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Aretha Franklin, ‘Queen of Soul’ who transformed American music, dies at 76

Reports say the music icon died from advanced pancreatic cancer in her Detroit home surrounded by family. Here’s a look at her iconic career that spans generations in music and American history. USA TODAY

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Aretha Franklin, whose impassioned, riveting voice made her a titan of American music, died of pancreatic cancer on Thursday, her niece Sabrina Owens confirmed. She was 76.

She died at 9:50 a.m. ET surrounded by family at her home in Detroit.

A family statement released by her publicist, Gwendolyn Quinn, said “Franklin’s official cause of death was due to advance pancreatic cancer of the neuroendocrine type, which was confirmed by Franklin’s oncologist, Dr. Philip Philip of Karmanos Cancer Institute” in Detroit.

The family added: “In one of the darkest moments of our lives, we are not able to find the appropriate words to express the pain in our heart. We have lost the matriarch and rock of our family.”

Franklin was one of the transcendent cultural figures of the 20th century. Raised on an eclectic musical diet of gospel, R&B, classical and jazz, she blossomed out of her father’s Detroit church to become the most distinguished female black artist of all time, breaking boundaries while placing nearly 100 hits on Billboard’s R&B chart – 20 of them reaching No. 1.

The Queen of Soul, as she was crowned in the 1960s, leaves a sprawling legacy of classic songs that includes “Respect,” “(You Make Me Feel Like) A Natural Woman,” “Chain of Fools,” “Baby I Love You,” “Angel,” “Think,” “Rock Steady,” “Bridge Over Troubled Water” and “Freeway of Love,” along with a best-selling gospel catalog.

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Her death follows several years of painstakingly concealed medical issues, which led to regular show cancellations and extended absences from the public eye.

In March, Franklin canceled two concerts scheduled in New Jersey. According to a statement from her management team, she was following doctors’ orders to stay off the road and rest for two months, and she was “extremely disappointed she cannot perform as she had expected and hoped to.”

Franklin’s last performance was on Nov. 2, for the Elton John AIDS Foundation in New York. The previous June, visibly feeble but still summoning magic, Franklin played her final hometown Detroit show, an emotion-packed concert for thousands at an outdoor festival downtown. 

She ended the performance with a then-cryptic appeal to her the crowd: “Please keep me in your prayers.”

The Queen of Soul sang for presidents and royalty, and befriended high-profile leaders such as the Revs. Martin Luther King Jr. and Jesse Jackson. Amid the global glitter and acclaim, she remained loyal to her adopted home, living in the Detroit area for decades, including the Bloomfield Hills house where she moved in the late ’80s.

“My roots are there. The church is there. My family is there,” she told the Detroit Free Press in 2011. “I like the camaraderie in Detroit, how we’ll rally behind something that’s really worthy and come to each other’s assistance.”

Franklin’s voice was a singular force, earning her a multitude of laurels through the decades, including 18 competitive Grammy Awards and a Lifetime Achievement Award, the Presidential Medal of Freedom and honorary doctorates from a host of institutions. In 1987, she became the first female artist inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, and seven years later, at age 52, the youngest recipient of a Kennedy Center Honor.

Franklin topped Rolling Stone magazine’s 100 Greatest Singers of All Time list, and her signature hit, “Respect,” ranked No. 4 on “Songs of the Century,” a 1999 project by the National Endowment for the Arts. She performed at the inaugurations of U.S. presidents Bill Clinton and Barack Obama, garnering global attention at the latter for her big fur hat with its crystal-studded bow – a piece now in the Smithsonian Institution.

Franklin’s influence is vast and indelible. It’s most obviously heard in the myriad voices that followed her, from Mary J. Blige to Adele, and even male singers such as Luther Vandross.

But just as important is Franklin’s broader social impact: She embodied American black culture, emphatically and without apology, and through sheer force of talent, thrust it onto the global stage.

Franklin revolutionized black music and the way it was absorbed and perceived, helping create a world where we take for granted that a Beyonce can reign atop mainstream popular culture.

Franklin was emotionally complex, a woman who relished her diva status but whose vulnerabilities and insecurities always seemed to lurk just beneath. Her public success masked a private life of turbulence and loss, making for an intriguing character driven by conflicting forces: Franklin was sassy but naturally shy, urbane but down-home, confident but reckless.

That deep, complicated humanity imbued her music with authenticity. Franklin’s singing, soaked in feeling and executed with virtuoso skill, moved seamlessly among styles: gospel, soul, pop, blues, R&B, jazz, even opera. She belted, purred, seduced, testified. Even as the propulsive power left her voice in later years, she remained as expressive as ever, and her live performances continued to earn critical acclaim.

“I must do what is real in me in all ways,” she told Ebony magazine in 1967, the year when a string of hit singles – “Respect,” “Baby I Love You,” “Chain of Fools” – gave Franklin her first major crossover success.

Aretha Franklin brought down the house at President Barack Obama’s first inauguration in 2009. Her performance was as memorable for her hat as it was for her rendition of “My country ’tis of thee.” (Aug. 16) AP

Franklin’s early life

Born in Memphis on March 25, 1942, Franklin moved at age 4 to Detroit when her father, the Rev. C.L. Franklin, took over duties at New Bethel Baptist Church.

Turmoil set in early: Her mother left Detroit for Buffalo, New York, when Aretha was 6, and died four years later.

Still, Franklin grew up in an environment ideal for nurturing her skills. Her charismatic father was a preacher and singer with a national reputation, with sermons that became top-selling records and a gospel revue that toured the country. That brought important musical figures into the young singer’s orbit, including household guests such as James Cleveland, Mahalia Jackson, B.B. King and Sam Cooke. Growing up on Detroit’s northwest side, she was a childhood friend of Smokey Robinson.

She became a singing prodigy at New Bethel, and her sisters, Carolyn and Erma, also honed their gospel skills. But it was Aretha who emerged as the standout, and by age 14 she was accompanying her father on his gospel travels.

 

Gospel was the main focus, but the Franklin household was teeming with all manner of music.

“I heard classical music from the beginning. It was always in our home,” Franklin told the Free Press in 2011. “As a teenager I took more to the R&B, but I always loved classical.”

R&B music, frowned upon by many in the traditional gospel world, was also welcome in the house. The Rev. Franklin, progressive in politics and disposition, put up little resistance to the secular sounds exemplified by artists such as Cooke.

The young Aretha absorbed the emotional power of music in its many forms, whether in the throes of an ecstatic congregation or the intimacy of close listening. 

“(My older sister) Erma was a big fan of ‘Be My Love’ by Mario Lanza,” she recalled. “How many times did we hear that in our house?! Sylvia Robinson, Smokey’s sister, used to visit Erma and play ‘Be My Love,’ pressing their ears against the speakers, just crying.

