Oliver Samuels, Jamaican actor, playwright, and comedian, has received the Marcus Garvey Llifetime Achievement Award from the Institute for Caribbean Studies (ICS). The Institute, which is based in Washington DC, bestowed the award on Samuels on November 16, 2018, during the 25th Caribbean-American Heritage Awards Gala. The Gala’s theme was “A Celebration of Excellence and Service.” Samuels received the award in recognition of his outstanding body of work and for promoting the Jamaican brand in the performing arts communities, both locally and internationally, according to Dr. Claire Nelson, the Jamaican-born founder and president of ICS. She went on to note that Samuels is considered one of Jamaica’s “thespian luminaries.”
Oliver Samuels was born on November 4, 1948, in Harmony Hall, St. Mary, and grew up on a banana plantation. His father worked as a casual laborer there, and his mother sold various items on the estate. At age seven, Samuels began to be involved in drama when he, along with other children on the plantation, would sing and recite poetry on Friday nights. His interest in drama was supported by his mother who saw it as a way for him to better his life. From 1971 to 1973, Samuels trained at the Jamaica Theatre School, participating in numerous products there.
During his career, he appeared playing major roles in some 13 national pantomimes, including “Music Boy”, “Queenie’s Daughter”, “Dickance for Fippance”, “Hail Columbus”, “The Witch”, “Johnny Reggae”, “Ginneral B”, “The Pirate Princess”, “Trash”, “The Hon All Purpose” and “The Dancing Princess.” Samuels has also appeared in 20 additional productions, including “The Fight Against Slavery”, the British Broadcasting Corporation’s television series, which aired in 1974. He received his own television series, which included ‘Oliver at Large’ and ‘Large and in Charge.’”
More recently, Samuels has had acting roles in the “Royal Palm Estate” soap opera, and he has appeared in Italian, Canadian, and German films. He currently spends his time writing his own material, with his latest piece “56 East Avenue” opening in Miramar, Florida, on September 1, 2018, to enthusiastic audiences.
Other ICS honorees at the Gala ceremonies in addition to Samuels included the Reggae Foundation Grammy Winning Inner Circle Band, which is known for the song “Bad Boys”; Jamaican microbiologist and current president of the J. Craig Venter Institute, Dr. Karen Nelson; rising opera star, Alyson Cambridge, who is of Guyanese heritage; and Sherry Herbert from Nevis, who is the president of Black Enterprise.