This list is not scientific.
But that’s not the point. The point is….there is no point just an opportunity to acknowledge some of the people who’ve helped shape life in Antigua and Barbuda over the last hundred years or so according to … a very small group of people …with internet access … and a facebook presence … who had time today (not today) … and were aware that there was a poll being run by a random person on the internet.
Like I said, it’s not scientific.
But it was fun and educational, and culturally-relevant; all reasons I thought sufficient to bring the top 10 here to the Wadadli pen blog. My primary interest was in seeing how many of our artists made the list but it’s an opportunity for us to reflect (especially as the year winds down, and as we lose more and more) on the people who have shaped life in Antigua and Barbuda.
So, here we go.
Top 10 Most Influential (in Antigua and Barbuda) of the last 100 years … (according to some people on facebook):
10 – tied – Elvira Bell, Christal Clashing, Samara Emmanuel, Kevinia Francis, and Junella King (i.e. Team Antigua Island Girls – first all Black, all female team to row the Atlantic), Baldwin Spencer (former Prime Minister and former leader of the Antigua-Barbuda Workers’ Union),
Jamaica Kincaid (celebrated international author of fictionalized memoirs like Annie John, Lucy, and See Now Then whose newest book is a children’s picture book based on one of her early short stories), Lester Bird (former PM and officially designated National Hero who published his autobiography The Comeback Kid in 2019), Prince Ramsey (Doctor/HIV-AIDS awareness activist, calypso writer and producer who died in 2019) – one social media commenter said of Dr. Ramsey “I think he’s the most inspiring of them all”
9 – Short Shirt (most decorated Antiguan calypsonian; the Dorbrene O’Marde penned biography about him Nobody Go Run Me was longlisted for the 2015 Bocas prize)
8 – Obstinate (undefeated calypso icon)
7 – tied –
Edris Bird (former resident tutor of the UWI Open Campus who in 2019 also became a Dame), Andy Roberts (bowler, first Antiguan and Barbudan to play for the West Indies Cricket team, knighted),
Winston Derrick (deceased host of Observer Radio’s Voice of the People and co-founder of Observer Media Group which transformed the media landscape and broadcast media especially after a legal battle for the right to broadcast that went all the way to the privy council and with its victory opened up the broadcast media door for others to enter)
6 – Alister Francis (late former principal of the Antigua State College, a groundbreaking tertiary institution of its time for Antigua and Barbuda and the eastern Caribbean)
5 – George Walter (Antigua and Barbuda’s second premier and former leader of the Antigua-Barbuda Workers Union; officially designated National Hero)
4 – Nellie Robinson (late former educator, founder of the TOR Memorial school which is credited with breaking down class/social barriers in Antigua and Barbuda, and officially designated a Dame and our only female National Hero)
3 – V. C. Bird (deceased; second president of the Antigua Trades and Labour Union, which is credited with boosting the voice and fortunes of Black and working class people in late colonial era Antigua and Barbuda, first Chief Minister, Premier, and Prime Minister – Father of the Nation, and first officially designated National Hero)
2 – Tim Hector (late pan African political activist; media pioneer – founder of the Outlet newspaper and writer of the Fan the Flame column; fighter for press freedom through his investigative reporting, and battles in and out of court including the privy council, arrests, and alleged arson; award winning journalist; commentator on politics, culture, sports; and political candidate)
1 – Viv Richards (second Antiguan drafted to the West Indies cricket team, the only Windies captain never to have lost a Test, one of Wisden’s top five cricketers of the 20th century, and officially designated National Hero)
So a handful of artists made the top 10 which is always good to see. But I did wonder who were the top 10 artists in the poll overall, hence this second list. According to the same poll – but in reverse order – and highlighting only the arts side of their life – these are the top 10 artists among the Most Influential in Antigua and Barbuda of the last 100 years or so…according to the voters in this particular social media poll:
1 – Obstinate
2 – Short Shirt
3 – tied – Prince Ramsey, Jamaica Kincaid
4 – tied – Swallow (who with Obsinate and Short Shirt make up the Big Three of Antiguan calypso, known especially for his road march hits), D. Gisele Isaac (writer, cultural critic, author of Considering Venus, The Sweetest Mango, No Seed), Burning Flames (iconic jam band)
5 – Barbara Arrindell (writer)
6 – Reginald Samuel (sculptor, national flag designer)
7 – Ralph Prince (writer)
8 – tied – Oscar Mason (musician, masquerade artist), Yvonne Maginley (musician, composer, Community Players), Dorbrene O’Marde (playwright, cultural critic and activist, calypso writer, novelist), Roland Prince (musician), Joseph ‘Calypso Joe’ Hunte (calypsonian), Marcus Christopher (calypso writer), Alister Thomas (mas designer and builder), Robin Margetson (pan composer, Panache founder – pan school and orchestra)
9 – tied – Stachel Edwards (musician), Rupert Blaize (singer), Wendel Richardson (musician, one of the founding members of Osibisa), John S. Laviscount (musician, founder of the island’s oldest band Laviscount Brass), Isalyn Richards (director of the combined schools choir), Winston Bailey (musician), Althea Prince (writer), Oliver Flax (writer, playwright), The Targets (music group), The National Choir, Shelly Tobitt (calypso writer known for many Antiguan and Barbudan top calypsos of the 70s and early 80s especially through his collaborations with Short Shirt e.g. classic albums Ghetto Vibes and Press On), Ivena (calypsonian, Antigua and Barbuda’s first and to date only female calypso monarch), Bertha Higgins (musician, involved with Antigua Artists Society, Hell’s Gate), Veronica Yearwood (Afro-Caribbean dancer and choreographer, founder of the Antigua Dance Academy), Zahra Airall (writer, award winning dramatist and playwright – Zee’s Youth Theatre, Honey Bee Theatre, Sugar Apple Theatre plus her work with Women of Antigua, poet, arts event producer – notably Expressions Open Mic, photographer), Hilda McDonald (writer)
10 – tied – Novelle Richards (writer), Conrad Roberts (actor)
Apologies if I’ve offended anyone or breached protocol by leaving off all honorifics; that was a choice I made to leave off all instead of forgetting some as I am likely to do (better to have you mad at me for something I chose to do than for something I didn’t mean to do). All honorifics are, however, of course, acknowledged. Also acknowledged is that the named people have done much more than captured in my mini-bites. Some books are pictured in this post but remember to check our listing of Antiguan and Barbudan literature for books on or by any of the named influential Antiguans and Barbudans – if you’re looking specifically for biographies/autobiographies, scroll through the non-fiction list. Also, if someone’s picture is not included it’s because they’re not in the Wadadli Pen photo archives and time constraints didn’t allow for scouring the internet. Hopefully, that covers it – this is just FYI and for fun and I would encourage you to continue the conversation by sharing your picks for most influential Antiguans and Barbudans of the last 100 years or so (the or so is really 20th century forward to this year – I think those were the parameters).
As with all content on Wadadli Pen, except otherwise noted, this is written by Joanne C. Hillhouse (author of The Boy from Willow Bend, Dancing Nude in the Moonlight, Musical Youth, With Grace, Lost! A Caribbean Sea Adventure/Perdida! Una Aventura en el Mar Caribe, and Oh Gad!). All Rights Reserved. If you enjoyed it, check out my page on 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.