“I was quite young at the time, and I thought it was very funny that these girls were crying with their ears against the speaker. I didn’t do that with the artists I heard (then) – Frankie Lymon, the Clovers, LaVern Baker, Ray Charles. As an adult I began to perfectly understand it. When I heard someone knocking me out, I thought, ‘OK, so this is what that was about.’ ”

In 1960, at age 18, Franklin spurned a hometown offer from Berry Gordy’s fledgling Motown label and opted to sign with New York’s Columbia Records, where her demo tape had caught the ear of iconic talent scout John Hammond. A year later – shortly after Franklin married her manager, Ted White – her Columbia debut was released.

That record set the tone for her five-year, nine-album tenure at Columbia, where she was groomed as an interpreter of jazz and pop standards, presented as a chanteuse at the piano.

Franklin was quietly masterful at the keyboard. Throughout her career, it was a skill overshadowed by her voice – although she played piano on most of the work for which she’s now remembered.

The Columbia period proved fruitful but frustrating for the young singer, helping expand her talent while sticking a bridle on the gospel-honed voice behind it. Even as her critical reputation and live draw grew, she managed only a handful of minor hits.

“It’s a fast track to the top if you’ve really got it going on. But I like the way I came up in the industry,” she told the Free Press in 2014. “It wasn’t too fast. It wasn’t overnight, but (rather) little by little. And gradually I grew in the industry. I like that more than the overnight sensation, as one might put it. I was able to learn along the way and grow at a very, very nice pace. My pace, really. I wasn’t thrust into anything I wasn’t ready for.”

Real success blossomed in 1967, when the 24-year-old Franklin declined to renew her Columbia contract and signed with Atlantic Records, where executives Ahmet Ertegun and Jerry Wexler saw a chance to unleash the raw power of Franklin’s vocals. Her first Atlantic single – “I Never Loved a Man (The Way I Love You)” – was cut at the burgeoning soul-music hotbed FAME Studios in Muscle Shoals, Alabama.

Within weeks it was Franklin’s first No. 1 on Billboard’s R&B chart, cracking the pop Top 10 as well. She was on her way to mainstream success.

As with so much of her coming work, the performance on “I Never Loved a Man” was fueled by a deep intensity but with an intimate, welcoming feel that helped Franklin connect with listeners across the board.

“She has never learned how to be pretentious enough to build a false image, and deeply identifies with people on all levels,” Ebony wrote that year, going on to quote Franklin:

“Everybody who’s living has problems and desires just as I do,” she told the magazine. “When the fellow on the corner has somethin’ botherin’ him, he feels the same way I do. When we cry, we all gonna cry tears, and when we laugh, we all have to smile.”

‘Respect’ and the ascension to fame

Franklin’s career quickly skyrocketed: With Wexler overseeing sessions and many of the Muscle Shoals players recruited to Atlantic’s New York studio, Franklin recorded a flurry of hits in the ensuing months, all of them enduring for decades as staples of her repertoire: “Respect,” “Baby I Love You,” “(You Make Me Feel Like) A Natural Woman,” “Chain of Fools, “Ain’t No Way.” She was backed on many by sisters Carolyn and Erma, who enjoyed modest solo success of their own.

Franklin was no one’s puppet in the studio: Even in her earliest years, she was assertive during record sessions, crafting arrangements and dictating commands to seasoned musicians many decades her senior.

By ’68, Franklin was an iconic figure in the African-American community – “the Queen of Soul,” as she was christened by the black press. She was now inescapably important: Franklin’s status was seconded by mainstream America that summer when she graced the cover of Time magazine.

While Franklin was not often explicitly political in public, she embraced her anointed role just as the black-pride movement was flowering. “Respect,” in particular, took on anthem-like stature, hailed as a bold feminist and civil-rights statement – though Franklin long insisted she had no grand designs when she recorded the Otis Redding tune about household relationships.

On Feb. 16, 1968 – declared “Aretha Franklin Day” by Detroit Mayor Jerome P. Cavanagh – she performed a celebratory hometown show for 12,000. In attendance was the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr., two months before his assassination, and he took the stage to present Franklin with an award on behalf of his Southern Christian Leadership Council.

As would become typical of Franklin’s story, the outward success masked drama behind the scenes. The marriage to White, in particular, had become fraught, marked by domestic violence. By 1969, they were divorced. She would go on to wed actor Glynn Turman in 1978, a marriage that lasted six years.

The hits continued to pile up. By the end of the 1960s she had placed 28 songs in the R&B Top 40, a mix of original material and eclectic cover songs, including work by the Beatles (“Eleanor Rigby”) and the Band (“The Weight”). The momentum carried into the following decade, with a string of hit records and a 1972 gospel album, “Amazing Grace,” that became one of the genre’s all-time best sellers.

Success on the R&B side continued in the ’70s even as the pop hits tapered off, though 1976’s “Sparkle” soundtrack produced one of Franklin’s abiding crossover classics, the Curtis Mayfield-penned “Something He Can Feel.” A scene-stealing appearance in the 1980 comedy “The Blues Brothers,” where Franklin performed as a waitress belting out “Think,” was a colorful introduction for a younger generation.

 

That same year, searching for a new musical direction, Franklin signed with Arista Records, where mogul Clive Davis helped groom a fresh career path for the singer, now approaching 40.

After several tries, the 1985 album “Who’s Zoomin’ Who” became the mainstream smash they sought, producing the hit “Freeway of Love” and placing Franklin in front of the MTV audience. A duet with George Michael, “I Knew You Were Waiting (For Me),” topped the global charts two years later.

Franklin, who had spent much of the 1970s in Los Angeles, was now permanently resettled in metro Detroit, with several area properties including the Bloomfield Hills residence that would remain her primary home for the next three decades. Her father had died in 1984 after a five-year coma; he’d been shot during an attempted robbery at his Detroit home.

The 1990s saw Franklin growing into the role of elder soul stateswoman, satisfied with her status as one of pop history’s greats and playing up the diva role that had become an integral facet of her persona. While the studio pace slowed – she released just five albums from 1998 through her death – her latter-day music was generally well received, with Grammy nominations for “A Rose Is Still a Rose” (1998) and “So Damn Happy” (2003).

“I’m comfortable in my own skin, and my six-inch heels,” she told the Free Press in 2011.

Though Franklin still performed regularly in the ’90s and ’00s, her touring work was hampered by her fear of flying, which set in after a frightening small-plane trip in the early ’80s. She insisted on bus travel, trekking across the U.S. to play for adoring crowds at theaters and summer amphitheaters.

“I’ve definitely evolved to a greater maturity onstage, a savoir faire, I think,” she told the Free Press. “It’s just about relaxing more, really, and having fun with it. That comes with time, to evolve to that level and find that it’s really very simple … that it’s really about having fun and communicating with your audience.”

