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Jamaica's First Female Prime Minister
Portia Simpson-Miller Order of the Nation (ON), Member of Parliament stepped into the history books in 2006 when she became Jamaica's first woman prime minister, serving from March 2006 to September 2007. In 2006, Forbes Magazine ranked her #89 on their list of the world's 100 most powerful women.

Portia Lucrecia Simpson Miller born 12 December 1945 Jamaica's minister of local government, community development and sport polled 1,735 votes of the 3,808 cast to win the leadership of People's National Party.

The working-class woman beat three men who were her opponents in her second bid for the top job.
She was Vice-President of the People's National Party from 1978 until she was elected President in 2006. First elected to Parliament in 1976, she entered the Cabinet in 1989, as Minister for Labour, Welfare, and Sports and remained in government until narrowly losing the 2007 election. Before becoming Prime Minister and Minster of Defense in 2006, she held the Local Government portfolio from 2002. During her period in office as PM, she was one of only seven women in the world out of 192 nation-states who were leaders of their nations.

Throughout her career, Simpson-Miller has had a reputation as a voice for the poor and unemployed, as an advocate for women and as a face for the faceless. She helped to set up a network of child-care centers to encourage women into employment. Although her period as head of government has been short, her successful career serves as an example and model for other women to emulate. Her passion for social justice could be regarded as representative of feminine compassion, although there are no few men who are also passionate about creating more egalitarian societies. More women in public life will not automatically make the world a more just and peaceful place. However, if Simpson-Miller's political agenda serves as an model, those who follow her are likely to help drown the voices of those who would perpetuate privilege, inequality, and injustice.

Early life

The area where she grew up in Wood Hall, St. Catherine Parish has been described as a "very poor section of Jamaica."  She attended Marlie Hill Primary School, followed by St. Martin's High School, then completed a Bachelors degree in Public Administration at Union Institute and University, Miami, Florida. She completed this while a Member of Parliament, traveling to Miami to attend seminars and meet with tutors between 1994 and 1997, when she graduated.  She also acquired a Diploma in Computing, Programming and Public Relations. Subsequently, she has obtained a certificate in Advanced Management from the University of California at Berkeley, a Certificate of Participation in the Executive Program for Leaders in Development at the John F. Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University, and a Certificate in Public Relations and Advanced Management from the Institute of Management and Production (IMP).


She entered politics when she won a council seat in 1974, representing the ward of Trench Town West on the Kingston and St. Andrew Corporation. She was first elected to Parliament as a People's National Party candidate for the South West St. Andrew constituency in 1976. A year later, she was appointed Parliamentary Secretary in the Ministry of Local Government. In 1978, she was elected a vice-president of PNP, retaining this post until 2006. At the 1980 General Election, the PNP—the governing party at the time—lost and she was one of the few PNP members who retained their seats (9 out of 51).  Between 1983 and 1989, the PNP remained outside Parliament, boycotting the 1983 election. Simpson-Miller served as party Spokesperson on Women’s Affairs, Pension, Social Security, and Consumer Affairs from 1983 until she was returned to Parliament in 1989, under Michael Manley (PM from 1989 until 1992) again formed the government. She became Minister of Labour, Welfare, and Sports until 1993. In 1993, she stood for the Presidency of her Party when Manley (son of the party's founder) retired but lost to Percival Noel James Patterson. She continued, however, to serve under Patterson in his Cabinet. In the general election that year, she won the seat of South West St. Andrew and took over the portfolio for Labour and Welfare until 1995, when Social Security and Sports were added to her responsibilities. In 2000, she moved to the Ministry for Tourism and Sports, which she held until 2002. After the general election that year, she returned to the Ministry of Local Government, this time at its head.

