*a stan is a serious, die-hearted fan.
There’s a petition on the OPM website to create a new honour, the National Icon award, to be awarded to Miss Lou, but it has less than 1100 signatures and needs 15000 — apparently nobody has time for that.
It’s almost impossible to grow up in Jamaica and not love Miss Lou. She’s every person under 30’s granny in their mind. In the videos she was always smiling and cracking jokes. She represents culture and heritage and respect for Jamaican people and the celebration of our Jamaican language’s colour and it’s expressiveness.
We recite her poems in schools around the island around Jamaica Day, Heroes Day and Black History Month, students perform her poetry in the annual JCDC performing arts competition, we generally as a people love Miss Lou. Love her enough to take on anyone who dares to appear to tarnish her in any way at all.
So why is nobody signing the petition?
Well, first of all, nobody knows about the petition. When this issue was brought to our attention at Talk Up Yout, the first thing we did was throw that question out to our youth communities. Nearly 50 young people responded in the space of two hours and only 1 of the 50 had heard about the petition. He had seen it on the FB profile of one of his friends — not on his feed. This is problem number 1 — if no one knows about the petition, nobody’s going to sign it. And let’s be real — most young people are not going to casually browse the website for the Office of the Prime Minister. This petition would have to connect with us in our spaces — social media, school, community etc.
This is especially important because almost all of the 50 youth who responded, were willing to sign the petition and said they would have, had they seen it or heard about it.
Even with that overwhelming support, the youth also had reservations and questions.
How is this award any different from the other awards Miss Lou already has?
This is a totally valid question. Miss Lou received the Order of Distinction and the Order of Merit. The Order of Merit is next to the Order of National Hero in the list of awards open to any Jamaican, not limited by status as having served as a Prime Minister or Governor General. It is only awarded to 2 people in any given year, and only 15 people alive can hold the award at the same time. The Order of Merit is already big deal.
If young people don’t care about the awards Miss Lou already has, why would they care about the new one?
The creator of the award Mr. Chang, clarified in an interview on Beyond the Headlines, on RJR that the award would honour the iconic figures in Jamaican culture. The ones most of us already care about and love — the really big names. His argument was essentially that the people who currently hold the Order of Merit, may not command the same level of wide scale love from Jamaicans like Miss Lou, Usain Bolt and Bob Marley. This begs the question — if we already love and appreciate Miss Lou so much, if she’s already iconic to us, why does there need to be a new award? One might argue that there should be campaigns to get us to recognize the contributions of the other people who have received the Order of Merit like Mary Seacole.
If the distinguishing factor of this award is being beloved by the public — will they confer the award on #WorldBoss Vybz Kartel when his petition surpasses 15000 in less than a day?
This was a major concern amongst young people in our community because the idea of awarding a person for being popular as opposed to their actual contributions to the development of the country, leads us down a contentious rabbit hole. Our culture like all other cultures, is shifting. This is natural, it’s caused by the passing of time. Icons are forgotten and new ones emerge -it’s the way of humanity. What happens when the new generation decides the award should be conferred on someone the older generations do not see as iconic and therefore do not approve of? Popularity is not a standard measure, the causes and impact of it are nebulous. If the award is for popularity AND outstanding contribution to fields of endeavour like arts, sciences or technology then you could have just awarded the person with any of the existing awards including the Order of Merit or Orders of Distinction. Is popularity enough to warrant a new award?
Of course, Talk Up Yout is a platform for much more than debate and questions. Solutions are always our end-game, so the youth in our community were challenged to develop recommendations.
Yes, the youth support the award as a token of our love and appreciation for Miss Lou and others like her, but for it to get the signatures it has to be promoted. If young people are unaware of it, they cannot sign it. Furthermore, the real impact does not come from statues and awards, it comes from the on the ground teaching and promoting of her life and accomplishments, as opposed to her popularity. She is more than an icon, she has provided our country with meritorious service that deserves the award she already has and any others we as a people decide to confer on her. Walk good!
Written by Kristeena Monteith, canvassing the views of the youth of TALK UP YOUT.
IMAGE CREDIT: Jamaica Information Service — http://jis.gov.jm/famous_jamaicans/louise-bennett-coverley/
Youth, ages 14 - 26, from all over the world, talking up. #TalkUpYout