The 2021 GraceKennedy Foundation (GKF) lecture delivered on its promise to share the rich and diverse heritage of our island nation. The lecture, which was presented by Vivian Crawford, Executive Director of the Institute of Jamaica (IOJ), was streamed live via Zoom and attracted an audience of over 700 online participants from Jamaica and overseas including the United States of America, Canada, the United Kingdom, Spain, the Turks and Caicos Islands, Barbados, the US and British Virgin Islands, Trinidad and Tobago, Antigua and Barbuda, Suriname, Georgia, and Namibia.
Lecturer Vivian Crawford was hailed as a “national treasure” and the lecture described as ‘fascinating’, ‘refreshing’, ‘educational’, and ‘engaging’ by many who tuned in. This year’s presentation took the form of an interview between the lecturer and Maxine McDonnough, a communications consultant with GKF, with Mr Crawford relaying compelling stories about Jamaica’s heritage, which were illustrated with vibrant images of Jamaica’s historical sites and culture.
CEO of the GraceKennedy Foundation, Caroline Mahfood, commented, “The discussion that followed the lecture was as rich as the lecture itself, with topics ranging from standardizing our Jamaican language, to the preservation of heritage sites and a discussion of the Port Royal cultural project currently being spearheaded by the Port Authority of Jamaica. It has really shown us the need for more conversations like this, not only for Jamaican youth, but for all Jamaicans and those in the Diaspora.”
Mrs Mahfood added, “Mr Crawford has lifted our spirits and demonstrated the resilience of Jamaicans who had to overcome so many obstacles to be the proud and admired people we are today.”
In his presentation titled “Jamaica – Tangible and Intangible Heritage: So Much to Tell”, Mr Vivian Crawford highlighted the treasures stored at the IOJ, including reproductions of Taino artefacts (the originals of which are in the British Museum), historic documents and remnants of Jamaica’s natural history. Among the stories shared during the lecture by Mr Crawford was the link traced between Handel, composer of the “Hallellujah Chorus”, and Peter Tosh’s “Jah is My Keeper”. He explained that the Hallelujah Chorus was composed while Handel was court composer to the Duke of Chandos who acquired the Hope Estate in St Andrew from Major Hope, its original owner in the 18th century. Peter Tosh would then, in the 20th century use the chorus in the composition of Jah is My keeper, which would go on to be played at the consecration of the first black, female Anglican Bishop, Bishop Rose Hudson Wilkins, at Canterbury Cathedral in the UK in 2019.
Mr Crawford has joined a cadre of distinguished scholars such as Rev Burchell Taylor, Professors Don Mills, Patrick Bryan, Errol Miller, Michael Taylor and Barry Chevannes who have been among the lecturers in the stellar series. Several outstanding Jamaican women have also been represented among the influential speakers and include cultural icon and musicologist Marjorie Whylie, Professor Elsa Leo-Rhynie, Dr Maureen Samms Vaughn and Dr Pauline Milburn.
Dr Fred Kennedy, GKF Chairman, noted that through its annual lecture, which was inaugurated in 1988, the Foundation had “proven itself a trusted source for intellectual discourse and dissemination of information and has inspired the Caribbean community with innovative ideas, many of which have been tested, and applied to practice in an effort to address the social and economic challenges facing our region.”
Electronic copies of the 2021 lecture may be accessed at GraceKennedy Foundation Annual Lecture Series website.