Canada’s contribution to Jamaica’s 50th independence anniversary celebrations has received the thumbs up from the Caribbean island’s Minister of Youth & Culture, Lisa Hanna.
The local celebrations kicked off in late March in Ottawa. A total of 10 committees from Halifax to Montreal, and from Victoria to Winnipeg, are hosting festivities in their cities leading up to a grand gala at the Metro Convention Centre on August 11.
Jamaica became an independent nation on August 6, 1962.
“I am very pleased with what Canada has done and is doing as we move closer towards the landmark date,” Hanna said while in Toronto recently. “It’s a massive celebration, but we have taken a deliberate position that certain legacy programs will kick in once the celebratory period is over.”
To observe the golden anniversary, Hanna said the government is building 50 new basic schools, presenting 50 scholarships and establishing sports and music museums, among other things.
“The museums might not be finished in time for the celebrations, but we are ensuring that for the 50th year and moving forward, the brands of Jamaica are patented and that we are able to stake our claim to things that are Jamaican and made in Jamaica.”
The Miss World 1993, Hanna was appointed Jamaica’s Minister of Youth & Culture after the People’s National Party’s (PNP) convincing win at the polls last December.
As a beauty pageant winner, broadcaster and actor, Hanna said she was honoured to be assigned the culture portfolio and she shared some of her plans to advance the ministry.
“One of the things I have done is to ensure that the ministry does not only focus on policy initiatives to create a lynchpin that can only drive and strengthen the institutional frameworks of culture to train our young people in other areas that will give them jobs, but also to create the policies that will drive the industry,” said Hanna, who was recently chosen the country’s most attractive female politician in an informal poll run by the Jamaica Star newspaper. “So a large part of the 50th anniversary celebrations will be showcasing to the world in a 24-hour broadcasting platform the brands of Jamaica and really linking that to demonstrate that we have given the world so many cultural brands, like Miss Lou and Bob Marley. We are now going to leverage that. Whether we like it or not, the things that people most know about Jamaica is our culture.”
While in Toronto, Hanna toured the Miss Lou Room at Harbourfront Centre. The room, in which Miss Lou performed many times, overlooks Lake Ontario and houses a permanent exhibit honouring the Jamaican cultural icon and her achievements. Louise (Miss Lou) Bennett-Coverley died in Toronto six years ago.
“There is nothing that we do that’s cultural in Jamaica in terms of drama, theatre and the spoken word that we are not exposed to Miss Lou,” said Hanna, who hosted a Jamaica talk show and played Abby in the 1998 romance film, How Stella Got Her Groove Back. “She really has infused in all of us a sense of pride in terms of our Jamaican culture and roots.
“As the Minister of Culture, to come as far up north as Canada and see that so many children come through this space to learn about Miss Lou really is a testament as to how much Jamaica has inspired the world and continues to inspire the world through some of our icons and Miss Lou is certainly one of them.”
Hanna reflected on some of her favourite Miss Lou moments during the tour with Jamaica’s High Commissioner Sheila Sealy-Monteith and Consul General George Ramocan.
“I used to love to see her on ‘Ring Ding’ because you felt that she would call your name as you watched her on TV,” Hanna said. “Even though there have been so many other TV programs, those are the ones that stay in your mind. Every time I go to an event and a young child does a Miss Lou poem, I am riveted and it takes me right back.”
The former Hilton Hotel communications consultant graduated from the University of the West Indies with Bachelor and Master of Arts degrees and has worked extensively in project management, media, marketing and public relations.
By RON FANFAIR