During her tenure as Labour Minister, she took a special interest in the working conditions of overseas farm workers in Jamaica, improving their working conditions. Through strategic investments of the National Insurance Fund, she oversaw an increase in growth from $1.5 million to $20 million over a three year period.  She established a chair in Labour Relations at the University of the West Indies and established a network of children's day-care facilities (for working parents) across the island. As Tourism minister, she had to deal with the drop in visitors following 9/11 as confidence in travel fell. She worked hard to promote Jamaica and with the airports to improve security. As Sports minister, she has championed "the island's young athletes as role models."
Portia-Simpson Miller has also represented Jamaica at the international level. Appointment include Director of the Commonwealth Local Government Reform, Vice-President of the Inter-American Network of Decentralization, Local Government and Citizens Participation (RIAD), Director of the Board of Trustees of the United Nations Center for Local Government Training (CIFAL), and Chair of the Caribbean Local Government Ministers.

Party leader and Prime Minister

In February 2006, she again stood for President of the PNP to replace Percival Noel James Patterson (Prime Minister 1992-2006), who was retiring. In the election, held on February 26, 2006, she received 1,775 votes, while her nearest rival, national security minister Dr. Peter Phillips, took 1,538 votes. She was only able to garner approximately 47 percent of the delegates' vote, making her the first PNP president to be elected by less than half of eligible delegates, but the first woman in the party's 68 year old history.
On March 30, 2006, she became Jamaica's seventh Prime Minister, its first woman PM, and the third in the Anglophone Caribbean following Eugenia Charles of Dominica and Janet Jagan of Guyana. She also assumed the defense portfolio.

While Prime Minister, Simpson-Miller instructed one of her nations "leading lawyers to take a fresh look at the proceedings" surrounding Marcus Garvey's conviction for fraud in 1923, which is widely believed to have been politically motivated.  Simpson-Miller regards Garvey's philosophy of self-reliance and pride for those descended from the victims of the trans-Atlantic slave trade as part of the Jamaican heritage. Garvey is Jamaica's "first National hero." Speaking on the 44th anniversary of Jamaica's independence on August 16, 2006, while visiting New York City, she invoked the memory of Garvey and said that "as prime minister, she will work for a unified Jamaica." "I have made it quite clear at home," she told the assembled guests in Manhattan's New York Hotel, "that I am for all the people."  On October 16, 2006, she opened an exhibition on Garvey at Liberty Hall in Kingston, saying multi-media exhibition was "a fitting testimony to the vision that our great National Hero held for the advancement of the children of the African Diaspora. 

Opposition leader

In the general election held September 3, 2007, the PNP led by Simpson-Miller narrowly lost its majority to the Jamaica Labour Party led by Bruce Golding, who succeeded her as Prime Minister. The PNP retained 27 seats. The Labour party won 32. Simpson-Miller initially refused to concede defeat, alleging voting irregularities and the possibility that recounts will change the final result. She conceded defeat on September 5.  She assumed the official leadership of the opposition.

Personal life

Simpson-Miller is married to The Most Honourable Errald Miller, formerly Chief executive officer (CEO) of Cable & Wireless Jamaica Ltd.

On May 29, 2006, she was invested with the Jamaican Order of the Nation, giving her (and her husband) the style "The Most Honourable."

Union Institute awarded her an honorary doctorate of humane letters in 2001, "for her exemplary efforts to improve the quality of life for all Jamaican citizens." Following her election as Party President, the I & U President, Roger. H Sublett praised her for running on a platform that "focused on empowerment for the marginalized, especially the poor, women, and children, and uniting all classes to tackle deep-rooted problems of crime and economic underdevelopment." When she spoke at the 2001 convocation, she told students:
It did not matter that I had served my apprenticeship in the intensive workshop of politics and government and had been schooled in the university of life … It did not matter that I was routinely called upon to represent my country at conferences all over the world. The absence of a college degree remained an issue in my life.


Although she served as head of government for a short period, Portia Simpson-Miller joins the relatively small group of distinguished women who have won election to their nation's highest elected office. The list includes Margaret Thatcher of Great Britain, Benazir Bhutto of Pakistan, and Cristina Fernández of Argentina. Women remain underrepresented in the parliaments of the world. In 2007, "around the world, women held only 17 percent of parliamentary positions." Among Fortunes' top 500 companies, there were only 13 women CEOs; among the top one thousand there were only 26.   While Simpson-Miller was PM, 11 countries had no women members of their legislatures at all.  In the light of such statistics, her achievement withstands scrutiny. It ranks as a remarkable achievement in the context of world where few women reach a position of this status whether in public service, business or the not-for-profit sector.