Franklin was long dogged by weight issues and struggled with alcohol abuse in the late 1960s. But the first glaring sign of health problems came in 2010, when she canceled six months of concert commitments while hospitalized for undisclosed reasons.

She re-emerged the next summer visibly slimmer and seemingly healthy, returning with a glowing show at the Chicago Theatre: “Six months after the world was braced for the worst, Aretha Franklin gave it her best,” as the Free Press reported at the time.

“Her voice was velvety and potent as she rolled into her set, still finding new curves and corners in the notes of songs such as ‘Think,’ ‘Sparkle’ and ‘Baby I Love You,’ ” read the review.

Nevertheless, Franklin’s concert activity became hit-and-miss during her final years, and show cancellations became par for the course, often chalked up to unnamed health problems. She increasingly spoke of winding things down, performing fewer shows by the year, and in February 2017 finally raised the prospect of retirement, saying she was recording a final album.

Two missions loomed large during the final decade of Franklin’s life, and both were still in the works when she died: She was in ongoing talks to produce a film about her life, frequently talking up potential lead actresses such as Jennifer Hudson, Halle Berry and Audra McDonald. And she was enchanted by the idea of opening a soul-food restaurant in downtown Detroit.

Reclusive by nature, Franklin liked being at home and enjoying “the small things,” as she said in 2011 – polishing the silver, buying a tea set, washing and ironing. She was a reader drawn to biographies and an avid media consumer who looked forward to her daily newspapers.

“I enjoy the comfort of home very much,” she said. “I’m very domestic when I’m at home. I can stay in the house for the longest kind of time and not get out.”

From Obama to Pavarotti, always grand

It was always BIG with Aretha Franklin. The public situations skewed to the larger-than-life, the supersize, the majestic. She was an immense presence, physically and psychologically, and could take over rooms simply by sweeping into them.

She had a knack for finding herself at the center of grand moments, whether stealing the show at the Obama inaugural or filling in for the ailing Luciano Pavarotti with an impromptu “Nessun Dorma” at the 1998 Grammys.

 

“She could get a U.S. president on the phone with two calls,” said Brian Pastoria, who co-engineered some of Franklin’s studio work.

Indeed, it was the little stuff that seemed to vex Franklin most. She struggled with personal finances, and was frequently forced into small-claims court by mom-and-pop operations around metro Detroit – limo services, caterers, contractors. Her home was often cluttered and unkempt, and while experts on creative genius might say that comes with the territory, it was enough to frustrate neighbors and leave visitors puzzled why she had so little help around her.

For years Franklin talked about plans to tackle her flying phobia, but never followed through. It kept her grounded for the final 35 years of her life, plausibly costing her millions in touring revenue.

Franklin was scrupulously private; her personal life was shielded by a tight cadre of family members and friends. When writer Mark Bego set out to pen the first authorized Aretha Franklin biography, 1989’s “The Queen of Soul,” he was struck by the array of unknowns that still surrounded her – basic details about her two marriages and divorces, her upbringing, even her musical inspirations.

“I felt as if I had just encountered one of the great unsolved mysteries of the show-business world,” he wrote.

Franklin cautiously traipsed into some of those topics with her 1999 autobiography, “Aretha: From These Roots.” But she remained elusive enough that her handpicked co-author, David Ritz, was compelled to write his own uninhibited Franklin biography 15 years later.

That book provoked the singer’s wrath – the sort of eruption familiar to those in Aretha’s world. Franklin continually churned through support staff, hiring and firing lawyers, publicists and producers. She feuded with other female singers and knew how to hold a grudge, including a beef with Dionne Warwick that became public only when Franklin alerted the press out of the blue – five years after it happened.

But when it came to the music, few were more disciplined than Franklin. She was serious about her voice and exacting about her concert conditions: big on honey and hot tea before a show and insistent on rooms without air conditioning, aware it could dry out her throat.

Many who worked closely with her also glimpsed the humanity at the heart of the superstar singer who came up in the church.

“She (was) very compassionate,” the late Darryl Houston said in 2010. Houston was Franklin’s accompanying pianist for more than two decades. “When I was dealing with the sickness and eventual death of my father in Mississippi, she was very encouraging in thought and deed. I remember a few times I would get a call from a travel agent saying: ‘When do you want to go see your dad? Ms. Franklin has taken care of the ticket.’ ” 

Brian Pastoria was part of a studio team that worked with Franklin in the 1990s and 2000s, including recording sessions at her home.

“Before the vocal sessions, she’d be in the kitchen making chili. After recording a couple of hours, she’d say, ‘OK, time to eat!’ ” Pastoria recalled. “Even though she was the greatest of all time, the Muhammad Ali of vocals, it was still always her calling on the phone for business, not her lawyer. You’d hear, ‘Hi, honey, how are you!’ It was nice. It was real. You never felt like you were dealing with a major superstar.”

For all the public gowns, glitz and diva references – she was famously portrayed in a Snickers commercial as a crabby prima donna – Franklin was a homegirl at heart. She was a connoisseur of old-school Southern soul food, proud of her knack with homemade dishes like fried chicken and ham with black-eyed peas.

“I think I rank with the best when it comes to the stove,” she told the Free Press in 1996.

That sort of organic realness coursed through her work.

“She paints a picture with a song,” said Houston. “Outside of being vocally astute, you can feel what she’s singing. You can tell when someone is just singing a song, and when the song is a part of their inner being. With Aretha, what leaves the heart reaches the heart.”

 

“It seems she never, ever forgot those roots of the church, and she really believed that we need to look above the things of this world, to a more spiritual level,” said social activist Rocky Twyman. “You felt like she wanted to bless humanity with her music.”

Franklin made her final hometown appearance in Detroit on June 10, 2017, headlining the Detroit Music Weekend festival for thousands gathered in the streets. Down the block two days earlier, tears had streamed down her face as she was honored by the city with the unveiling of Aretha Franklin Way.

For nearly two hours on the festival stage that weekend, she performed a spirited, feisty set while clearly struggling through pain, at one point singing from a plush chair.

Franklin did it her way that night, foregoing many of her biggest hits for a deeper dive into her catalog and a stirring, 11-minute gospel workout of “Precious Memories.”

The old, soaring power may have been missing, but the passion was intact. For one last time in front of her hometown community, there was Aretha Franklin, and there was that voice. 

That voice – still captivating, but now comforting in its decades-long familiarity. A sound still melding urban vitality with the warmth of Southern soul. Still joy, pain, ecstasy, liberation. Still strength and femininity. And still offering, as it always will, the promise of transcendence.

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Clinton tweet

Pre-mourning” Aretha Franklin

By Brian Stelter and CNN’s media team

Some memories, thoughts and observations0 just prior to her death announcement

The digital age allows us to witness “pre-mourning” on a worldwide scale.

