Deborah Jack, Dorbrene O’Marde, Fabian Badejo, winners of the Presidents Award from St. Martin Book Fair 2021

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Caption: The Presidents Award winners at St. Martin Book Fair 2021, L-R, Deborah Drisana Jack (St. Martin), Dorbrene O’Marde (Antigua and Barbuda), Fabian Adekunle Badejo (St. Martin). © Photo courtesy.

DUTCH QUARTER, St. Martin (June 2021)—Deborah Drisana Jack, Dorbrene O’Marde, and Fabian Adekunle Badejo received the Presidents Award here at the 19th annual St. Martin Book Fair, on June 5, 2021.

            The Presidents Award is the final highlight of the three-day St. Martin Book Fair, said book fair coordinator Shujah Reiph.

Jack and Badejo hail from St. Martin and were on hand to accept their award at the Dutch Quarter Community Center, where the Closing Ceremony of the literary festival was held. O’Marde viewed the live-stream of the program on Facebook at his home in Antigua, said Reiph.

“The Presidents Award is presented to individuals and institutions whose work is noted for its excellence and for combining literary, cultural, and liberation components in the service of progress, of their people or nation, and of humanity,” said Lasana M. Sekou from House of Nehesi Publishers (HNP).

The Presidents Award winner Deborah Drisana Jack is a St. Martin poet, author, and according to a recent article in The Daily News, a “critically rising” international visual artist. Her art is based in video/sound installation, photography, painting and text.

 Jack’s poetry books are The Rainy Season (1997) and skin (2006). “Deborah has read her poetry in St. Martin, South Africa, Indonesia, the Netherlands, and the USA,” said Jacqueline Sample, her publisher at HNP.

Jack’s art has been exhibited in the Caribbean, USA, and Europe. Her work has been in group and solo exhibits at the Museum of Latin American Art in Los Angeles, Sugar Hill Children’s Museum of Art & Storytelling, Frost Museum at FIU, Portland Museum in Maine, Perez Art Museum of Miami, Brooklyn Museum, Jersey City Museum, and the Caribbean Cultural Center African Diaspora Institute. 

Jack’s art appears on HNP book covers and in 2021 on the cover of New York’s Small Axe literary journal. Awards and honors include residencies, Prince Bernhard Fund grants, a CEPA Exhibition Award, and a New York Foundation for the Arts SOS grant.

Jack is an Associate Professor of Artat New Jersey City University and “traveled home to deliver the keynote address at St. Martin Book Fair 2021,” said Reiph.

The Presidents Award winner Dorbrene O’Marde has described himself as “an Antigua-born Caribbean cultural worker.” The Antigua and Barbuda playwright and author, is also a kaiso writer, judge, and analyst.

One of the 15 guest writers of St. Martin Book Fair’s international Literary Evening on June 4, 2021, “Dorbrene enthralled our virtual audience” with a reading about forlorn love from his novel Send Out You Hand, said Reiph.

In 2014, O’Marde authored King Short Shirt: Nobody Go Run Me, the biography of Emanuel McLean, a defining kaisonian from Antigua and Barbuda.

 O’Marde has directed five of his full-length plays with the Harambee Open Air Theatre in Antigua and Barbuda. In 2010, he received the “Friends of the Arts” Sunshine Award for his contribution to arts and culture in the Caribbean, said Reiph.

“Dorbrene O’Marde is the chairman of the Reparations committee of Antigua and Barbuda. He has been consistent in generating consciousness at home and in the region about the objectives and developments of the Reparations movement,” said Reiph.

The Presidents Award recipient Fabian Adekunle Badejo is a literary critic and veteran journalist in St. Martin. Badejo is the author of Claude – A Portrait of Power, Salted Tongues – Modern Literature in St.Martin, Fantasies – Love-making poems, and the forthcoming SOS: Season of Storms from HNP in 2021, said Sekou.

In 1982, Badejo coordinated the groundbreaking St. Maarten Festival of Arts & Culture, according to his publisher. He has also produced concerts by kaisonian Mighty Dow and humorists Paul Keens Douglas and Fernando Clark.

Badejo has directed plays and film documentaries and presented scholarly papers on St. Martin’s literature and culture at regional and international conferences.

Between 1989 and 2005, the former Nigerian diplomat was the managing director/editor, publisher, and news director respectively of The St. Maarten Guardian, St. Martin Business Week, and Today. Badejo is the producer and host of the long-running weekly radio magazine Culture Time on PJD2.

Previous winners of the Presidents Award, which the Daily Herald has called a “prestigious award,” include Edwidge Danticat (USA/Haiti), Computech (St. Martin), Benny Wenda (West Papua), Norman Girvan (Jamaica), George Lamming (Barbados), Quince Duncan (Costa Rica), Nicole Cage (Martinique), Casa de las Americas (Cuba), Kamau Brathwaite (Barbados), Will Johnson (Saba), and Derek Walcott (St. Lucia).

The Presidents Award is named after the presidents of Conscious Lyrics Foundation (CLF), House of Nehesi Publishers (HNP), and the University of St. Martin (USM), said Reiph.

CLF and the St. Martin Book Fair Committee organized the St. Martin Book Fair, June 3 – 5, 2021, in collaboration with St. Maarten Tourist Bureau, Computech, USM, LCF Foundation, SOS 95.9 FM, and Nagico, and in consultation with HNP.

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