Jamaican Senator Fights to Make Marley, Miss Lou, Bolt and Jimmy Cliff National Heroes

Ahead of Jamaica’s diamond independence celebrations in August 2022, an opposition senator calls for four Jamaican icons to receive the honor of national heroes.

On December 10, Senator Floyd Morris announced he would table a motion in the Upper House to have Bob Marley, Jimmy Cliff, Miss Lou and Usain Bolt named National Heroes.

There are currently seven national heroes on the island, all of whom were political activists and in one way or another linked to slavery and colonialism or political independence. But according to the National Honors and Award Act of 1970, the only criteria for a Jamaican to be named a national hero is that he “was, at the time of his death, a citizen of Jamaica and has rendered Jamaica a service of service. ‘a distinguished nature. The honor may also be bestowed posthumously or on the occasion of the recipient’s retirement from active public life.

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Advocating for the award, Senator Morris said he believes these four icons have all rendered distinguished service to the country in various fields.

“’The Honorable James Chambers, Jimmy Cliff; the Honorable Louise Bennett-Coverley, Miss Lou; and the Honorable Usain St Leo Bolt have all rendered eminent services to Jamaica in the fields of music, sports and culture; and whereas these citizens have presented Jamaica in a fabulous light to the world and have contributed to the country’s dominance in music, sports and reggae culture since the country gained political independence in 1962; and considering that their prodigious efforts throughout their careers have contributed to the worldwide recognition of Jamaica, be it resolved that this Honorable Senate call on the government to put in place the necessary mechanisms and procedures for these iconic Jamaicans to be declared national heroes and heroines, respectively, and be it resolved that these awards be made in time for Jamaica’s 60th independence anniversary on August 6, 2022, ”Morris said at the meeting.

The Jamaican National Heroes Debate is annual – sparked by the nation’s National Heroes Day celebrations in October. But Morris’s call comes more than a week after Bajan superstar and billionaire Robyn “Rihanna” Fenty was awarded the Order of the National Hero of Barbados. The country also cut ties with the British monarchy and became a republic.

The Barbados government’s move in particular reignited calls for another controversial larger-than-life artist to finally receive the honor. Among Jamaicans struggling to make Marley a hero, veteran dancehall artist Spragga Benz, who posted on social media: “As Jamaica appears to be waiting for the Queen’s approval to honor Bob Marley as a hero national… Barbadian singer Rihanna joins the celebration of Barbados. become a Republic and will be named National Hero.

Another industry veteran, Tommy Cowan, who was once marketing director for Marley, also backed the movement. But he argued that the main obstacle was the Jamaicans “who can’t get past the fact that they see this man with a spliff that he can’t be a national hero”.

Last October, another politician, Hugh Graham, MP for St Catherine North Western, called on the government to make Marley a national hero.

In an opinion piece published in the Jamaica Observer, Graham said: “He [Marley] never instigated physical or violent rebellions like some of our most beloved national heroes, but he was a pioneer of reggae. Through his music he led a rebellion against all factions that perpetuated inequalities and systems that exclusively favor the haves. He resisted institutionalized classism by becoming a hero among the poor.

Bob Marley is considered one of the greatest musicians of all time and his brand has become a symbol of peace and unity. In 1981, just months after his death from cancer, Marley received the Jamaican government’s third highest honor, the Order of Merit.

Jimmy Cliff, another legendary reggae musician and inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, was also awarded the Order of Merit. Much like Louise Bennett-Coverley / “Miss Lou”, the legendary folklorist and actress often cited as the precursor of dub poetry.

Meanwhile, Usain Bolt was awarded the Order of Jamaica, the island’s fourth highest honor, in 2009. Although retired, Bolt still holds the title of World’s Fastest Man and is considered the greatest track athlete of all time.

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