And that’s what we’re witnessing right now around the news that Aretha Franklin‘s health is failing. People are celebrating her life and bracing for her possible death –

– and much of this is playing out in public.

Credit where it’s due: On Tuesday I heard CNN.com EIC Meredith Artley use the term “pre-mourning” to describe the outpouring of love and concern. That’s exactly what it is. Just take a look at a news website, TV newscast, Facebook, or

Twitter. There’s already a tribute concert being planned for the fall.

“It’s very logical on a journalistic and a human level — she is a global icon,” Artley said via email Tuesday night. “A black woman who sings about respect, about being a woman, a moving voice and central figure of civil rights…” Artley said the interest in her life and health and legacy may speak to “a need for some soul and grace in turbulent times.” Very true…

Friends and fans rallying around the star

Psychologists sometimes call it “anticipatory grief.” A friend commented to me that every time she sees Aretha’s name now, “I check to see if she has died.”

Think back to June, when there was a digital embrace of Charles Krauthammer in the weeks before he passed away. The same was true when Barbara Bush was in failing health back in April. And I hate talking this way, but I think we’ve seen some “pre-mourning” of John McCain, given his brain cancer diagnosis.

As for Franklin, Lisa Respers France wrote about the friends and fans rallyingaround the star… Here’s her full story…

Franklin is hearing the tributes

Some deaths come as a shock — Michael Jackson, Robin Williams, Prince. There was no “pre-mourning” them. Two recent examples were Anthony Bourdain and Kate Spade. But Franklin has apparently been able to hear from some of the people who are concerned about her.

On Tuesday a source close to Franklin told CNN’s Don Lemon that the 76-year- old singer “is being visited by people close to her who are reading her messages from friends and loved ones, holding her hand…”

A reminder: Exercise caution…

A warning via the NYT’s Ben Sisario:

“The lack of detail about Ms. Franklin’s condition led to some premature comments on social media that she had died. On Tuesday, Tim Franklin, a nephew, was

quoted in a report by People magazine saying that Ms. Franklin was ‘alert,

laughing, teasing, able to recognize people.’ That comment was rebutted by the

rest of the Franklin family… ” A family rep said “that Ms. Franklin had met with her nephew in a ‘very brief visit two weeks ago.’ But by then the People report had been picked up by numerous other media outlets.

My final thought on this: Are some sketchy websites seizing on concern about Franklin to grab some cheap page views? For sure. That’s the web at its worst. But at its best, the content connects people and helps them feel a little less alone while pre-mourning the loss of a giant…

 

 

 

 

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Guyana President declares national day of mourning

Guyana President declares national day of mourning

GEORGETOWN, Guyana, Jun. 24, CMC –  President David Granger has proclaimed Monday as a national day of mourning for the victims of the massacre of Guyanese fishermen off the Coast of Suriname between April 27 and May 3.

The proclamation which is in keeping with Article 99 (1) of the constitution of Guyana, calls on “all authorities, Boards, Commissions, Corporations, Public Agencies, Ministries and citizens to fly the National Flag of Guyana at half-staff to demonstrate solidarity with the families of those killed in these grisly and gruesome acts and to accord due homage, respect and reverence to the memory of the victims.”

The piracy attack which took place on April 27, left 16 fishermen missing and feared dead.

According to survivors, they were assaulted with machetes and forced to jump into the sea by the assailants who are suspected to be of Guyanese heritage.

Some of the survivors also recounted that several victims had batteries tied to their legs.

Granger, speaking on the sidelines of the opening ceremony for Caribbean Financial Action Task Force’s (CFATF) workshop for judges and prosecutors had described the attack, as a grave one.

“We are deeply grieved by the tragedy. Clearly, some Guyanese have been victims and we are in touch with the Surinamese government, also the Surinamese police authorities. Our police in the East Berbice, Corentyne division are in touch with their families and we plan to observe formal mourning. It is a great massacre, a great tragedy,” the president said.

In addition, The Head of State had extended sympathy to the bereaved families and said the recent attack is a setback to successes achieved in the fight against piracy over the past three years.

Following the attack, Minister of Public Security, Khemraj Ramjattan and a team of security personnel visited the neighbouring country and met with relatives of the deceased. The Minister said the visit was timely and yielded important information.

“The very first morning of our arrival I met with about 25 relatives of the victims and we had a meeting at the Guyana Embassy in Paramaribo, myself along with Ambassador George. A number of issues were raised and the ways in which we could assist were also discussed.” Minister Ramjattan added, “we then had a meeting on Monday morning with the Minister of Justice, Minister of Defence, Minister of Agriculture, the Police Commissioner and the chief detective who was the person in charge of the investigations. From that meeting, we received a better understanding as to how far the investigations had gone,” Ramjattan explained.

According to The Minister of Public Security a formal request was made to the Surinamese government, to have an estimated seven persons who may have information on the recent piracy attacks on Guyanese fishermen, provide same to the local police.

“Recently, a team of Surinamese detectives working on the case indicated that they are going to help us in relation to getting more evidence because we had asked them for more evidence in relation to people who we suspected in Guyana,” the Minister said during a media briefing.

In the aftermath of the attack,  the government declared moves to heighten counter-piracy efforts.

Minister of State, Joseph Harmon said that government will be intensifying its counter-piracy activities in Guyana and has assured local fisherfolk of the government’s commitment to ensuring that they continue to ply their trade and earn their livelihood in an environment of safety and security.

The Surinamese authorities have also agreed to the implementation of a number of regulatory measures aimed at ensuring the safety of fisher folks and their vessels.

Nakool Manohar called “Fyah”, 39, the alleged mastermind of the massacre of Guyanese fishermen in Suriname, was on charged on May 30, with the murder of one of the men.

Manohar appeared at the Springlands Magistrate’s Court b  to answer to charges of piracy on the high seas however, he was instead slapped with the murder charge.

The charge stated that between April 26th and May 3rd, while in Guyana’s territorial waters, he murdered Tilacknauth Mohabir called ‘Caiman’.

Another man  – Premnauth Persaud, also known as ‘Sinbad,’ who is said to be the ringleader of the April 27 piracy attack off of Suriname, was jointly charged  with the murder of two fishermen.

Persaud, 43, the third accused, was jointly charged with Nakool Manohar, also known as “Fyah”, 39, with the murders of Tilaknauth Mohabir, also known as “Kai” or “Kaiman,” and Mahesh Sarjoo. The charge read that the two men, between April 27 and May 3, murdered Mohabir and Sarjoo during the course of a robbery in Corentyne waters.

The second accused Alexander DenHart, called “Shame Face”, earlier this month and was not required to answer to the charge.

The bodies of Tilacknauth Mohabir and Mahesh Sarjoo were the only two that were positively identified by relatives in Suriname after the   attack .

