Influential Caribbean Women who has impacted our history, culture and society…….
DAME PEARLETTE CALLIOPA LOUISY, GCMG.
Dame (Calliopa) Pearlette Louisy, GCMC (born 8 June 1946) is the Governor General of Saint Lucia. She is the first woman to hold this office, which she was sworn into on 19 September 1997.
Born in the village of Laborie she attended the Laborie Infant School and Primary Schools. In 1960 she proceeded to the Saint Joseph’s Convent on the Javouhey Scholarship. In 1966, a year after the completion of her secondary education she was awarded the Canadian International Development Agency (CIDA) scholarship to pursue a Bachelors’ Degree in English and French at the University of The West Indies at Cave Hill, Barbados.
In 1972, she was awarded the Canadian Commonwealth Scholarship and Fellowship Plan to pursue a M.A. degree in Linguistics, in the field of Didactics at the Université Laval in Quebec City, Canada. In 1991, she proceeded to the University of Bristol in the United Kingdom where she read for a Ph.D. degree in Education.
Louisy has contributed significantly to the development of Education in Saint Lucia, having spent most of her professional life in the teaching profession. During the periods 1969-72 and 1975-76 she taught at the St Joseph’s Convent. From 1976-86, she served as a tutor of French, and was subsequently appointed as Principal of the St. Lucia A Level College. When the A Level College and Morne Technical School merged into the Sir Arthur Lewis Community College, she first served as Dean, and was subsequently appointed as the Vice Principal and Principal of the College.
In 1999, she was awarded with the Honorary degree of Doctor of Laws (LL.D.) by the University of Bristol. In that same year, Queen Elizabeth II, conferred on her the title of Dame Grand Cross of the Order of St Michael and St George.
ALLYSON R. SOLOMON
Allyson R. Solomon was born in Trinidad and Tobago, and moved to Maryland with her family in 1971. She is a 1986 graduate of Loyola College of Maryland with a Bachelor of Arts degree in Business Administration. She holds a Master of Arts Degree in Public Administration from Auburn University.
General Solomon began her military career by enlisting in the Maryland Air National Guard (MDANG) in 1979, and was later selected to attend the ANG Academy of Military Science. In November 1986, she was commissioned as a second lieutenant. General Solomon worked her way through the ranks, commanding at two different levels. She is the first woman and first African-American to be appointed as a senior commander in the MDANG. In January 2003, she was the first woman to be promoted to Colonel in MDANG history. She became the Commander of the 175 Mission Support Group in March 2003, and was responsible for over 585 personnel. General Solomon has also been assigned as the MDANG Executive Support Staff Officer, supporting the Assistant Adjutant General-Air and The Adjutant General, as well as the Maryland National Guard Equal Employment Officer.
In 2006, General Solomon was selected to serve as the Chief of the General Officer Management Office at the National Guard Bureau (NGB), Washington, DC. Reporting directly to the Chief, NGB, her office was responsible for managing the careers and training of over 350 general officers nationwide. General Solomon was asked to return to Maryland in June 2008, and was appointed by the Governor as the Assistant Adjutant General for Air. As the senior ANG general officer, she also commands the entire MDANG, which is an organization of approximately 1600 personnel that performs dual state and federal missions in support of the Governor and the United States Air Force. In addition, General Solomon serves as a Special Assistant to the Chief, NGB. She is an active member of the Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Incorporated.
But being first did not come without its challenges.
With the help of mentors, she learned to overcome barriers by staying focused on the job at hand and that ultimately, the person you work for determines whether you meet their expectations and no one else’s opinion matters.
“My most influential role model and mentor is my mother,” said General Solomon. “The things that I’ve learned from her both personally and professionally have made me who I am today.”
During her career, General Solomon has had many other role models who reinforced the values instilled in her by her mother. According to the general, being able to accept constructive feedback from peers and understanding your own weaknesses presents an opportunity to improve yourself while waiting for doors to open to other opportunities.
