The Wadadli Youth Pen Prize extends big, BIG congratulations to new national awardee, one of our own Joy Lawrence. One of our own as in a past volunteer with Wadadli Pen – she participated in the 2006 Wadadli Pen fundraiser Word Up!
and she was our schools’ ambassador taking our message to the schools for the 2014 Wadadli Pen Challenge season (visiting schools between 2013 and 2014 to encourage students to participate and assisting with getting flyers printed to help spread the word beyond that), also donating copies of her books.
She is also one of our own as in a vital part of the Antiguan and Barbudan literary community since the 1996 publication of her first book, the poetry collection Island Spice. In addition to her own publications she’s been involved in literary arts development, some we’ve captured here on Wadadli Pen in the past, such as initiatives like the Antigua State College UNESCO-sponsored poetry writing competition (which ran from 2002 to 2006), her visit to the Cushion Club reading club for kids (we tried to get local and visiting authors in as much as possible) – one of many such engagements for her as an in demand presenter.
Her enduring contribution though is the leg work she’s done researching and documenting our folk history. You’ll see in our non-fiction listing that her publications include perenniel favourite and, she says, her best selling book (which recently had its third printing) The Way We Talk and Other Antiguan Folkways, Colours and Rhythms of Selected Caribbean Creoles, The History of Bethesda and Christian Hill: Our History and Culture (chronicling her home village of Bethesda), The Footprints of Parham: the History of a Small Antiguan Town and Its Influence, and Barbuda and Betty’s Hope: the Codrington Connection. At a recent Independence panel (2016), she also revealed that she’s at work on Villa – leave her to it she might tackle the entire country given enough time and resources. This is the kind of work, if I might venture an opinion, that you’d expect a Culture Department research division (do we have one of those?) to be doing, or if not doing, then funding. I can’t speak to what kind of funding support Lawrence receives, but the documentation of our folk history seems to be in the national interest to me.
Why does she do it? As she told us in a previous exclusive Wadadli Pen interview: “I’m retired now and this is what I want to do with the rest of my life. It gives me a much satisfaction digging into the past. When I drive around the island I don’t see beautiful houses, I see relics of the times our enslaved ancestors struggling to survive under inhumane conditions, and I try to imagine how they felt. My reward is in recording our history for everyone to read and appreciate.”
Before her retirement turn to folk research and writing, Lawrence was a career educator, a senior lecturer at the Antigua State College, with certification from the College of Arts, Science, Arts & Technology in Jamaica (BA, Education), the University of Leicester (MA Communications Media and Public Relations), and Moray House/University of Edinburgh, Scotland (Diploma, Special Education). Since venturing in to writing, she’s mostly focussed on the research side but as she said in that interview “I’m and will always be a poet. Poetry is rhythmic and dramatic; as a folklorist I’m also dramatic and rhythmic. I tell the history of our African ancestors. Once you have African ancestry you’re rhythmic. We walk with rhythm, we like to sing, dance, use our limbs to make gestures. We are poetry in motion. In short, there’s no separation between my poetry and the folktales and history I reproduce.” She does continue to produce poetry; and most recently her poem, The Whirlwind, was published in A River of Stories (Volume 3 – Air), a 2016 publication of the Lift Education/Commonwealth Education Trust.
Lawrence received a 2004 UNESCO Honour Award for her contribution to the literary arts and can now add to that her OH – Officer of the Most Precious Order of Princely Heritage, one of 11 National Awards conferred during the November 1st 2016 Independence Ceremonial Parade.
As you know, if you’ve been following us over the years, we’re happy whenever national recognition goes to anyone in the arts, and especially so the literary arts. Big up, Joy, and we know that your work is not done.
FYI: the other 2016 National Awardees are Curtis Charles, Rueben Duberry, George Henry, former commissioner of police Wright Fitz-Henley George, Selwyn James, Graeme Johnson, Florita Kentish, Cosmos Marcelle, Dr. Percival Perry, and Constacia Thomas.
As with all content on wadadlipen.wordpress.com, except otherwise noted, this is written by Joanne C. Hillhouse (author of The Boy from Willow Bend, Dancing Nude in the Moonlight, Oh Gad!, Musical Youth, Fish Outta Water, and forthcoming With Grace). All Rights Reserved. If you enjoyed it, check out my page on Amazon, WordPress, and/or Facebook, and help spread the word about Wadadli Pen and my books. You can also subscribe to the site to keep up with future updates. Thanks.