On Friday March 19th Residents of the Choiseul La Rose Group, came together to say farewell to Mr. James Philip Antoine, a charismatic figure in La Rose known as Governor Jamezee, at a very unique and special funeral ceremony, which was held at the Rambally Chapel on Calvary Road in Castries. Mr. Antoine was head of the La Rose Group in Choiseul and often played the role of Governor in that group. His send off was truly a celebration of a difference and befitting of one who spent so many years promoting and supporting the continuous celebration of La Rose here.
The event began at 10am and was streamed ‘live’ for the many La Rose enthusiasts and family members who wished to attend the event but were restricted from doing so due to existing protocols for management of the COVID-19 Pandemic on the island. Those who were fortunate enough to attend were amazed upon entry at the beautifully decorated chapel, which was very well adorned with the most beautiful flower arrangements in red, pink and white roses. Those invited were asked to dress to suit the La Rose theme of the event and they did not disappoint. In fact, the Pall Bearers and Ushers also set the tone with their matching outfits, adorned with beautiful roses. The ushers were dressed in flowered skirts and shirts with the photo of Mr. Antoine and greeted guests with beautiful roses from matching baskets.
Mr. James Antoine was born in Choiseul on May 1st 1947 and migrated to St. Croix, where he worked with HESS until his retirement many years later. While in St. Croix, he often came back home to take part in the La Rose celebrations and it was not surprising to many when he returned home after retirement and worked tirelessly in keeping the La Rose cultural festival alive. Sadly, he passed away on January 22nd and will be greatly missed by all those who knew him.
“He was a very kind and patriotic St. Lucian who was loved by many. Cultural Champions like Governor Jamezee deserve special recognition for their contribution to the cultural landscape of St. Lucia and those who were at his funeral service felt honoured to be there as it was truly special, with La Rose performances by the group from Choiseul. Even his casket was beautifully adorned with painted roses,” his niece, Flavia Cherry said.
Governor Jamezee was predeceased by his mother who was affectionately known as Ma Bay Bay, and who single handedly and for decades, mesmerized audiences everywhere with the most outstanding performances and displays of La Rose excellence.
“As a society, we must find ways to celebrate our cultural icons and to provide greater avenues for youth to learn from and take over from the outstanding and iconic contributions of those who have gone before them,” said Cherry.
“As I sat there at the funeral service of this great man, I wondered who would take over where he left off and what plans are in place at the Cultural Development Foundation to ensure the survival of La Rose. Perhaps it is time to review our approach to cultural survival and to provide more avenues for youth involvement, through their own creative energies,” Cherry added.
Cultural celebrations like La Rose have for generations contributed to very positive local identity and community togetherness. This was evident at the funeral of Governor Jamezee as so many people turned up and were willing to stand outside and in acceptable social distances, just to be their for his final farewell.
“I salute his efforts and extend condolences to his family and friends. His outstanding work on this earth has been done and may he rest in perpetual peace,” were the parting words of Cherry who read Antoine’s eulogy.