South Florida Cultural Ambassador awarded Jamaica’s National Award

MIAMI GARDENS – Mrs. Norma E. Darby, Director of the Jamaica Folk Revue, a Miami-based cultural group has been awarded the Badge of Honour for Meritorious Service (BHM) by the Government of Jamaica.

Mrs. Darby is among the many recipients to receive the National Honour to be presented by the Governor General, His Excellency, the Most. Hon. Sir Patrick Allen, at the National Awards Ceremony at Kings House, on National Heroes Day, Monday, October 16th.

She has been honored for loyal and meritorious service to Jamaica and its Diaspora in the field of cultural arts as a folklorist.

Mrs. Darby is a co-Founder of the Florida-based, cultural group, the Jamaica Folk Revue, which started 30 years ago with an aim to preserve the Jamaican culture abroad, through education and entertainment.

Describing the award as timely, dub poet, Malachi Smith, who has worked with Mrs. Darby over the years, spoke of “her genuine warmth and love of country, fellowmen, and everything Jamaican – always willing to go the extra mile to showcase her country,” he continued.

Under her leadership, the Jamaica Folk Revue through its group of dedicated artists have been committed to providing an environment for cultural growth in the Diaspora through presentations of oral history, music, dance, mime and song. Over the years, the group has been a staple at every event bearing Jamaica’s culture and heritage, performing extensively throughout Florida at all kinds of festivals educating through entertainment.

Congratulating Mrs. Darby, Jamaica’s Consul General, Sandra Grant Griffiths commended her work in the creative arts especially with the Jamaica Folk Revue and the Tallawah Mento Band of South Florida, which she was instrumental in founding. “This exemplifies tangibly in Florida the vibrancy of authentic Jamaican culture.”

Mrs. Darby is also the founder of the annual cultural tributes to Jamaica’s former cultural icon, the Hon. Louise Bennett-Coverley (Miss Lou) who died in July 2006 in Toronto, Canada.

Following her death, an annual Community Cultural Tribute and Scholarship fundraiser was started in September, to honor Miss Lou’s birthday (September 8). Proceeds from this performance, now in its fourth year, have so far, benefited students pursuing studies at the Edna Manley College of the Visual and Performing Arts in Kingston.

The Miss Lou Reading Festival, held in February is now in its third year and features annually, a panel discussion on the perspectives on the life and work of the late Hon. Louise Bennett-Coverley.

Regarding the legacy of Miss Lou, the Consul General lauded Mrs. Darby for her commitment and dedication in keeping the legacy and spirit of Miss Lou alive in South Florida. “For this the people in this community owe her a debt of gratitude,” she added.

Throughout her extensive career, Mrs. Darby has worked with other notable Jamaicans in the arts like musicologist, author and social anthropologist Dr. Olive Lewin, and also founder of the Jamaica Folk Singers. Mr. Easton Lee, author and storyteller who has also worked with Mrs. Darby and shared the stage in several cultural performances also added accolades, describing her as talented and dedicated, and deserving of the national honour.

Mrs. Norma Darby (left) Director of the Jamaica Folk Revue sharing a moment with Jamaica’s Consul General, Sandra Grant Griffiths (right) recently. Mrs. Darby has been awarded the Badge of Honor for Meritorious Service (BHM) by the Government of Jamaica, to be awarded at the National Awards Ceremony at Kings House on National Heroes Day in October.
(Photo by: Leona Minto/ Miami Gardens Observer)

Her tenacity and drive, comes from her dedication to, and love of country, according to Colin Smith, leader of the Tallawah Mento Band who has worked extensively with Mrs. Darby in various productions for the band and during his time as a tenor with the Jamaica Folk Revue. Additionally, a significant part of her work is educating children of Jamaican descent of their rich history and culture. This is also done primarily through drama, song and dance, he continued.
Mrs. Darby took an interest in creative arts at an early age while attending high school at Wolmer’s Girls. She migrated to the United States where she immediately became involved in the social scene directing her talent towards folk culture.

Already, she has been the recipient of several awards and accolades, including that of the Jamaica Consulate Community Service, Broward and Dade counties, and local organizations, for the promotion of Jamaican culture, especially folkloric.

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