Famous Faces: Jamaican Roots

Source: diGJamaica.com

Politics and Public Service

Congresswoman Yvette Clarke (left) and her mother, former City Council member Una Clarke, are the first mother-daughter succession in the history of the council. Photo credit: diGjamaica.com

Diane Abbott created history in 1987 when she be-came the first black woman ever elected to the British Parliament as the MP for Hackney North and Stoke Newington.

Rosemary Brown became the first black woman to be elected to a Canadian provincial legislature in 1972.

Dr. Una Clarke became the first Caribbean-born woman elected to the New York City legislature in 1991.

Yvette Clarke succeeded her mother, Dr Una Clarke, as a member of the New York City Council, representing the 40th council district in Brooklyn. This was the first mother-to-daughter succession in city council history.

Claudia Gordon was appointed the associate director in the White House Office of Public Engagement in July 2012.

Kamala Harris became the first woman, the first African American, and the first South Asian to hold the office of Attorney General in the history of California in January 2011.

Colin Powell was the first African American appointed to the position of United States Secretary of State (2001-2005), where he served under President George W. Bush.

Angella Reid, a hospitality industry veteran, was appointed the first female White House chief usher in October 2011.

The Arts

Sheryl Lee Ralph

Corbin Bleu is best known for playing the character ‘Chad Danforth’ in Disney’s hugely successful High School Musical series.

Doug E Doug has appeared in a number of films, but is most popularly known locally for playing Sanka Coffie in Cool Runnings, the Disney film loosely based on Jamaica’s first bobsled team.

Garth Fagan is a highly regarded founder and artistic director of Garth Fagan Dance, an award-winning and internationally acclaimed modern dance company based in New York.

Carlton ‘Jackie’ Guy is a Jamaican dancer, choreographer and teacher who has been based in the United Kingdom since the mid-1980s.

Naomie Harris’ Jamaican accent was spot on in the Pi-rates of the Caribbean movies and with good reason: the British actress was raised by her Jamaican-born mother, screenwriter Lisselle Kayla.

Clive ‘Kool Herc’ Campbell is the man credited with originating hip hop music in the US in the early 1970s.

Dule Hill is an actor and tap dancer best known for his roles in the television shows The West Wing and Psych, in addition to Broadway performances in The Tap Dance Kid.

Nalo Hopkinson’s most popular works include the novels Brown Girl in the Ring,Midnight Robber and The Salt Road.

Claude Kelly has been nicknamed the ‘Studio Beast’ because of his knack for penning chart-topping singles for an eclectic clientele, which includes Kelly Clarkson, Britney Spears, Carrie Underwood, Leona Lewis.

Claude McKay published three novels in his lifetime: the award winning Home to Harlem (the first novel by a black American to become a best seller), Banjo and Banana Bottom.

Sheryl Lee Ralph’s career took off on Broadway in 1982, where she played Deena Jones in the original musical, Dreamgirls.

Kerry Washington, star of the popular ABC drama Scandal, is the first African-American woman to lead an American network drama series since 1974.

Pete Wentz is the bassist and spokesman of the rock band Fall Out Boy.

Thinkers and Teachers

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

Alvin Day is the author of the motivational book If Caterpillars Can Fly, So Can I and one of the most sought-after motivational speakers and authors in the world.

Malcolm Gladwell is the author of several best-selling books – The Tipping Point, Blink,Outliers, What the Dog Saw and David and Goliath.

Louis 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.


Lennox Lewis (left) and late business tycoon Maurice Facey at a private screening of the boxing-focused film ‘Ghett’a Life’ in 2010.

Donovan Bailey is regarded as one of the world’s all-time greatest sprinters and was named sprinter of the decade by sport bible Track and Field News in the 1990s.

Ato Boldon remains Trinidad and Tobago’s biggest track star and is the national record holder in the 50m, 60m and 200m events.

Linford Christie is the only British man to have won gold medals in the 100m event at the Olympics, World Championships, European Championships and the Commonwealth Games.

Jessica Ennis-Hill is the current Olympic heptathlon champion and current British national record holder for the heptathlon, the indoor pentathlon and the 100m hurdles.

Kelly Holmes won her 800m and 1500m medals at the 2004 Olympic Games in Athens, Greece.

Lennox Lewis is “the last undisputed world heavy-weight champion.”