“As I reflect back on my career, where I’ve served, every position and rank from Airman to General, I recognize the role mentorship and guidance played in my achievements, especially the support from family and friends,” said General Solomon. “None of us achieves in isolation. Support, perseverance, and attitude are critical to achieving ones goals.”
General Solomon’s accomplishments have earned her accolades from both the military and civilian sectors.
- 1986 Loyola College, Bachelor of Arts, Business Administration and Management, Baltimore, Maryland
- 1992 Squadron Officer School, Maxwell AFB, Montgomery, Alabama
- 1997 Auburn University, Master of Arts, Public Administration, Montgomery, Alabama
- 1997 Air Command and Staff College, Maxwell AFB, Montgomery, Alabama
- 2001 Air War College, by correspondence
- 2009 CAPSTONE, Fort Lesley J. McNair, Washington, D.C.
ANNE CLARE COOLS, B.A.
In 1984, she was summoned to the Canadian Senate by then Governor General Edward Schreyer, on the recommendation of Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau.
In the 1990s, Cools served on the Senate/House of Commons Special Joint Committee on Child Custody and Access, which in December, 1998 issued its report, For the Sake of the Children. A principal recommendation of this report was that, following a relationship breakdown, shared parenting should be presumed to be in the best interests of the child. Her extensive work on the Committee, and its wide investigations, saw her become increasingly outspoken on the issues of fathers’ right, divorce and family values. She was candid in her criticism of the Liberal government of Prime Minister Jean Chrétien when proposed legislation to be introduced in the House of Commons was shelved after intense lobbying by women’s groups.
Cools also became increasingly critical of the Liberal governments of Jean Chrétien and Paul Martin, and of same-sex marriage. On June 8, 2004, she announced that she was crossing the floor to join the Conservative Party of Canada.
Cools was vocal in criticizing Martin after the passing of a motion of non-confidence against his government in 2005. She openly called for Martin to resign rather than dissolving Parliament, stating that the motion of non-confidence was expressing no-confidence in the Prime Minister, and not directly in the government. Rather than calling for a general election, Cools stated that Martin should have resigned.
On June 25, 2007, she was removed from Conservative caucus for speaking out against Prime Minister Stephen Harper and for voting against the 2007 budget. She currently sits as an Independent.
She has designated herself as representing the Senate Division of Toronto-Center-York.
BARONESS ROSALIND PATRICIA-ANNE HOWELLS, OBE
Baroness Howells of St Davids, OBE. born 10 January 1931 is a Labour member of the House of Lords.
She was made a Life peer as Baroness Howells of St Davids, of Charlton in the London Borough of Greenwich in 1999. The name St Davids refers to the parish in Grenada where she was brought up, to the south east of the Island. She has complemented the Howells family of Wales in taking the peerage name St Davids, perhaps unwittingly, since the patron saint of Wales is indeed St David.
Howells was educated at St Joseph’s Convent, South West London College and City College in Washington, DC. In 1955, she married John Charles Howells and they have two daughters.
Her career background includes being the Director of the Greenwich Racial Equality Council as well as a Community and Equal Opportunities Worker. Baroness Howells is a trustee of the Stephen Lewis Charitable Trust, and served as the unofficial adviser to the Lawrence family.
Howells was the first black woman to sit on the GLC’s Training Board; the first female member of the Court of Governors of the University of Greenwich and was the Vice Chair at the London Voluntary Services Council. She has worked with the Carnival Liaison Committee, and the Greater London Action in Race Equality and has been an active campaigner for justice in the field of race relations.
VALERIE ANN AMOS, BARONESS AMOS, PC.
Born March 13/1054 in Georgetown, British Guyana – (Guyana). Amos, who grew up in Wakenaam in Essequibo, left Guyana at age nine in 1963 with her mother and two siblings. Her father went to England two years earlier to set the stage for his family’s arrival.
Baroness Amos is former Leader of the House of Lords and Lord President of the Privy Council.
She was appointed to the House of Lords in 1997. She became the first black woman to enter cabinet in 2003 and preside as Leader of the House of Lords. She was the longest serving Leader of the Lords since the mid-1980’s and second longest in the last half century. Following a successful career in Local Government, Baroness Amos was Chief executive of the Equal Opportunities Commission from 1989 – 1994, before working extensively in post-Apartheid, South Africa.
