Over its three and a half centuries of existence, the Jamaican language has dominated the creative and cultural spheres, from folksongs, and popular music such as mento, reggae, and dancehall, to the poetry of Louise Bennett; from Anancy and duppy stories to Pantomime and roots theatre. But what exactly is the value of the language to these spheres of Jamaican life?
At 5:00 p.m. on Tuesday February 21st, 2023, the Jamaican Language Unit (JLU) will stage a roundtable discussion on “The Value of the Jamaican Language to the Cultural and Creative Industries”. The event is open to the public and will be streamed live via Braadkyaas Jamiekan, the JLU’s YouTube channel. Author, speaker, and public intellectual, Prof. Emerita Carolyn Cooper will moderate the evening’s discussion among a stellar panel of thinkers and practitioners in/on the cultural and creative industries. On the panel will be storyteller and cultural luminary Dr. Amina Blackwood Meeks, retired academic and language advocate, Prof. Hubert Devonish, entrepreneur and cultural policy expert, Mr. Kam-Au Amen, intellectual and creative writer, Dr. Velma Pollard, and emerging scholar, Dr. Nickesha T. Dawkins, who is a one-time dancehall performer-turned linguist. The evening promises to be culturally enriching and intellectually stimulating.
The roundtable discussion celebrates International Mother Language Day which is marked annually on February 21 by UNESCO to focus on the status and use of mother languages around the world. The day gives us time to contemplate on the fate of many of the world’s languages as they face pressure from larger languages like English, Spanish, Yoruba, and Russian.
The Jamaican Language Unit (JLU) is a language planning agency located in the Department of Language, Linguistics and Philosophy at The University of the West Indies, Mona. The JLU celebrates its 20th anniversary this academic year; 20 years of advocacy on behalf of Jamaican people and their national language and Caribbean people and the vernacular languages of the region.