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Debate reignited about expanding Jamaica's list of National Heroes

Dr. Sonjah Stanley Niaah, Senior Lecturer in Cultural Studies at UWI Mona, and Damion Gordon, Assistant Lecturer of Public Policy at UWI Mona
 
The declaration by Barbados of recording artiste Rihanna as a national heroine has reignited debate about the narrow view some Jamaicans hold of who should be conferred with the honour of National Hero.
 
Dr. Sonjah Stanley Niaah, Senior Lecturer in Cultural Studies at the University of the West Indies, Mona, has applauded Barbados's move, adding that Rihanna is deserving of the honour.
 
Most importantly, Dr. Stanley Niaah said, the honour is being bestowed while Rihanna is alive. 
 
"We are always so very conscious of the saying that the hero or heroine has no reward in their own home and I'm just pleased that she has been given this honour before she passes."
 
"If only Jamaica could get its act together in this way. There are so many of our cultural icons who have put Jamaica on the map...put Jamaican language, Jamaican music on the map, and we have not in any way begun to think about how to honour those people," the academic lamented.  
 
Dr. Stanley Niaah suggested that the definition of a national hero or heroine in Jamaica needs to be reviewed as the current notion seemingly confines it to "one who would have contributed to writing a constitution, fighting a war, or in fact be limited to what the conceptions are about nation building".  
 
She argued that cultural icons Bob Marley and Miss Lou are deserving of the honour.
 
Damion Gordon, Assistant Lecturer of Public Policy at the University of the West Indies, Mona, agrees that the contribution of Jamaican entertainers is not valued sufficiently, also pointing to the unwillingness to give Bob Marley national hero status. 
 
"I don't think that we have ever, well the powers that be, seriously considered entertainment and entertainers and their value. We're still having these conversations about the contribution of music to violence and subversive behaviour, and to a great extent, there's still an element of classist undertone when we talk about Jamaican music and how different segments of the Jamaican society perceive or feel about the music, and I think that may be a factor," he reasoned. 
 


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