One other body that was found in Surinamese waters is still to be identified via DNA testing while the body of Gowkaran Outar called Gavin was found on a beach and was positively identified by a tattoo on his chest by relatives.

Five persons survived the ordeal while 11 are still missing and feared dead.

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About 12.30 p.m. - June 25, 1997

How do we remember those who died on June 25, 1997?

by Bennette Roach

About 12.30 p.m. – June 25, 1997

This morning I asked a few peolple, who immediately but only then recalled the significance of my question: Who remembered where they were at about 12.30 p.m. on June 25, 1997. The stories came out, from very clear memories. What about you.

Last year on Sunday, June 25, 2017, Montserrat held a 20thYear Remembrance ceremony of the 19 persons who died during the tragic event of volcanic activity on June 25, 1997. A plaque displaying the names of the victims. A plaque was unveiled at the main service at the Cultural Centre and installed at the National Museum immediately after.

There were two memorial services held last week: one on Sunday afternoon and another on Tuesday afternoon, the day which was set aside as a national day of mourning.

Offices were officially asked to close at two o’clock on Tuesday, in honour of those persons who lost their lives or are still missing, though believed to be dead, in the tragic pyroclastic flows of Wednesday, June 25, 1997. The flows descended on villages from Streatham, Windy Hill, Harris, Farms Bethel, Spanish Pointe through Trants on the northeast and eastern end of the island, completely destroying some of them.

Both services were well attended by government dignitaries and officials, as well as family members of the dead and missing and the public in general.

Plans are being put in place to establish a fund for families of the victims of last week’s pyroclastic flow. This was put in motion with the offering that was taken up at the services.

Related: Memorial Services and Fundwww.montserratreporter.org – July 16, 1997

I previously wrote the following, information over which the discussions still continue as people are reminded.

“So people died, and later even to this day there are the reasons why it happened. But while HMG did not quite accept the verdict following the Inquiry which was presided over by Magistrate Rhys Burris, local government is yet to pursue some form of compensation for the survivors of these people. The deceased were where they were that day for varying reasons.

“Following the Inquest hearing: While the jurors found all 19 deaths were “caused by the natural catastrophe,” they pointed the finger of responsibility at both Her Majesty’s Government and the Government of Montserrat in at least some of them (the deaths).

“In London, the Foreign Office promptly disclaimed any responsibility of Her Majesty’s Government in the deaths. In a statement reported by the BBC, it said, “On May 23, the farmers were told to stop farming in the area nearest the volcano. It is inconceivable that they were not aware of the dangers.”

Today, let us remember these people. “Their deaths brought urgent attention which again to this day as we recall 20 years since the crisis began, the question must be how strong the indication of the casual way the Montserrat recovery has progressed, or retrogressed.

  • Alwin Allen, 44, a livestock farmer, died in Farms.
  • Winston Allen, 41, chauffeur and livestock farmer, died in Farms.
  • Benjamin / Joseph Brown, 71, a farmer, died in the central area of Montserrat.
  • Felina Celestine, 45, a farmer, died in Farrells.
  • Melville Cuffy, 39, a farm worker, died in Farrells.
  • Beryl Grant, 73, farmer and huckster, died in Harris.
  • Edith Greenaway, 69, resident, died at her home in Streathams.
  • Joseph Greenaway, 62, resident, died at his home in Windy Hill.
  • Mary Bernardine Harris, 44, resident, died at her home in Farms.
  • Alicia Joseph, 23, resident, died at her home in Farms.
  • Allister Joseph, 3-months, died with his mother in Farms.
  • Isolyn Lewis, 43, a farmer, died in Farrells.
  • Chana Rueben Boatswaine/Horrance Murraine, 66, airport worker, died in Farms.
  • Keithley Ponde, 32, a farmer, died in Farrells.
  • Hezekiah Riley, age unknown, described as mentally unstable, died at his home in Streathams.
  • Phillip Robinson, 66, a farmer, died in Streathams.
  • Anthony Sutton, 72, resident, died at his home in Farms.
  • Virginia Sutton, 70, resident, died at her home in Farms.
  • Joseph / Simon Tuitt / White, 45, airport worker, died in Farms.

“Above are the names of those who perished in that tragic and fateful volcanic extra-ordinary event of June 25, 1997. Theirs were lives lost that need not to have happened when and how they did. As we remember them and the day, we need also to remember the many others who have since died slowly, while not directly from an event, but from other events over the entire crisis. There are others who suffered and others who continue to suffer and some who have indeed died, only because circumstances were slow in being corrected or attended to at all.

“This was said almost 17 years ago. “Others may die slower deaths, but it is up to us who must do something about it, if it is only by breaking a silence and deliberating and strategizing ways to deal with these problems.”

“This remains valid today.”

 

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Billy Graham, seen in 2010, has died at the age of 99. (CHRIS KEANE / Reuters)

Billy Graham, ‘America’s Pastor’ And Noted Evangelist, Dead At 99

Jade Walker

HuffPost
 
 Billy Graham, the famed evangelist who became known as “America’s Pastor,” has died at the age of 99, The Associated Press reported.

Graham died at his home Wednesday morning from natural causes, a family spokesman told  ABC News.

Born in 1918 in Charlotte, North Carolina, William Franklin Graham Jr. was the oldest of the four children of William and Morrow Graham. He was raised on a dairy farm, and little in his childhood suggested he would become a world-renowned preacher.

Then at 16, Graham attended a series of revival meetings run by outspoken evangelist Mordecai Ham. The two months he spent listening to Ham’s sermons on sin sparked a spiritual awakening in Graham and prompted him to enroll at Bob Jones College. When the conservative Christian school’s strict doctrine didn’t align with his personal beliefs, he transferred to the Florida Bible Institute (now Trinity College of Florida) and joined a Southern Baptist Convention church. He was ordained in 1939.

Billy Graham, seen in 2010, has died at the age of 99. (CHRIS KEANE / Reuters)
 
Billy Graham, seen in 2010, has died at the age of 99. (CHRIS KEANE / Reuters)

Graham received additional training at Illinois’ Wheaton College, where he met his future wife, Ruth McCue Bell. They were married for 64 years, until her death in 2007, and had five children.

After serving briefly as the pastor of the First Baptist Church in Western Springs, Illinois, Graham launched his first radio program, “Songs in the Night,” in 1943. Although he left a year later, Graham liked the idea of sharing his message with a wide audience. As noted on his website, Graham took Jesus Christ literally when he said in Mark 16:15: “Go ye into all the world and preach the Gospel to every creature.”

Graham was still in his early 30s when entered the public spotlight by giving a series of well-attended “sin-smashing” revival meetings that were held under a circus tent in a Los Angeles parking lot. The press took interest in the charismatic young preacher and began writing articles about him. To get his message to even more people, Graham founded his own ministry, the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association.

