Jamaicans named for Heroes Day Ceremony

Olivia “Babsy” Grange, former minister of culture (left), interviewed by Vinette K. Pryce in Kingston, Jamaica.
Photo by Leroy “Dreamy” Riley

One of the anticipated pluses to celebrating Jamaica’s independence is the announcement of distinguished nationals to be acknowledged by the government on Heroes Day in October.

Established in 1968, they were first awarded a year later and annually on Aug. 6, the Jamaica Information Service quelled all anxieties by naming the 2015 awardees considered worthy of distinguished and honorable mention.

One hundred and 67 individuals were named to receive the national honors and as always for a wide variety of service to the island.

Among those to be conferred with The Order of Jamaica (OJ) — the country’s fourth-highest national honor — eight distinguished citizens were acknowledged.

Former New York Consul General Derrick Heaven is among the chosen few and will be rewarded for service to the public sector.

Nationals residing here when he was tasked to represent the diaspora community will recall CG Heaven as the public servant willing to extend himself beyond the routine diplomatic realm. Some may remember how he supportively sat in a Queens’ county courtroom with a Jamaican family dogged by media scrutiny after one of their own — a student at St. John’s University was drugged and raped by a group of athletes.

Afterwards, Heaven was dispatched for service in London, England as the island’s High Commissioner and later returned home to head the Sugar Industry Authority.

“I’m very pleased that I have been considered to receive this honor,” Heaven said. “It’s nice to know that my efforts on behalf of the country have been recognized. I am really deeply honored”

Joining the ambassador is Bronx resident Vincent Getchun HoSang for philanthropic and dedicated service to Jamaica and the Diaspora in New York.

Others in that category include contributors in education, religion and voluntary service.

The sixth in order of national honors bestows the Order of Distinction (CD) in the commander class to names more familiar to the local Jamaican community due to their political and diplomatic affiliations.

They include Members of Parliament, Phillip Paulwell, Wykeham McNeill, former health minister, John Junor, former Senator Trevor Munroe, Ambassador Stephen Vasciannie and Olivia ‘Babsy’ Grange.

Ironically, Grange is being heralded for contribution to the music industry and cultural development.

The former minister of culture has had a long history with the reggae fraternity, promoting and managing numerous artists.

In New York City along with Clifton “Specialist” Dillon, helmed Shang Records, a label that spawned the successful careers of Shabba Ranks, Patra, Damian Marley, Bounty Killa, and a long roster of recording artists.

Grange will be hailed in the rank of commander class.

Reggae Sunsplash co-founder, Ronald ‘Ronnie’ Stafford Burke will also receive his due and the Order of Distinction in the rank of officer class on Oct. 19.

Burke is perhaps best-known for his alluring effort to boost tourism and promote Jamaica and its music industry by joining forces with colleagues for a Synergy that created one of the island’s most successful summer reggae festivals.

He is the first and only member of the four co-founders — (Don Greene, Tony Johnson and John Wakeling ) to be so highly regaled.

“I wanted Synergy to be honored in this way, not just me, but I was told that because the name is not an individual they could not permit the group honor,” Burke told Caribbean Life.

“But I will be accepting it (OD) for all of us, each and everyone who helped us to boost the profile of reggae in Jamaica and throughout the world. All we tried to do was give reggae its due and to convince the powers in government that the music has worth and it should be supported.”

The honor comes more than three decades after the festival was first held in Montego Bay.

Music producers Winston “Niney” Holness and Nyahbinghi drummer Ras Michael as well as Donovan Germain are also listed among those to receive the OD officer class for their significant contribution to Jamaican music and the development of the careers of various artistes.

Germaine is acclaimed for steering the careers of Buju Banton, Marcia Griffiths, Beres Hammond and others to international audiences and major recording contracts.

In the areas of arts, theater and music, Marjorie Whylie is named with others to receive the OD in the rank of commander for her outstanding contribution.

Media and communications specialist Fae Ellington and former JAMPRO president Patricia Francis were also named alongside notables that have contributed in the foreign service, science and research in medicine and medical education.

Jamaican nationals will also be acknowledged with the pinning of the badge of honor for gallantry.

A deserving individual announced was Dr. Richard Bennett who saved his neighbor’s life after that person was stabbed at home. The special honor is also granted to individuals for long and faithful service and for meritorious service.

Since the system was implemented — seven years after independence — only seven Jamaicans have been bestowed the country’s highest honor as national hero, they include – Paul Bogle, Sir Alexander Bustamante, Marcus Mosiah Garvey, George William Gordon, Norman Washington Manley, Samuel Sharpe and the sole female heroine, Nanny of the Maroons.

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