Today’s Doodle honours Louise “Miss Lou” Bennett-103rd Coverley’s birthday and features illustrations by Jamaican guest artist Robyn Smith. The poet, folklorist, activist, and entertainer from Jamaica gave the nation the confidence to be proud of its language and culture. Bennett, also known as “Miss Lou,” was a well-liked figure in Jamaica thanks to her social commentary and sense of humour.
Bennett was born in Kingston, Jamaica, on September 7, 1919. In school, she discovered a love of literature and Jamaican folklore, and she started to write poetry. Bennett wrote in the regional dialect because she was fascinated by her mother tongue. She spoke a poem in Jamaican patois at her first public performance, which took place during a concert.
Though they initially rejected Bennett’s poems, Bennett soon received a weekly column in The Gleaner, the island’s newspaper at the time. The majority of Jamaicans speak patois, however it has been criticised as being unclean and substandard. Her column, which expressed Jamaicans’ experiences in their own vernacular, was well-liked throughout the country.
Bennett’s debut collection of poetry, Dialect Verses, was released in 1942. She received a grant from the British Council as a result to study at the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art in London. Bennett, who was the first Black student at the institution, worked for the British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC), hosting the radio show Caribbean Carnival. She hosted additional shows like West Indian Guest Night and performed in theatrical groups after earning her degree.
Bennett worked as a drama officer and eventually as the director of the Jamaica Social Welfare Commission after moving back to Jamaica in 1956. She travelled the nation on behalf of the commission, providing playwriting, improvisation, and mime workshops to train village instructors and regional officers. In the United States and England, she delivered lectures on Jamaican folklore. Bennett also hosted radio shows like Laugh with Louise and Miss Lou’s Views and the Jamaica Broadcasting Commission’s popular Saturday morning kids’ TV programme Ring Ding (JBC).
Bennett was named the Jamaican government’s Cultural Ambassador at Large in 1998. Queen Elizabeth II also added her to the Order of Merit. Bennett fought for the language and culture of her nation, encouraging Jamaicans to be proud of both.
Happy Birthday, Miss Lou!