Among praises heaped on international singing sensation, Rihanna, is that regardless of her fame the musical icon never forsakes the neighbourhood in which she grew up, and takes every opportunity to drop in on past neighbours.
It naturally followed that the government of Barbados decided to honor this pop icon by choosing last Thursday, the day of the Barbados’ 51st Anniversary of Independence to rename Westbury New Road — the street on which she played in her childhood — to ‘Rihanna Drive.’
“I couldn’t be more honored to have the street that I was raised on, the street that I grew up on, the street,” Robyn Rihanna Fenty, said on Barbados’ Independence Day after being greeted by a fanfare of bugles and a guard of honor bearing the island’s flag on her arrival for the renaming ceremony.
She continued, “my dreams were born on this very street here and I know that saying ‘believe in your dreams’, it sounds cliché but, I guarantee you, the only thing that got me here was believing my dreams”.
“Special thanks to all my neighbours in Westbury New Road who had a hand in raising me and the woman that I am and the discipline that I have. I am very grateful for that kind of backbone. I believe that I was here for a reason,” the 28-year-old superstar said.
Reflecting on her childhood dreams while playing in Westbury community Rihanna said that since then her goal was fixed on becoming an entertainer.
“I didn’t know how it was going to happen. I know I was hidden away on this little rock Barbados, how would anybody find me but I always knew it would happen. I always focused on the result and that kind of faith. It really was just faith.”
Using herself as a motivation for young Barbadians, she encouraged them to harbour the dream because “it is possible.”
This pop star who was in 2008 named an honorary Barbados Youth and Cultural Ambassador at age 20, said “I want to encourage, not just the people of Westbury New Road and the Westbury community, but all the people in Barbados, all the young women and young men who have dreams and think that the world is against them”.
A community elder, one of those credited with giving guidance to Rihanna in her formative years, Kathy ‘Ife’ Harris, said at the ceremony, “Rihanna has given hope to the children of this neighbourhood and Barbados, that they can dare to dream, that it doesn’t matter where you come from, or your humble beginnings.”
She said that thanks to Rihanna young Bajans feel they “can make things happen by taking a risk, extending and exposing yourself, your fears and insecurities, by making your dreams a reality.”
Harris, who continues to live in the Westbury area, spoke of Rihanna being so proud of her working-class origins and community that she has been taking her celebrity friends including Oprah Winfrey to the location.
“It warms my heart to see she is still family-oriented, still has her childhood friends, still comes to the old neighbourhood being our Robyn. She is still nice, simple, kind and respectful,” Harris said.