Jamaica might be home to only 3 million people, but this island nation boasts a long list of people who have changed the path of history forever — from some of the best musicians the world has ever known to spectacular sports stars. Here are just eight incredible Jamaicans who have changed the path of history for all of us.
1. Marcus Garvey
Marcus Garvey was a civil rights activist from Jamaica who founded the Universal Negro Improvement Association (UNIA). He moved to the U.S. and encouraged African-Americans to be proud of their race and heritage. He also founded the Negro World newspaper, the Negro Factories Corporation, and a shipping company called Black Star Line. Today, schools, buildings and even highways have been named in his honour, not only in Jamaica, but across the world.
2. Grace Jones
If you love Lady Gaga, Madonna and even Annie Lennox, you have this very talented Jamaican to thank! Grace Jones has worked the runways of Paris and Milan, recorded Top 40 singles and appeared in a host of films. But it’s Jones’ iconic androgynous appearance that has kept this headliner in the public eye for more than 40 years. If it wasn’t for Grace Jones, we’d never have seen musicians or models test the waters with appearance creativity — and that’s a fact.
3. Bob Marley
Compiling a list of Jamaicans who changed history and not including Bob Marley is like enjoying ice cream without sprinkles! Bob Marley changed music forever — throughout Jamaica and the world — for his unique songwriting and singing styles. He was a revolutionary who gave a voice to the downtrodden, inspiring generation after generation.
4. Linton Kwesi Johnson
Even if you haven’t heard of Linton Kwesi Johnson, chances are you’ve read his work. This renowned poet has written numerous works on the experience of being an African-Caribbean, on British foreign policy, and Margaret Thatcher’s government. He’s shone a spotlight on police brutality over the years and given silenced people a voice with his rhythmic poems. Johnson has also established a charitable educational trust to help underserved Jamaican schoolchildren.
5. Usain Bolt
Before Usain Bolt came onto the scene, many other countries had dominated the 10-second barrier for the 100-metre sprint. But it was Bolt who not only broke the barrier, but smashed the world record in the process. He’s currently the fastest person in history, the first person to win six Olympic gold medals in sprinting, and he’s also become the most successful athlete in the history of the Athletics World Championships. He’s definitely helped put Jamaica on the map.
6. Louise Bennett-Coverley
Most people know Louise Bennett-Coverley as ‘Miss Lou’, the woman who gave Jamaicans pride in their country and heritage. She was a trailblazer by writing poems in her native Jamaican Patois (Jamaican Creole), which helped promote the language and influence other great Jamaican creatives.
7. Portia Simpson-Miller
Portia Simpson-Miller is the first elected female Prime Minister of Jamaica, paving the way for politicians of all genders and backgrounds around the world. Since taking office, Simpson-Miller has fought for free healthcare for Jamaican children and has become the first head of government in Jamaica to endorse civil rights for the lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender community.
8. Devon Harris
You know the 1993 movie Cool Runnings for its quirky adventure in bobsledding, but did you know the movie was based off a real life story? Devon Harris was a founding member of the very first Jamaican national bobsled team which competed in the 1988 Winter Olympics. While the Jamaican team was seen as the underdog, Harris and his founding members paved the way for other Olympic hopefuls in bobsledding and other less recognised sports.
Jamaica has a lot of world firsts and you might be surprised to learn that Jamaica’s Appleton Estate Rum has the world’s first female Master Blender, Joy Spence. Her unique distillation and blending methods result in beautifully complex and aromatic rums designed for sipping and blending.
Intrigued? So are we, and to celebrate the essence of Appleton Estate Rum, Sydneysiders are being treated to a three-weekend Appleton Estate Rum showcase. These unique events boast iconic Jamaican music, lush, bespoke venue styling, and of course, signature cocktails crafted by Appleton Estate Rum.
The Appleton Trail will kick-off with a takeover of the Village Inn, Paddington from November 20-21, moving to Sweet Hearts Rooftop from November 27-28, with the trail concluding at Taylors Bar in the Sydney CBD on December 4-5, 2015.