Thu | Jun 13, 2024

Clap yuself: ‘Ring Ding’ documentary video marks a legacy

Published:Monday | June 10, 2024 | 12:05 AMMichael Reckord/Gleaner Writer
A super-sized cheque for $140,000.00 is displayed by principal of the Louise Bennett-Coverley Primary School, Sheena Taylor Morgan (left) and the school’s Cultural Agent Patricia Grindley.
A super-sized cheque for $140,000.00 is displayed by principal of the Louise Bennett-Coverley Primary School, Sheena Taylor Morgan (left) and the school’s Cultural Agent Patricia Grindley.
The celebrated Louise ‘Miss Lou’ Bennett.
The celebrated Louise ‘Miss Lou’ Bennett.
Dr Tracy Ann Brown speaks of her memories when, as a three-year-old, she participated in ‘Ring Ding’.
Dr Tracy Ann Brown speaks of her memories when, as a three-year-old, she participated in ‘Ring Ding’.
US Embassy’s Public Affairs Officer Michael Lavallee brings greetings from the embassy, at the launch of the  ‘Ring Ding’ video documentary on Friday in Gordon Town.
US Embassy’s Public Affairs Officer Michael Lavallee brings greetings from the embassy, at the launch of the ‘Ring Ding’ video documentary on Friday in Gordon Town.
Grade 5 student Okelia Cousins dramatically reciting ‘Uriah Preach’ by Louise Bennett-Coverley.
Grade 5 student Okelia Cousins dramatically reciting ‘Uriah Preach’ by Louise Bennett-Coverley.
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A 15-minute video which seeks to preserve the memory of Ring Ding, Jamaica’s first television programme made specifically for children, was launched last Friday afternoon. Clap Yuself The Ring Ding Documentary was shown to a small audience of invited guests at the Louise Bennett-Coverley Primary School, Gordon Town.

The school was named after cultural superstar Louise Bennett-Coverley (affectionately called ‘Miss Lou’), the host of Ring Ding, who lived in the rural St Andrew district for most of her adult life, and the video was made by the Louise Bennett-Coverley Festival (LBCF).

Headed by Professor Opal Palmer Adisa, the LBCF received funding from the Cultural Heritage Exchange Intangible (CHEI) Cultural Heritage Project of Berkely, California, through the US Embassy in Jamaica. The embassy’s public affairs officer, Michael Lavallee, was the special guest speaker at the launch.

In a frequently applauded speech, he said that for 11 years, from 1969, “ Ring Ding had an overwhelmingly positive impact on the positive self-image, expression and cultural appreciation of Jamaican children.” He called the host a television and radio star, and an “iconic poet, folklorist and social commentator at a time when few persons had such a platform to influence and shape minds across the nation”.

Elaborating, he said that Ring Ding helped “to shape the values, the good citizenship, the love of culture and country for at least three generations of Jamaicans”, and in the immediate years after Jamaican political independence from Britain, “as Jamaica was finding itself culturally, Miss Lou helped shape how Jamaicans distinguished themselves”.

Assuring his audience that the US mission was “proud to have contributed to the preservation of this most worthy area of Jamaican’s oral heritage”, he said that Jamaica’s culture plays an important role in the lives of some three million Jamaicans living in the USA, and that he hoped Ring Ding would inspire “even more work toward the cultural legacy that distinguishes Jamaican culture as a global trend”.

Describing to The Gleaner the unique nature – at the time – of Ring Ding, Palmer Adisa said that children were the main participants. “Miss Lou stressed that she wanted the children to know their culture (through) doing riddles, proverbs, poems, stories, things that lifted up Jamaica.”

She said that the dozen or so students from the Louise Bennett-Coverley Primary School who acted in the documentary were video taped at three sites – the television studio, the Edna Manley College of the Visual and Performing Arts, and finally at the school. Although the making of the production stretched over some three months, she said, she found the children “always cooperative and enthusiastic and just amazing”.

While the applause and cheers she received when she congratulated the parents in the audience for raising such “wonderful children”, there was even more when she announced that the LBCF was donating $140,000 to the school. An oversized cheque for that amount was then brought into the auditorium by school principal Sheena Taylor Morgan and cultural agent Patricia Grindley.

Palmer Adisa said she hoped to have a larger public screening of the documentary at a birthday celebration for Miss Lou on September 7 at Excelsior High School, which the poet was attending when she first came to the general public’s attention.

entertainment@gleanerjm.com