Famous Faces, Jamaican Roots

The Arts (cont’d)

Kerry Washington – Currently riding a wave of success for her role in the popular television show Scandal, Washington is the first African-American woman to lead an American network drama series since 1974. The popular and critically acclaimed actress was born in The Bronx, New York, to an African-American father and a Jamaican-American mother. Besides Scandal, she is best known for her work in Save the Last Dance, Little Man, Ray, The Last King of Scotland, For Colored Girls and Django Unchained. She also appeared in the critically acclaimed Broadway play Race, by David Mamet. Washington is also a political and women’s rights activist. She is also a member of V-Day, a global movement that brings awareness to violence against women and girls internationally. In September 2012, she spoke on voter apathy at the Democratic National Convention in favor of re-electing Barack Obama. She is a cousin of former US Secretary of State, Colin Powell.

Pete Wentz – Wentz is the bassist and spokesman of the rock band Fall Out Boy. He was born in Chicago, Illinois to an American father and a Jamaican-American mother. His maternal grandfather, Arthur Winston Lewis, who is a cousin of former US Secretary of State, Colin Powell, served as the US Ambassador to Sierra Leone. Fall Out Boy was formed in 2001 and has released five albums to date. The group has won several MTV, Teen Choice and other awards. Their most well-known songs are Sugar, We’re Goin Down and Dance, Dance. In November 2008, Wentz and Fall Out Boy lead singer Patrick Stump set a record for most radio interviews in one day, racking up 74 to beat the previous number of 54. The band also tried to set another for performing on all seven continents, but bad weather foiled their trip to Antarctica.

Thinkers & Teachers

Lisa Hanna, MP with former US Secretary of State, Colin Powell (left) and Louis Farrakhan, head of the Nation of Islam

Alvin Day – Day grew up a “poor, barefoot boy” in Jamaica, but he has turned his life around and is now one of the most sought-after motivational speakers and authors in the world. His first motivational book,  If Caterpillars Can Fly, So Can I, is a best-seller and his empowerment conferences are always sold out. Day, a past student of Edwin Allen High School in Clarendon, is also a successful management consultant to huge multi-national and Fortune 500 companies such as SC Johnson, Herbalife, Nestle, Sagicor, Pepsi, Colgate, Grace, Pfizer, Mary Kay, NBC/ Universal Studios and more.

Malcolm Gladwell – This popular journalist, bestselling author and speaker was born in Fareham, Hampshire, England to a Jamaican psychotherapist mother and an English mathematician father. Gladwell’s family emigrated to Canada when he was six. He is the author of several best-selling books – The Tipping Point, Blink, Outliers, What the Dog Saw and David and Goliath, which tend to examine social issues and human behaviour. In 2005, Gladwell was named one of  Time magazine’s 100 most influential people.

Louis Farrakhan – Farrakhan, the controversial leader of the Nation of Islam (NOI) in the United States, was born Louis Eugene Wolcott in The Bronx, New York, to Caribbean immigrant parents – his mother is from St Kitts and his father Jamaican. He initially wanted to become a teacher and won a scholarship to Winston-Salem Teacher’s College, but left after two years to pursue a musical career and became a Calypso artiste, performing under the names The Charmer and Calypso Gene. He had started playing the violin at age six and had played with the prestigious Boston College Orchestra, and the Boston Civic Symphony by the time he was 13. He converted to Islam in in 1955 and quickly rose through the NOI ranks and soon became the assistant minister to Malcolm X at a Boston mosque. In the late 1970s when the group fragmented, Farrakhan started up a new Nation of Islam, which adhered to the teachings of his mentor, Elijah Muhammad. Farrakhan has visited Jamaica on a number of occasions, most recently for its Golden anniversary of independence.