Graham mat his wife, Ruth McCue Bell, at Illinois’ Wheaton College. They were married for 64 years and had five children. (Bettmann via Getty Images)
 
Graham mat his wife, Ruth McCue Bell, at Illinois’ Wheaton College. They were married for 64 years and had five children. (Bettmann via Getty Images)

Graham viewed the Bible as the infallible word of God. He believed that Jesus led a sinless life and that all men were lost and would face God’s judgment.

Such a strict interpretation of scripture also led him to condemn homosexual relationships.

 

More recently, detractors blasted Graham’s continued belief that homosexual behavior was a “sinister form of perversion,” and his intolerance against the very presence of gay and lesbian couples within Christianity.

“From Genesis on, the Bible praises the marriage of a man and a woman, but it speaks only negatively of homosexual behavior whenever it is mentioned,” Graham’s website states.

Graham’s sermons also promoted evangelism and railed against “godless communism,” drugs, sex and violence. He was convinced he must use “every modern means of communication available” to spread the Gospel throughout the world, and did so in print, on radio and television, online and in person.

And for the next five decades, his electric personality connected with audiences in more than 185 countries.

Graham was the first evangelist of note to speak behind the Iron Curtain, and during the Apartheid era he refused to visit South Africa until the government allowed integrated seating at his events. He published dozens of best-selling books, including Angels: God’s Secret Agents and The Jesus Generation, and wrote a weekly column that was syndicated in hundreds of newspapers.

After serving briefly as the pastor of the First Baptist Church in Western Springs, Illinois, Graham launched his first radio program in 1943. (Toronto Star Archives via Getty Images)
 
After serving briefly as the pastor of the First Baptist Church in Western Springs, Illinois, Graham launched his first radio program in 1943. (Toronto Star Archives via Getty Images)

Graham received numerous honors, including the Horatio Alger Award, the George Washington Honor Medal, the Ronald Reagan Freedom Award and the Congressional Gold Medal. A highway in Charlotte bears his name, as does part of Interstate 240 near his home in Asheville, North Carolina. In 1989, he became the first clergyman to be granted a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame for his work as a minister.

Graham also had a major effect on the civil rights movement of the 1950s and ’60s. His early crusades were segregated, but once the U.S. Supreme Court issued its landmark Brown v. Board of Education ruling in 1954, which found public school segregation unconstitutional, Graham integrated the seatings at his revival meetings.

Graham befriended the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. as well, and together they preached to more than 2 million people in New York City.

King once remarked on their partnership: “Had it not been for the ministry of my good friend Dr. Billy Graham, my work in the Civil Rights Movement would not have been as successful as it has been.”

When Graham was questioned about his views on faith and race, he argued there was no scriptural basis for segregation.

“Jesus was not a white man; He was not a black man. He came from that part of the world that touches Africa and Asia and Europe,” Graham once preached. “Christianity is not a white man’s religion, and don’t let anybody ever tell you that it’s white or black. Christ belongs to all people; He belongs to the whole world.”

Graham became the first clergyman to be granted a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame for his work as a minister. He's seen attending that ceremony in 1989 in Hollywood, California. (Ron Galella, Ltd. via Getty Images)
 
Graham became the first clergyman to be granted a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame for his work as a minister. He’s seen attending that ceremony in 1989 in Hollywood, California. (Ron Galella, Ltd. via Getty Images)

As his message spread, Graham was granted personal audiences with royalty, dignitaries and many sitting presidents, from Harry S. Truman to Barack Obama. Three presidents were even on hand in 2007 for the dedication of the Billy Graham Library in Charlotte. Despite being a registered Democrat, Graham opposed the candidacy of John F. Kennedy, and actively encouraged other religious leaders to speak out about the dangers of having a Roman Catholic in the White House.

Though beloved by millions, Graham was not without his detractors. Some fundamentalist Christians took issue with his ecumenical approach to evangelism, and after his 1957 crusade in New York, opponents of Graham’s more liberal theology began calling him “the Antichrist.” According to the biography Billy: A Personal Look at Bill Graham, the World’s Best-Loved Evangelist by Sherwood Eliot Wirt, one Christian educator even said that Graham was “the worst thing to happen to the Christian church in two thousand years.”

As his health began to fail, Graham decided to announce his retirement in 2005. His final sermon, “The Cross ― Billy Graham’s Message To America,” called for a national spiritual awakening.

  • This article originally appeared on HuffPost.

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In this 2007 file photo, Fidel Castro Diaz-Balart, the oldest son of Cuba

Fidel Castro’s son has died by suicide, state media say

Fidel Castro Diaz-Balart was for a time head of Cuba’s national nuclear program

Thomson Reuters Posted:  Feb 02, 2018

In this 2007 file photo, Fidel Castro Diaz-Balart, the oldest son of Cuba's President Fidel Castro, addresses the International Economists Conference on Globalization and Development Problems in Havana, Cuba. According to Cuban state media, Diaz-Balart has killed himself.

In this 2007 file photo, Fidel Castro Diaz-Balart, the oldest son of Cuba’s President Fidel Castro, addresses the International Economists Conference on Globalization and Development Problems in Havana, Cuba. According to Cuban state media, Diaz-Balart has killed himself. (Javier Galeano/Associated Press)Related Stories

The eldest son of late Cuban revolutionary leader Fidel Castro, Fidel Castro Diaz-Balart, took his own life on Thursday at age 68 after being treated for months for depression, Cuban state-run media reported.

The nuclear scientist, also known as “Fidelito,” or Little Fidel, because of how much he looked like his father, had initially been hospitalized and then continued treatment as an outpatient.

“Castro Diaz-Balart, who had been attended by a group of doctors for several months due to a state of profound depression, committed suicide this morning,” Cubadebate website said.

Fidelito, who had the highest public profile of all Castro’s children, was born in 1949 out of his brief marriage to Mirta Diaz-Balart before he went on to topple a U.S.-backed dictator and build a communist-run state on the doorstep of the United States during the Cold War.

Dramatic custody dispute

Through his mother, he was the cousin of some of Castro’s most bitter enemies in the Cuban American exile community, U.S. Representative Mario Diaz-Balart and former U.S. congressman Lincoln Diaz-Balart.

He was also the subject of a dramatic custody dispute between the two families as a child.

Cuba Castro Son Obit

Castro Diaz-Balart was head of Cuba’s national nuclear program, and spearheaded the development of a nuclear plant on the Caribbean’s largest island until his father fired him. (Franklin Reyes/Associated Press)

Cuba scholars say his mother took him with her to the United States when he was aged five after announcing she wanted a divorce from Castro, while he was imprisoned for an attack on the Moncada military barracks in Santiago.

Castro was able to bring Fidelito back to Cuba after the 1959 revolution.