Baroness Amos was the Personal Representative of the Prime Minister to the G8 on Africa from 2001-03 drawing up the G8 Africa Action Plan. In this capacity she accompanied the Prime Minister to G8 Summits in Kananaskis and Evian and represented the UK at African Union and NEPAD meetings across Africa.
From 1998 to 2001 Baroness Amos was appointed a Government Whip in the House of Lords. She was also the International Development Spokesperson from 1998 to 2007 and the Minister of State for Africa from 2001 to 2003. In 2003 she was appointed Secretary of State for International Development.
Between 2003 -2007 Baroness Amos became leader of the House of Lords and Lord President to the Privy Council. She also attended the Africa Union summit on behalf of HM Government in Accra, Ghana 2007, and the EU/AU Summit in Portugal 2007.
British High Commissioner to Australia October 1/2009 to September 2010
Baroness Amos, is the eighth and current UN Under Secretary General of Humanitarian Affairs and Relief Coordinator, one of the top five jobs at the UN.
Baroness Amos has an Honorary Professorship in recognition of her work on equality and social justice from Thames Valley University.
Ms Amos was the first black woman appointed to a British Cabinet and the first black Leader of the House of Lords. In the United Kingdom, she has played a central role in the Government’s broader diversity and community-cohesion agenda.
DAME HILDA BYNOE
Dame Hilda Bynoe is the first female Governor in the British Commonwealth and the first native Governor of Grenada, Carriacou & Petite Martinique.
The first few years of her adulthood were spent as a Teacher at the St. Joseph’s Convent in San Fernando and at Bishop’s Anstey High School in Port of Spain, Trinidad, as a Science Student; and afterwards at her Alma Mater as a Teacher. In 1944 she left for Europe to study Medicine and graduated from London University, Royal Free Hospital, then the London School of Medicine for Women in 1951. While still a student, she met and married Peter Bynoe, a Trinidadian, R.A.F. Officer and student of Architecture; and it was there that her two sons Roland and Michael were born. The Bynoes returned to the West Indies in 1953 and Dr. Hilda Bynoe served in various disciplines of Medicine in Guyana and in Trinidad and Tobago for the next fifteen years.
Her life was to service in the teaching and medical professions to family and community. Her appointment as Governor of the Associated States of Grenada, Carriacou and Petite Martinique in 1968 was no surprise and gave tangible proof of the esteem in which she was held. She was made a Dame Commander of the British Empire by Queen Elizabeth II in 1969 and retired from the duties of Office in February, 1974.
It was in Grenada that Dame Hilda first began to write her poems and short stories, her essays and vignettes and she continued off and on with these after she returned to Trinidad in 1974 to resume her medical practice and her community service.
St. George, July 6, 2011: ‘Country Boy’, a painting by local artist Joseph Browne, was presented to Dame Hilda Bynoe, by the Grenada Women’s Parliamentary Caucus. In acknowledgment of her contribution to Grenada and the Commonwealth, the gift was presented to Dame Hilda by His Excellency Governor General Sir Carlyle Glean. The presentation was made during the dinner and awards ceremony of the 36th Annual Conference of the Commonwealth Parliamentary Association – the Caribbean, American and Atlantic region.
In 1990, she retired to continue her writing and to assist in the care of her grand-daughters, Olukemi and Nandi Peta. She continues her Patronage of a number of organizations , including that of The Caribbean College of Family Physicians, The John Hayes Memorial Kidney Foundation and The Caribbean Women’s Association. She is a member of the Academic Board of St George’s University.
Her book “I Woke at Dawn” was published in 1996.
MARCIA GRIFFITHS – “THE QUEEN OF REGGAE”
Marcia Griffiths, born Nov 23rd. 1949 in Kingston, Jamaica, is, thus far, the most successful female reggae artist in the world with songs like “Young, Gifted And Black” (1970), “Feel Like Jumping” (1978) and “Steppin’ Out Of Babylon” (1979), and “Electric Boogie (1990) . She cooperated with Bob Marley on all his LP albums for Island Records and in all tours until his death.
