MARIGOT, St. Martin —Last Sunday, an audience of about 200 people “from all walks of life” came to the amphitheater at the Waterfront for the launch of The Frock & Other Poems by the late Laurelle “Yaya” Richards, said Minerva Dormoy, head of the Arts & Culture Department of the Collectivity.
The book party was the high point of the opening program for the UNESCO International Mother Language Day. The two-day program ended on February 21 with an “exciting discussion” on SOS 95.9 FM about St. Martin’s language and culture, said Dormoy. The discussants were political scientist Joe Lake, Jr. and USM lecturer Alex Richards.
The Collectivity president Frantz Gumbs opened the book party program. One of the two short videos shown about Yaya and her work featured Daily Herald “Artist of the year” Ruby Bute rendering and discussing a painting of the late folklorist.
The “St. Martin English” was celebrated in the blessing by Pastor Eugene Hodge, poems by Leon Noel and Fabien Richards, the skit by Lucita Richards and Thierry Gombs, and the literary and language analysis by Alex Richards, said Dormoy,
Melissa Fleming read the book’s title poem while Priscille, the author’s sister, modeled the popular frock that Yaya wore during her public appearances before she passed away on May 26, 2010.
Councilor Louis Jeffry, Jr. gave the vote of thanks on behalf of the territory’s government. The Arts & Culture Department coordinated the book party and the annual International Mother Language Day activities.
Traditional snacks and drinks such as tamon juice (tamarind) were prepared and served by the Richards family. Even before the program got under way people were “picking up copies of the book like hot bread,” said Dormoy. Yaya’s sisters Priscille and Adrienne autographed The Frock on behalf of their beloved sister.
Published by House of Nehesi late last year with a partial cultural arts grant to Yaya Richards from the Collectivity, The Frock & Other Poems is available at Van Dorp and Arnia’s bookstores, Roland Richardson Gallery, and from family members of Yaya Richards.
Family members of Yaya during closing remarks at the book launch. The author’s sister Priscille, at the podium reading part of the family’s thanks to the organizer, publisher, and the island’s people – wears Yaya’s frock and hat. (CLF/CT photo)