Multilingual nuclear physicist

A multilingual nuclear physicist who studied in the former Soviet Union, Castro Diaz-Balart had been working for his uncle President Raul Castro as a scientific counselor to the Cuban Council of State and vice-president of the Cuban Academy of Sciences at the time of his death.

Previously, from 1980 to 1992, he was head of Cuba’s national nuclear program, and spearheaded the development of a nuclear plant on the Caribbean’s largest island until his father fired him.

Cuba halted its plant plans that same year because of a lack of funding after the collapse of Cuba’s trade and aid ties with the ex-Soviet bloc and Castro Diaz-Balart largely disappeared from public view, appearing at the occasional scientific conference or diplomatic event.

A former British ambassador to Cuba, Paul Hare, who lectures at Boston University’s Pardee School of Global Studies, said he had seemed “thoughtful, rather curious about the world beyond Cuba” at a dinner in Boston two years ago. “But he seemed a bit weary about having to be a Castro, rather than himself,” Hare said.

Jonathan Benjamin-Alvarado, a Cuba expert at the University of Nebraska in Omaha, said Fidelito had provided him with invaluable help in the 1990s while he was writing a book on Cuba’s nuclear program.

In 2000 they met again at a conference in Moscow and Fidelito worked “the room full of international nonproliferation experts, diplomats and journalists with aplomb, speaking no less than four languages: Spanish, English, Russian and French.”

His death came just over a year after that of his father on Nov. 25, 2016, aged 90.

 © Thomson Reuters, 2018 

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Pres. George Maxwell Richards

Former President George Maxwell Richards has died

 PORT OF SPAIN, Trinidad, Jan. 9, CMC – The fourth president of the Trinidad and Tobago –  Professor George Maxwell Richards is dead.

Richards, who was 86, died on Monday, following a heart attack.

Pres. George Maxwell RichardsPrime Minister Dr. Keith Rowley in offering condolences said Trinidad and Tobago has lost a much-loved son of the soil

The Prime Minister said Richards, who served in the highest office of the land from 2003 to 2013, carried out his duties with class and distinction “even as he remained grounded in his love for all things Trinidad and Tobago especially Carnival and soca music.”

“Max as he was affectionately known by the citizens of our twin-island republic, struck you as a man who was not only accomplished but also enjoyed life to the fullest. He distinguished himself as a true patriot throughout his career, first as a chemical engineer with Shell then as a staffer and eventually Principal of the St Augustine Campus of the University of the West Indies.”

“Moreover, one would be hard-pressed to ever be part of or overhear a conversation where the name ‘Max Richards’ is mentioned and not hear the admiration that people had for his love of culture and his down to earth nature.”

The Prime Minister said flags on public buildings will be flown at half-mast n accordance with the directive of the Minister of National Security.

He said further details of funeral arrangements will be released after consulting with the Richards family.

With Richards’s passing, all former presidents of Trinidad and Tobago are now deceased.

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Lowell Hawthorne

CEO of Golden Krust Caribbean Bakery & Grill founder reportedly commits suicide in NY factory

NEW YORK, Dec 3, CMC – The founder and chief executive officer of Golden Krust Caribbean Bakery & Grill, Jamaican Lowell Hawthorne reportedly killed himself inside his Bronx, New York factory on Saturday .

According to police reports, Hawthorne, 57, shot himself inside the Park Ave. building, near E. 173rd St., in Claremont section of the Bronx, at about 5:30 p.m.

Lowell Hawthorne

The  New York Daily news reports more than a dozen current and former employees stood in disbelief outside the factory hours later.

“He was a good boss, humble and a good businessman,” said Pete Tee, 27, a former employee, “He never seemed sad. This is just terrible news right now.”

Hawthorne opened the first Golden Krust store on E. Gun Hill Rd. in the Bronx in 1989, going on to build the Jamaica beef patty purveyor into a US national empire by boasting more than 120 restaurants in nine states.

Pat Russo, who has worked with Hawthorne since the 1990s, was shocked by the news that his fellow businessman had taken his own life.

“It doesn’t make any sense. He had everything to live for,” said Russo, who is the president of Chef’s Choice food company. “He was a brilliant business guy. The perfect American success story.”

Hawthorne’s death sent shockwaves from the streets of the Bronx to government offices in Jamaica where Prime Minister Andrew Holness fired off a tweet offering his condolences.

Some of Hawthorne’s employees said they suspected something was amiss when they spotted his car, a silver Tesla 85D, parked oddly outside the factory – blocking a lane of traffic.

Longtime employee Everald Woods said he loved working under Hawthorne.

“He was a nice boss, a wonderful guy,” said Woods, an employee since 2003. “He’s the kind of guy you want to work for – for that long. He takes care of his employees.”

Family friend Wayne Muschamb said Hawthorne was an inspiration to his compatriot in Jamaica.

“Look how far he reached. He’s known from here to Jamaica,” Muschamb told the Daily News. “I’m kind of lost for words, man. This has got me shocked.”

Hawthorne’s rags-to-riches story was set in motion in 1981 when he followed several relatives to the US from Jamaica in search of opportunity.

He briefly worked as an accountant for the New York Police Department (NYPD) before deciding to build a business inspired by his father’s bakery back in Jamaica.

Golden Krust became the first Caribbean-owned business in the US to be granted a franchise license, according to its website.

In 2012, Hawthorne published “The Baker’s Son: My Life in Business,” a memoir.

“It’s a very humbling experience to know that the concept that began in Jamaica with our parents was able to come here,” Hawthorne told the Daily News at the time.

Hawthorne told the Wall Street Journal in 2015 that his goal was that, “by 2020, all Americans will have heard of Jamaican patties,” according to the New York Post.

He told the newspaper that it’s a family operation with Hawthorne’s wife, three sons and daughter, not to mention cousins. nieces and nephews, all involved.

Saddened employees gathered outside the Golden Krust factory, at 3958 Park Ave. Saturday night to pay their respects.

“He’s a nice man, a good man,’’ said John Harrison, who had been working there for three years. “The Jamaican people, they feel it. All of us are Jamaican. We lost a Jamaican, we feel it.’’

Hanaku Oxori, who had worked at the plant for 17 years, said, “he’s nice with everyone here.”

The suicide “was a surprise to me,” he added. “We saw him every day. He talks to everyone. He was always in a good mood.”

Hawthorne, on November 28, made a post on Facebook, reflecting on his life.

“I was always in search of the next honest means to make a dollar,” he wrote. “Like many transplanted Caribbean nationals, I struggled to work and raise a family. I can only thank God for everything I have achieved.”

“If my story here can inspire others to rise up and give it a go, I would have accomplished something meaningful,” he added.

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J.A. Lester Spaulding

Chairman of RJR/Gleaner Communications Group Lester Spaulding has died

KINGSTON, Jamaica, Nov. 17, CMC – The Chairman of the RJR Gleaner Communications Group, J.A. Lester Spaulding, died in hospital on Friday.

