One hundred and 25 distinguished citizens of Jamaica were conferred with the nation’s highest honors recently on National Heroes Day — which highlights the holiday marking Heritage Week and also rewards contributions to the island with presentations of the island’s highest commendations for service.
First line and essential workers, civil servants, politicians, attorneys, doctors, religious leaders and educators dominated awardees of the badge of Honor for Meritorious Service, Badge of Honor for Gallantry, and Badge of Honor for Long and Faithful Service. However, reggae song stylist Marcia Griffiths received top honors as the recipient of the Order of Jamaica, the fourth highest presented by Governor General Sir Patrick Allen.
The songbird who backed Bob Marley to global prominence as one of three harmonizers called The I-Three was invested — with six others representing various fields of industry –as the sole performer to receive prominence for her longstanding contribution to reggae music.
The recognition acknowledges 60 years on the entertainment circuit touring with the acclaimed king of reggae as well as her continued pursuit in lauding the island by promoting its music as a solo artist.
Renowned for collaborating with Judy Mowatt and Rita Marley, Griffiths’ repute expanded when she recorded “Electric Slide” a crossover hit which resurrected a popular group dance here.
“I am overjoyed to receive this special recognition from my country,” Griffiths said after hearing the news on August 6, the nations’ 61st anniversary of independence.
Informed of the decision to honor the avowed queen of reggae by Olivia Grange, the island’s minister of culture, Griffith was enroute to perform at a concert in Prospect Park, Brooklyn when she received the news.
The songstress is the only one to be upgraded with conference of the country’s fourth highest honor in 2023 and the only reggae artist.
Griffith first received the Order of Distinction in 2014 when she was hailed for distinguished service in furthering the genre.
Her latest commendation places her alongside a select group of recorders to attain the recognition, they include Bunny Wailer, Toots Hibbert, Byron Lee and Ernie Ranglin.
Six names familiar to the entertainment sector accepted the fifth and sixth highest Order of Distinction for exemplary service to the industry.
Among them: New York-based hip-hop pioneer Clive “Kool DJ Herc” Campbell, recording artist Owen Gray, graphic artist Neville Garrick, reggae/dancehall artists, Taurus Riley, Wayne Marshall and film producer Justine Henzell.
Jamaica boasts seven national heroes, the first named Marcus Mosiah Garvey who was born 1887—1940. He was a proponent of Black nationalism in Jamaica whose reputation magnified when he migrated to Harlem and established a movement in Harlem.
Paul Bogle, a Baptist deacon and activist was a leader of the 1865 Morant Bay protesters who marched for justice and fair treatment for all the people in Jamaica.
Sir Alexander Bustamante, 1884-1977 was a politician and labor leader who in 1962 became the first prime minister of the nation.
George William Gordon, 1815-1865 was a wealthy businessman, magistrate and politician, one of two representatives to the Assembly.
Norman Washington Manley, 1893-1969 was a Rhodes Scholar who served as Premier while the island was in transition from colonial rule to independence. Manley became one of Jamaica’s leading lawyers in the 1920s.
He was declared a national hero in 1969.
Queen Nanny or Nanny is the only female among the original Jamaican National Heroes. She was a well-known 18th-century leader of the Maroons.
Samuel Sharpe, 1801-1832 was an enslaved African Jamaican. His defiance against British superiority elevated his status as more than a rebel.
Third World founder passes from cancer
Music fans are grieving the death of Michael Ibo Cooper, a keyboardist and founder of reggae super-group Third World who died of cancer in Kinston, Jamaica on Oct. 12.
Most egregious was that the 71-year-old multi-talented artist lost his son Arif in March and only a few weeks prior to his passing, his wife Joy.
“Ever since Arif passed, Ibo has not been the same,” drummer Willie Stewart lamented about his longtime collaborator said. “It is very sad that Ibo is gone.”
When the news broke, social media exploded with messages of condolences extended to the friends and family of the revered composer/educator/musician/singer whose contribution enabled the 9-time Grammy-nominated group to vault to the pinnacle of success.
Cooper first established his career playing with the group Inner Circle before joining with Stephen Cat Coore to establish Third World as reggae ambassadors in 1973.
Cooper received the Order of Distinction in 2005.
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