THE QUEEN OF REGGAE: Marcia Griffiths has sung professionally for over 40 years, and had an early career with Bob Andy in the duo Bob and Marcia, who delivered hit songs like “Young, Gifted And Black” (1970) and “The Pied Piper” (1971). She was already an international star and more known than Bob Marley in 1973 where she contributed to the group’s first LP on Island Records – Catch A Fire – by running in songs like “No More Trouble”. In 1974, she joined Bob Marley & The Wailers as one of the permanent members of the I-Threes – the vocal trio that also included Judy Mowatt and Rita Marley, who lifted and reinforced Bob Marley’s messages on the stage and studio albums.
Solo she delivered heavy love songs like “The First Time I Saw Your Face” and “Sweet Bitter Love” (1974) on the album Play Me Sweet And Nice and immortal roots reggae classic “Steppin’ Out Of Babylon” on the album Steppin’. In between, she released the album Naturally, where she sang Bunny Wailer classic Rastafarian song “Dreamland”, Bob Marley’s “Lonesome Feeling” and her own hit songs, “Feel Like Jumping” , “Truly” and “Melody Life” – songs that are still played by radio stations worldwide.
With some help from Bunny Wailer 1990 she hit the Billboard chart with “Electric Boogie” (Carousel) and created a world class dance, the Electric Slide. This super star has been recording and performing ceaselessly.
At a recent reggae concert in South Florida, Marcia Griffiths demonstrated the same level of performance she has been known for over the years, as both a soloist and a member of different groups. She displayed, in combination with Reggae rapper Cutty Ranks, on their duet of “Fire Burning”, all the zeal and elements that go into dance-hall music. Marcia exhibit the same exuberance when performing her international crossover hit “Electric Boogie.”
JANELLE “PENNY” COMMISSIONG
First Black Miss Universe 1977
Janelle Penny Commissiong, a native of Trinidad and Tobago, was born in June 1953, migrated to the United States at the age of 13, and returned to Port-of-Spain, Trinidad in 1976. After winning the Miss Trinidad title, she went on to be crowned Miss Universe 1977 in Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic. She was the first woman from the Caribbean and the first woman of African ancestry to be crowned Miss Universe. Commissiong is the daughter of a Venezuelan mother and a Trinidadian father. In 1976, just before winning the Miss Universe crown, she studied fashion at the Fashion Institute of Technology in New York City.
During the Miss Universe pageant, Commissiong was a very popular contestant who won the photogenic competition of the pageant. Nonetheless, she was not considered the favorite to win the pageant. Most observers claimed Miss Austria, Eva Maria Duringer, was the odds on favorite to take the crown. Duringer finished as 1st runner up.
During her reign (1977-1978) Commissiong was a public advocate for black rights in nations where people of African ancestry were minorities, and she campaigned for world peace. In 1977, Commissiong was awarded the Trinity Cross, Trinidad and Tobago’s highest honor. Three postage stamps were also issued in her honor by her country. In 1978, Commissiong’s successor was Margaret Gardnier, Miss South Africa. For many it was tragically ironic to see the first Miss Universe of African ancestry crowning a woman from a nation that was internationally known for its racial injustice toward black people.
As the first black Miss Universe, Commissiong attracted more than normal international attention. For the U.S. to Asian media especially she was a particularly interesting topic. She was also in demand around the globe as a speaker. Much of the interest continued after her reign. Soon after she relinquished the crown in 1978, Joaquin Balaguer, President of the Dominican Republic, invited her to interview him in the National Palace. As she did during her tenure as Miss Universe, she continued to visit many African, Asian, and European nations as well as the United States.
After her reign ended Commissiong married Brian Bowen, the founder of Bowen Marine, a Trinidadian pleasure boat manufacturing company. When her husband died in an accident in 1989 she headed the company for a brief period. She remarried for a second time to Alwin Chow, another Trinidad businessmen and they adopted a daughter, Sasha. .