J.A. Lester Spaulding
J.A. Lester Spaulding

Spaulding, who became the Managing Director of  Radio Jamaica in 1978, led the company through its expansion up to its recent merger to become the RJR Gleaner Communications Group.

Spaulding who also served as a board member of the Caribbean News Agency (CANA), began his career as an accountant at what is now PricewaterhouseCoopers prior to joining Radio Jamaica Limited (RJR) in February 1965

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derek Walcotts

Nobel Laureate, Sir Derek Walcott, dies

By Ernie Seon

CASTRIES, St. Lucia, Mar 17, CMC – The St Lucia born poet and playwright, Sir Derek Walcott, who received the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1992, and had the distinction of bringing the history and culture of the Caribbean people to the attention of a global community died on Friday. He was 87.

He was one of two St. Lucians to have received the prestigious Nobel Prize, following Sir Arthur Lewis, who won the award for economics in 1979.

“When everyone speaks about excellence in St. Lucia and describe St. Lucia with any kind of superlatives, clearly the two names that stand tall in St. Lucia’s history are those of Sir Arthur Lewis and Sir Derek Walcott,” said Prime Minister Allen Chastanet as he led the island in paying tribute to the gifted cultural icon.

derek Walcotts
Sir Derek Walcott

Sir Derek Alton Walcott, died at his home at Cap Estate, north of here, and had been ailing for some time and had been on a dialysis machine, a family source said.

He had recently been released from hospital and passed away peacefully with his family at his bedside.

“While he and I may not have agreed on everything, he was always very consistent and very emotional about being Caribbean and being original,” Chastanet, said describing Sir Derek as someone who always participated in many national events.

 “He continued to fly the flag real high,” Chastanet said, adding “we can now sit back and reflect on his achievements which are so incredible”.

The St. Lucia government has ordered all fly flags to be flown at half mast, at least until Tuesday.

“I am in discussion with his wife, his partner, Sigrid and also in discussion with the artistic community here in St. Lucia of what other tributes we can pay to this icon of a man,” Chastanet said.

Caribbean Community (CARICOM) Secretary General Irwin LaRocque tweeted that Walcott was “a Caribbean treasure” while the sub-regional Organisation of Eastern Caribbean States (OECS) said that Walcott’s “soul will forever live on through his body of award-winning literary works”.

OECS Chairman and St. Kitts-Nevis Prime Minister Dr. Timothy Harris said that Walcott weas awarded the Nobel Prize in 1992 “for a poetic oeuvre of great luminosity, sustained by a historical vision, the outcome of a multicultural commitment.

“Sir Walcott’s poetry was a reflection of his deep commitment to his country and the Caribbean, as it masterfully captured the physical beauty of his milieu.  It was this idyllic social environment that he gravitated towards throughout his life, choosing to spend much of his time in his homeland of St. Lucia where he died today at the age of 87.”

Dominican-born playwright Dr. Alwyn Bully, whose theatre company had produced many of Walcott’s plays, described him “as one of the greatest writers of the world.

“I think he also had the distinction of bringing the history and culture of the cari8bbean people to the attention of literacy circles worldwide, Bully said, adding that Walcott had encouraged many other playwrights.

“He will be solely missed by the entire Caribbean, but his work will endure forever,” Bully said.

The international media reported Friday that Walcott’s monumental poetry, including 1973’s verse autobiography, Another Life, and his Caribbean reimagining of The Odyssey, 1990’s Omeros, “secured him an international reputation which gained him the Nobel Prize in 1992.”

But this was matched by a theatrical career conducted mostly in the islands of his birth as a director and writer with more than 80 plays to his credit.

He won the TS Eliot Prize for Poetry in 2011. His winning collection for the TS Eliot Prize, White Egrets, was called “a moving, risk-taking and technically flawless book by a great poet” by the judges.

“The arts fraternity, St. Lucia and the world has lost one of its noted literary icons, Sir Derek Walcott,” the Cultural Development Foundation (CDF) here said in a statement, noting that “he was very vocal about the island’s culture and heritage and its preservation and his love for Saint Lucia and the Caribbean was evident in his numerous mentions of “home” in his work.

Walcott was born on January 23, 1930 in the capital, Castries and he had acknowledged that the experience of growing up on the isolated volcanic island, an ex-British colony, has had a strong influence on Walcott’s life and work.

Both his grandmothers were said to have been the descendants of slaves. His father, a Bohemian watercolourist, died when Derek and his twin brother, Roderick, were only a few years old. His mother ran the town’s Methodist school.

After studying at St. Mary’s College here and at the University of the West Indies (UWI) in Jamaica, Walcott moved in 1953 to Trinidad, where he worked as theatre and art critic. At the age of 18, he made his debut with 25 Poems, but his breakthrough came with the collection of poems, In a Green Night (1962).

In 1959, he founded the Trinidad Theatre Workshop which produced many of his early plays.

For many years, he has divided his time between Trinidad, where he had his home as a writer, and Boston University, where he taught literature and creative writing.

His illustrious body of work includes: Three Plays: The Last Carnival; Beef, No Chicken and A Branch of the Blue Nile (1969), Dream on Monkey Mountain and Other Plays (1970), The Joker of Seville and O Babylon! (1978), Remembrance and Pantomime (1980), The Isle is Full of Noises (1982), Omeros (1990) and The Odyssey: A Stage Version (1992).

Walcott received numerous awards including a Royal Society of Literature Award, the Queen’s medal of Poetry and a MacArthur Foundation genius award.  In 2016, as part of Independence celebrations, he was given the title of “Sir”, one of the first to be knighted under the Order of St. Lucia.

Sir Derek Walcott, is survived by three children Peter, Elizabeth, and Anna.

State funeral for Sir Derek Walcott

The St. Lucia government Tuesday announced that the Nobel Laureate Sir Derek Alton Walcott, will be given a state funeral on Saturday.

State funerals are usually reserved for heads of state and governments, but the Allen Chastanet government approved of the decision on Monday in light of Walcott’s exceptional contribution to the literary and artistic legacy of St.Lucia, the Caribbean and the world.

The funeral of Sir Derek poet, artist, playwright, and 1992 Nobel Laureate in Literature, will take place at the Basilica of the Immaculate Conception in the capital starting at 2.00 pm (local time) and his body will lie in state at the Parliament for public viewing ahead of the service that will be broadcast live and shown on television screens at the nearby Square that bears Walcott’s name.

Sir Derek will be buried at Morne Fortune, near the Inniskilling Monument, a site vested in the St. Lucia National Trust and within close proximity of fellow Nobel Laureate, Sir Arthur Lewis.

A government statement noted that an evening of tribute and celebration will be held on Friday at the National Cultural Centre hosted by the Cultural Development Foundation and will include readings, recitations and performances by local and visiting artists, writers and musicians.

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