I think most people are by now aware that Lois Browne-Evans, that legendary and great leader of the Progressive Labour Party passed away earlier this morning, I believe at 0055hrs, apparently from a stroke. There is a lot that could be written about her, and much already has both in the breaking news on the RG and Bda Sun pages, on the PLP site and the Progressive Minds site. I expect much more in the media in the next few days. Hott 107.5 has been doing a good job covering the news, and playing excerpts from a recent interview with her (25/05/07), as well as people calling in.
I don’t think I either knew her well enough or long enough to even begin to do justice to her memory like many others, especially in the progressive labour movement and the Party can. So instead I’ll just relay some of my thoughts and experiences with Lois Browne-Evans.
To begin with, and I often get flak for this, I never used her honorific ‘Dame’ when addressing her. I spoke to her regarding this, saying that I was dissapointed that she had accepted such an honorific as I felt that it ran contrary to the Party Constitution (I can no longer find the relevant section and assume it has been removed, but originally the Party Constitution stated that no member of the Party was to accept gifts or honorofics from the Queen or her representative, or something to that effect). Besides, I thought it ran contrary to the spirit of both the Party and her own life. I cannot remember her exact words, but I understand that she only accepted it because the people wanted her to, and she did it for them, but she didn’t mind my not addressing her as such, and it was cool.
I met her for the first time really at one of my first ever Party Central Committee meetings, where I went not as a CC member but as simply a Party member, to speak, listen and learn. I also committed my first and one of my greatest faux pas right then. Standing underneath a potrait of her, I met her, and introduced myself and then blinked ignorantly when she introduced herself. I of course knew of her, but having never met her I didn’t really know what she looked like, and seriously, for some reason the name didn’t ring a bell, and I asked her if she had just joined the Party as well. Well, I turned a deep red as she had one jolly old laugh and recounted my faux pas to some others nearby, who all had a good laugh. When I found out what I had done, and to whom, I joined in the laughing at my own ignorance and stupidity. Often when I met her from then she made a joke over that moment.
One thing I can definitely say is that she had one of the best senses of humour I’ve ever met, and one of the quickest and sharpest wits as well. Anyone who has ever heard her speak can certainly attest to that. She certainly had a unique style of public speaking, at least of the times I was fortunate enough to see and hear her speak. Initially she would come across as rambling with disconnected stories, but she had this way of weaving them all together profoundly, and with a hearty dose of laughter. She was a natural born orator, an excellent story teller. And she had such an immense bank of knowledge, of our country’s history and politics, as well as a life full of rich experiences and characters all of which added to her abilities as an orator.
The last two times I really had an oppurtunity to speak with her were at the Delegates Conference where Dr. Brown was elected as Party Leader, and much more recently at a celebratory/memorial function for her cousin, Roosevelt Brown/Pauulu Kamarakafego. She was as lively as always, and had those around her in good humour and awe. In the recent passings of both herself and Pauulu we have lost two of our most cherished and valuable citizens.
This Friday was to have been her birthday, and it was the plan to use the event to celebrate her achievements and life, as it is always better to celebrate such things when the onject of such celebrations is there to enjoy them as well. Just perhaps five hours before her death it was my honour to sit in on a phone conversation with her concerning what the dress code for the party would be. Even though I was not holding the phone myself, we could hear her laughter, and it was recounted to us all afterwards that she had said something to the effect that we should wear whatever we wanted, but to come expecting some serious dancing. That will be my last memory of her, talking enthusiastically about dancing to soca on her birthday. Right up to the end she was full of life, of humour, of energy and wit.
I’m going to miss her, as I already miss Pauulu. I’m eternally grateful for the oppurtunites I had meeting both of them, and experincing their approach to life and committment to bettering the human condition. We can do no better I think to honour them than to continue their work. It won’t be easy without them, but we’re go ahead with it. We owe it to them and to ourselves.