When the 27th staging of the Caribbean American Heritage Awards (CARAH) takes place virtually on Friday, November 20, among this year’s awardees will be Judith Veronica Mowatt. Popularly known as ‘Judy Mowatt’, or simply ‘Sister Judy’, she will be honoured with the Marcus Garvey Lifetime Achievement Award.
The organisers lauded Mowatt for her “significant impact on the reggae scene”, both as a member of Bob Marley’s backup group the I-Three and as a solo artiste. “As a producer of her own albums, she was among the first female Jamaican musicians to seize creative control of her own music. Through all the phases of her career, she remained an advocate for women’s ideas in a genre heavily dominated by men,” the statement continued.
In an interview with The Sunday Gleaner, a gracious Judy Mowatt said she was thankful for the honour being bestowed on her. “It is always good to know that people are considering you. Sometimes when you think that people have forgotten you, then something like this pops up and it gives you a warm feeling,” she said.
The veteran artiste, who has mastered the ins and outs of the recording studio and knows how to work a stage, shared that she is now learning a new skill, navigating the online portals and platforms in this pandemic era. With the awards ceremony, including the VIP reception, the awards gala and after party, all being staged virtually, she is ready for Zoom.
“Virtual is the new normal, and we just have to accept and learn as much as we possibly can about Zoom and all these online outlets. And it is also important that we keep on singing and writing and doing the things that are natural,” advised the Black Woman singer who told The Sunday Gleaner that she had cherished a dream of becoming a nurse.
However, she was also quick to point out that that dream had been fulfilled, but not in the way that she had imagined. “I saw myself as a nurse in [a] white uniform, but God allowed me to nurse hearts with my gift. I reach people through my music on vinyl, or CDs or streaming, and it consoles and strengthens them,” Mowatt said.
She added that she has been getting a lot of inspiration from all that is happening, “so I am writing and preparing myself for the next project”.
The CARAH Awards, which was held last year at the Smithsonian Museum of African American Heritage and Culture, is the brainchild of the Washington DC-based Institute of Caribbean Studies (ICS), and celebrates the accomplishments and contributions of outstanding individuals of Caribbean descent who have made extraordinary contributions to their fields of expertise, a release from the organisers stated.
Founder and president of ICS, Jamaica-born Dr Claire Nelson, noted that the decision to host a virtual event, given their Smithsonian debut, was “a tough-but-necessary one”. She paid tribute to past honourees who have made their transition, including Prime Minister Owen Arthur of Barbados and Frederick ‘Toots’ Hibbert.
“For them, we have decided to go forward together to face the reality of this ‘covidemic’ scourge, by finding reasons to celebrate life. Even though we cannot celebrate in a physical space, we believe the experience will still be intimate in a new way, and joyful,” she said.