It is time to revamp the Jamaica national award

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Order of Excellence (OE) Photo courtesy of Jamaica Information Service

The Jamaica National Honours and Awards presentation ceremony for 2023 is now for the ages, and for many, it has once more given rise to the argument as to its validity. This comes against a background of how these awards are made and the public’s perception of much “curry-favouring” driving how the recipients of these awards are determined. An excellent example of this perception is with respect to Order of Distinction awardee Wayne Marshall.

Essentially, Marshall was singled out for his contribution to Dancehall music over the years. What years, one might ask? And don’t tell me that he is “a good family man.” When did being a good family man become deserving of a National honour? On the other hand, I am certain that Marshall’s tenure does not compare with either Moses Davis aka Beenie Man, or Rodney Price aka Bounti-Killa.

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Order of Merit (OM) (Photo: courtesy of Jamaica Information Service)

Both Bounti and Beenie came from the cellars of the Jamaican music industry and have been engaged in the production and delivery of dancehall for more than thirty and forty years, respectively. The body of work that either artiste owns is unmatched by any of their peers. Both have copped Reggae Grammy Awards, and both have been pivotal in shaping the Dancehall genre, while taking the music to scores of countries around the world.

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Medal of Honour (Photo: courtesy of Jamaica Information Service)

I take nothing away from Marshall for copping this national award, but why him as opposed to either Beenie or Bounti, or both? How does Marshall’s dancehall contribution trump Beenie or Bounti? It is the inability to provide any acceptable answer to this question that feeds the “curry-favour” argument. Many will suggest that those in favour of such nominations ought to make the submissions themselves. My information is that such applications have been submitted on more than one occasion. This leaves one to believe that it may be because of the negative “public” perception held of both artistes in some quarters in Jamaica which may explain their rejection.

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Order of Distinction (OD) (Photo: courtesy of Jamaica Information Service)

National awards are determined by the Chancery of the Orders of the Societies of Honour, a division of the Office of the Prime Minister. To kick-start the selection process, the public is invited to nominate persons to be considered for the eight national honours and awards where nominations open in January of each year and close at the end of March. It is hoped that more people will continue to nominate deserving dancehall acts and they are indeed selected, especially female dancehall musicians, who as a group, have been overlooked as national awards honorees despite their tremendous role in the development of the genre.

Richard Hugh Blackford B.Sc., M.S (Ed).  Managing Director  YARDABRAAWD lNTERNATIONAL LLC.

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