Throughout her political career, she has been known as "An advocate for the poor, the dispossessed, the oppressed and all those who remain voiceless and faceless in the corridors of power."  Following her election, "Radio Jamaica's Kathy Barrett told the BBC, 'She's a woman who's very determined, a firebrand type of politician who has really hit home when it comes to the majority of people—especially women, the poor and the unemployed.'"  In addition, she has spoken and written about climate change. Her legacy will ultimately be evaluated after she had finished her career. However, in achieving high office as a woman in a society that is dominated be men she has set an example for other women to follow. She has brought to her politics what can be considered feminine qualities of compassion towards those on the margins of society. Professor David Rowe of the University of Miami has compared Simpson-Miller with Garvey; "in a society where wealth was still controlled by racial minorities, Simpson Miller was" he said, "the best option for the majority of Jamaicans for whom the 'duty is still tough.'" She embodies, he says, the principles of the independence movement except that she extends this to mean "independence for women, independence for the poor, independence for the neglected children."


According to the BBC, "Detractors of Mrs. Simpson Miller" suggested that she lacked "the intellectual capacity to lead the Jamaican nation and represent the country in a global capacity." Her defenders counter that she does not regard herself as an all-round expert but consults widely on issues; surrounding "herself with very bright people as she contemplates the way forward." Vando Palmer, communications adviser to Portia Simpson's campaign, says those criticisms are unfair to her because "Portia Simpson Miller does not pretend to be the repository of all knowledge… And she will surround herself with very bright people as she contemplates the way forward." Glenda Simms, a gender development consultant and former Executive Director of the Bureau of Women's Affairs in Jamaica, described her election as "a proud moment for the women of our region and the women of the world …the beginning of a transformation in Jamaican society, and I am convinced that this augers well for all peoples of the world, especially the third world." Detractors have also criticized her for not having run her ministries efficiently. It would have been unusual, however, for an inefficient minister to continue to work their way up the political ladder for such a long time, without being consigned to the back-benches.



--- Quote from: broncobilly on February 24, 2010, 01:49:51 AM ---This is truly a remakable woman and humanitarian that every group in Guyana should proudly lay claim to

Olga Lopes-Seale : Our Energetic Humanitarian

Olga Lopes-Seale is known affectionately to all Barbadians as "Auntie Olga". She was born in Guyana on December 26, 1918, and was educated there. In 1939 Olga married a Barbadian, Dick Seale. The couple had two children - Marcia and John who were born in Guyana. The family moved to Barbados in 1963.

Olga Lopes-Seale's career started when she was in her early teens. She loved singing and playing her own mandolin. She became well known as far back as 1942 visiting Barbados for singing engagements.

In 1952 in Guyana, Olga started full-time radio broadcasting. Her warm and friendly voice along with her caring personality made her extremely successful and popular with programmes such as "Yours Truly Olga", as well as her Children's Talent Shows. She also started the Radio Demerara Needy Children's Fund in 1953. Through this programme many children in need benefited from Santa's presents each Christmas. In 1961, Olga was made a Member of the Order of the British Empire for her kind humanitarian efforts and for her contribution to Broadcasting in Guyana.

Olga was known in the 40s and 50s as the "Vera Lyn of the Caribbean" and sang many inspirational favourites which included "If I can help somebody". This became her theme song.

Since 1963 she has helped and warmed the hearts of many people in Barbados. Her particular devotion is in assisting the young as well as the elderly Barbadians through her Barbados Rediffusion programmes, and has inspired many successful fund raising events.

Olga Lopes-Seale is now a proud great-grandmother and continues her work with those in need. She has a wide knowledge of Barbados and is also a poet and newspaper columnist. She is the recipient of a long list of many different awards given for all her humanitarian work in the Barbadian community.

