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Susan Robeson’s Visit for IRC Naming Ceremony

In early 2011, the Public Affairs Section of the U.S. Embassy in Kingston launched an essay competition among high school students to name the embassy’s Information Resource Center (IRC), in observance of Black History Month.  The aim of this competition was to have the IRC named after the historical figure selected in the winning essay.  The legendary Paul Robeson was the character highlighted in the winning essay which was entitled “The Soul of a Continent.”  The writer was Kathy Smith, then a Grade 13 student at Manchester High School in Mandeville, Manchester.  Ms. Smith is presently a first-year law student at the University of the West Indies. 

On the morning of January 23, Ambassador Pamela Bridgewater, along with State Minister of Tourism and Entertainment Damion Crawford, Kathy Smith and Susan Robeson, unveiled at the entrance to the IRC, a plaque that bears the name “Paul Robeson Information Resource Center.  This was followed by a ceremony in the embassy atrium to officially name the IRC in honor of Paul Robeson.  The date for this event was set for January 23 because it coincided with the 36th anniversary of his death.  The occasion was also used as one of the many cultural activities to celebrate Jamaica's 50th anniversary of independence. 

The guest speaker was the award-winning U.S. documentary filmmaker and Chair of the Paul Robeson Foundation, Susan Robeson.  Ms. Robeson is granddaughter of the African American singer, actor, athlete and civil rights activist Paul Robeson.  An activist in her own right,  Ms. Robeson has produced films on the Urban Peace Movement in Los Angeles, jazz and hip-hop music, and has trained community activists in post-apartheid South Africa, among other film projects aimed at raising social consciousness. 

Over 150 visitors, among whom were students, professors, librarians, diplomats, government officials, and representatives from cultural institution, shared in the celebration.  They listened to a presentation by Ms. Robeson on the life and influence of Paul Robeson, followed by the viewing of the documentary “Here I Stand.” The guests then looked at the extensive collection of material on Paul Robeson on display in the Paul Robeson Information Resource Center.

In the afternoon Ms. Robeson visited the Gleaner Company where she conducted research on her grandfather, seeking to find articles and photos on his 1948 visit to Jamaica.  With the able assistance of the Senior Researcher at the newspaper company she found valuable material on the life and times of Paul Robeson.

On January 24,  Ms. Robeson visited Robert Lightbourne High School in the rural town of Trinityville in the parish of St. Thomas.  Over 100 students and teachers from that school and Seaforth High School listened keenly as she presented to them details of the life and impact of Paul Robeson, and his visit to Jamaica in 1948.  The members of the audience were very enthusiastic in their responses, asking questions and sharing their views.