica
–July 26 2006
) was a celebrated and much-loved Jamaican folklorist, writer, and artiste. "Miss Lou," as she was affectionately known, received her education from Ebenezer and Calabar Elementary Schools, St. Simon’s College, Excelsior College, Friends College (Highgate).
She was a resident artiste from 1945 to 1946 with the “Caribbean Carnival”. She appeared in leading humorous roles in several Jamaican Pantomimes and television shows. She traveled throughout the World promoting the culture of Jamaica by lecturing and performing. Although her popularity was International, she enjoyed a celebrity status in her native Jamaica, Canada and the United Kingdom. Her Poetry has been published several times, most notably Jamaica Labrish-1966, Anancy and Miss Lou- 1979.
Among her many recordings are: Jamaica Folksongs-Folkways 1953, Jamaica Singing Games- 1953, Miss Lou’s Views-1967, Listen to Louise-1968, Carifesta Ring Ding-1976 The Honorable Miss Lou-1981, Miss Lou Live-London-1983 and Yes Me Dear-Island Records. She was married to Eric Winston Coverley since May 30, 1954 and has 1 son and several adopted children.
In 1974, she was appointed to the Order of Jamaica. On Jamaica’s Independence Day 2001, the Honorable Mrs. Louise Bennett-Coverly was appointed as a Member of the Jamaican Order of Merit for her invaluable and distinguished contribution to the development of the Arts and Culture. She wrote her poems in the language of the people known as Jamaican Patois or Creole, and helped to put this language on the map and to have it recognised as a language in its own right, thus influencing many poets to do similar things.
In 1986, she appeared as Portia in the 1986 comedy Club Paradise, starring Robin Williams, Jimmy Cliff and Peter O'Toole.
She died in Toronto, Ontario, Canada on July 26, 2006.
"Colonizin' in Reverse" (1966)
"Wat a joyful news, Miss Mattie,
I feel like me heart gwine burs
Jamaica people colonizin
Englan in reverse.
By de hundred, by de tousan
From country and from town,
By de ship-load, by de plane-load
Jamaica is Englan boun.
Dem a pour out a Jamaica
Everybody future plan
Is fe get a big-time job
An settle in de mother lan.
What a islan! What a people!
Man an woman, old an young
Jus a pack dem bag an baggage
An tun history upside dung!
Some people doan like travel
But fe show dem loyalty
Dem all a open up cheap-fare-
An week by week dem shippin off
Dem countryman like fire,
Fe immigrate an populate
De seat a de Empire.
Oonoo see how life is funny,
Oonoo see de tunabout?
Jamaica live fe box bread
Out a English people mout'.
For wen dem ketch a Englan,
An start play dem different role,
Some will settle down to work
An some will settle fe de dole.
Jane say de dole is not too bad
Because dey payin she
Two pounds a week fe seek a job
Dat suit her dignity.
Me say Jane will never fine work
At de rate how she dah look,
For all day she stay pon Aunt Fan couch
An read love-story book.
Wat a devilment a Englan!
Dem face war an brave de worse,
But me wonderin how dem gwine stan
Colonizin in reverse."
Louise Bennett's poem, “Colonization in Reverse” (1966), provides a historical context for many minorities living in the UK in post-colonial time. Her portrayal of the Jamaican experience of dislocation and racial inequality parallels that of South Asian people living in London. Additionally, in both cases issues of cultural specificity and identity are salient. Both Jamaican and South Asian people shared a similar experience in their move to England
for employment and a better life while also implying the complexities of assimilation and dual identity. Bennett pinpoints her concept of cultural disloyalty when she writes about Jamaicans on their quest for better job opportunities: “Dem a pour out a Jamaica/ Everybody future plan/ Is to get a big-time job/ An settle in de mother lan.” Her reference to the “mother lan” here has an irony to it in that she is applying that England is the new mother land as opposed to Jamaica. By her referencing to England in this way it implies that her fellow Jamaicans are assimilating to England’s culture and leaving behind Jamaica, or the “mother lan.” A similar notion of assimilation is similarly expressed by South Asian hip hop group Hustlers HC
through their lyrics in the song “Big Trouble in Little Asia.”
Similar to Bennett, they combat the idea of colonization; only their music references it through the lens of India’s relation to Britain. They express the variety of oppressions experienced in Britain, yet refer to Britain as a land of opportunity. Additionally, they reveal the struggles of mindless “bum jobs” just as Bennett does. Throughout their music, Hustler HC
struggle with their cultural history of oppression: “colonial displacement, capitalist work relations and racial oppression” (Sharma 46). These struggles are shared by Jamaicans due to the similarities in their experience of colonization. Moreover, South Asian and Jamaican music aesthetic merged in many music scenes in the UK. In essence, Jamaicans and South Asians in London both struggled in similar ways to claim a culture and identity—music formed as a tool to achieve this.
- Jamaican Performing & Recording Artists (www.jamaicans.com)