Her humble deeds and actions have certainly made her an outstanding personality. Her life is a leading example of that beautiful and touching song which is still one of her favourites today:

"If I can help somebody as I pass along,
 If I can cheer somebody with a word or song,
 If I can show somebody who is travelling wrong,
Then my living shall not be in vain."

--- End quote ---

Bronco, I have her file set to be posted in MARCH for WOMEN's HISTORY MONTH, this thread is for BLACK HISTORY MONTH an dI started it with the focus of contribution of those from the CARIBBEAN DIASPORA... Dame Seales was just heraled in Barbados for her 92 birthday in December and does deserve to be recoginised but can we keep the distinctions seperate... Nargis merged our topics with ended the Caribbean focus I was aiming for, can we have Dame Seales held off for March, she's Guyananes but not a Black one and that detracts from the shortness already given to the contributions of colored folks in this month.  Thanks.

john b:

Guyanese-born veteran journalist, broadcaster and musical composer Clyde "Calypso!"Hoyte, (1915-2003) who made Jamaica his home 64 years ago died in 2003!

He went to Jamaica in 1939 at the invitation of The Gleaner after working there with the Guyana Chronicle newspaper as a journalist. He was also a broadcaster who has been credited with pioneering radio news broadcasting in the English-speaking Caribbean.

In 1949, while at The Gleaner he was made the first western bureau manager and up to his death was still contributing articles to that newspaper. He was also credited with publishing the first children's newspaper, The Young Jamaican, and later worked at the Jamaica Information Service in radio and television.

As a musician Hoyte has penned numerous patriotic songs like his well known song O'er Our Blue Mountains tribute to his adopted home of Jamaica, parodies, hymns, jingles, and mento tunes as well as classical pieces which are sung in schools and churches.


Kwayana accepts recognition award from Claire A. Goring in 2007 at the Guyana Folk Festival in NYC

Sydney King (later Eusi Kwayana), Eusi Kwayana, is a Guyanese who has lived in Guyana all his life except in the last year (2002-2003). He has been active in the political and cultural life of Guyana since the 1940s. He was once a government minister. That was in the first People's Progressive Party  administration  of 1953.  He was a lifelong teacher . He was one of the founders of  the African Society for Racal Equality (ASRE)  and then of ASCRIA (African Society for Cultural Relations With Independent Africa ).

He spent four years as a member of the People's National Congress and in 1974 joined the Working People's Alliance.  He and his wife; (Ann Cooke) Tchaiko, of Georgia, are blessed with four offspring.

Eusi Kwayana - the librettist of Guyana’s political opera or the political musician

When we begin to write objective political histories of Guyana, Eusi Kwayana will have to be given a central place. He has been at the epicentre of some of the most important moments in Guyana’s post World War II political life. One image that is seared in our national consciousness is of him in a group photograph of the cabinet of the first government elected by universal adult suffrage in 1953. Here he is, a young minister, part of a dapper group, all clad in white sharkskin suits and white shoes. Other images are his fasting for racial peace during the turbulent 1960s, and more recently, his unequivocal call for the cessation of criminal violence in Buxton.

When an objective political history of Guyana is written, historians will have to consider the body of creative work produced by Eusi Kwayana, the poet, playwright, singer, and lyricist. He wrote the lyrics for the songs of the People’s Progressive Party (Oh Fighting Men), the People’s National Congress (The Battle Song), and the Working People’s Alliance (People’s Power).

Eusi Kwayana grew up in Buxton, East Coast Demerara. In this village, music had other purposes beyond entertainment. Folk songs such as Makantani, Itanami, Timber Man, and Janey Gal are among his favourites. For him, these songs encapsulate history, give advice, and articulate aspirations. His engagement in the performing arts could be traced back to initiatives started by Rev. D.W.H. Pollard, a Congregational minister in Buxton, and the Diocesan Youth Movement. His contemporaries in Buxton’s vibrant drama scene included Maude Gardner, G.S.L. Payne, Martin Stevenson, and Mrs. G.S.T. Hodge (nee Seaforth). It was during his membership of the Diocesan Youth Movement that he wrote his first play -The Prodigal Daughter.

