Create 'National Icons' honour for Miss Lou, Bob Marley - Chang
Louise Bennett-Coverley and Bob Marley
By Luke Douglas
Businessman and social commentator Kevin O’Brien Chang is calling on the Jamaican government to recognise Bob Marley and Louise Bennett-Coverley (Miss Lou) by making them the first recipients of a new category of national honour called the 'National Icon'.
According to Chang, making Marley and Miss Lou National Heroes would be too political, but their accomplishments far surpass the qualification for the Order of Merit, which they both currently hold.
“You have the National Heroes who are outstanding, and then you have the Order of Merit which has a hundred and something people. Now Bob Marley and Miss Lou...they belong way above the Order of Merit category...I am proposing that the government create a new category, that of the National Icon” Chang said.
The businessman was part of a panel reflecting on “The Business of Bob Marley” at a symposium at the Bob Marley Museum in Kingston on February 6, the 75th anniversary of the reggae legend's birth.
Chang contended that, since Jamaica gained independence in 1962, the country has excelled in the area of culture, largely because of the achievements of Miss Lou and Bob Marley.
“Culture is what makes Jamaica special; and the two biggest cultural figures Jamaica has produced are Miss Lou and Bob Marley,” he opined.
A poet, author, folklorist and actor, Louise Bennett-Coverley, affectionately known as Miss Lou, popularised and gained acceptance of writing and performing in the Jamaican language or patois. She died in 2006 at age 86.
Robert Nesta (Bob) Marley rose from the slums of Kingston to take reggae music worldwide with his band, Bob Marley and the Wailers, delivering a message of love, peace and black pride which resonated with millions across the globe before his death from cancer at age 36 in 1981.
Chang... says National Hero debate is political.
Marley’s relevance continues to be felt today, as new generations of fans flock to his music and memorabilia, kept alive partly by his children and grandchildren who are outstanding artistes in their own right. But Marley’s embrace of the Rastafarian faith and liberal smoking of ganja - which remains illegal in much of the world – unnerved authorities and perhaps rules him out of the possibility of becoming a National Hero, Jamaica's highest honour.
“The National Hero thing has come up, but it’s kind of political. People feel there is a political thing there, and if you make Bob Marley and Miss Lou National Heroes, they are going to wonder if (former Prime Ministers Michael) Manley and (Edward) Seaga should be too,” he said.
However, Tommy Cowan, music industry veteran who was once marketing manager for Bob Marley, says the 'King of Reggae' deserves the highest honour.
“All around the world you have people playing Bob Marley. Every hotel in the Caribbean has a Bob Marley night. Everywhere you go you see people knitting Bob Marley caps to send their children to school and to better themselves. No other person, with respect to our National Heroes, has the impact (around the world) of this man...People can’t get beyond the fact that they see this man with a spliff that he can’t be a National Hero," stated Cowan.
The Order of Merit is the third highest honour that can be bestowed on a Jamaican. The second highest honour, Order of the Nation, however, is reserved only for former governors-general and former prime ministers.