His commitment to utilising music and drama to raise political consciousness and promote social change was further honed in the Demerara Youth Rally (DYR) on the East Coast of Demerara. Among Kwayana’s colleagues in the DYR was the late Cecilene Baird, musician, scholar, and Minister of Education. Eusi Kwayana and Cecilene Baird collaborated on the production Christus the Messiah, which included original music. The play and lyrics were written by Kwayana, and the music was composed by Cecilene Baird who hailed from BV. The aim of the work was to demonstrate Christ’s connection with the masses-a connection that had relevance to political struggles that were taking place in British Guiana during the mid and late 1950s. He also wrote the lyrics for The Song of the Demerara Youth Rally, the theme song for the movement.

Clearly, Kwayana’s early works were oriented to mobilizing youth on the East Coast to be in the vanguard in Guyana’s political future. The late 1940s to early 1950s was a period of active grassroots mobilisation in British Guiana, and music was an important tool in this process. The Demerara Youth Rally became the youth arm of the PPP on the East Coast. Drama and music were central elements in this process. In addition to local compositions, such as Kwayana’s The Song of the Demerara Youth Rally, DYR used the songs of Paul Robeson. Robeson’s songs had been brought to British Guiana by the Jagans when they returned in the late 1940s. Eusi Kwayana has recalled the popularity of Robeson’s renditions of Go Down Moses, Deep River, and Sometimes I Feel Like a Motherless Child among the working people who lived in the villages and estates of the East Coast. The struggles that Robeson sang about resonated with the conditions of working people in Guyana. Robeson’s aspirations were in harmony with those of the Guyanese working class at that time. Those were Cold War times, and the political song had central places in the political systems of the USA and the USSR.

That immersion informed Kwayana’s lyrics. If we look at the party songs as a body of work, we see a consistent narrative: mobilisation for independence, independence for Guyana, the celebration of human dignity, and resistance to domination. Consider the lyrics of the pre-independence PPP Party song- Oh Fighting Men:

Oh fighting men! Oh fighting men!
Give us the sign Oh fighting men!
Now is our call for bravery
We’ll break the bonds of slavery.
The mighty land Guyana we
Shall make a land of liberty
We’re staying with the PPP
To keep the red flag flying.

The PNC’s Battle Song, originally written before independence, was revised for the first congress of the PNC after independence in 1966. Consider these lyrics:

Out of ages of oppression
Independent now we stand
Newly born again, victorious
Reigning masters of our land:
On the peak of Mount Roraima
Or beneath the raising sun;
From the mark of Pointa Playa
To where eastern currents run
All were given liberty
By the might of the PNC

This song for the WPA reflects the changes that had taken place in Guyana in the post-independence era and was a call for remobilisation around another national project. Consider the lyrics of the penultimate and final verses of People’s Power:

Revolution on the way!
And we are here to stay
Let’s join our hands and say,
Together come what may
Together Portuguese
Chinese and Indian
Together African
And Amerindian
Take the fight for freedom into every
Struggle for the freedom
Of the human race
Take the fight for freedom into every
Struggle for the freedom
Of the human race
For people’s power
And no Dictator
For people’s power
And no Dictator

Eusi Kwayana makes it clear that he is not a musical composer and recognises his debt to the melodies of the Anglican Hymnal and Socialist Europe.

The music for the PPP and the WPA party songs are of European origin. The melody for the PPP’s song is similar to the British Socialist Party’s song and the Christmas Carol O Tannenbaum. The WPA’s melody is the same as that used for the Italian Communist Party’s song, “Avanti populi, Avanti populi, Bandera Rosa.” The PNC’s Party Battle Song is truly home grown as the music was composed by the distinguished Guyanese composer Valerie Rodway.

So, there is so much more to Eusi Kwayana. The Sage of Buxton is indeed a Guyanese creative hero. His body of work makes the point that there is so much more to music than just entertainment. These realities must be examined when we begin the necessary task of writing objective histories of post World War II Guyana.



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