The little boy who wanted to make his mother proud…
There is a saying that “the person who can bring laughter into a room is indeed blessed” and if that is so, then Oliver Adolphus Samuels is highly blessed indeed.
Comedian, actor, and playwright Oliver Samuels, OD will be one of several honorees at the Caribbean-American Heritage Awards Gala, to be held on Friday, November 16, 2018, at the JW Marriott Hotel in Washington DC. The theme for the Caribbean American Heritage Awards Gala is, “A Celebration of Excellence and Service”.
Samuels will be awarded the Marcus Garvey Lifetime Achievement Award for his outstanding body of work and for bringing “Brand Jamaica” to the performing arts locally and internationally.
This is the 25th staging of the Caribbean American Heritage Awards Gala, which is spearheaded by the Institute of Caribbean Studies (ICS) in partnership with sponsors Bert Smith and Company, (BSC), Genesis Motor America and OmniSystems, Inc.
The Washington DC-based Institute of Caribbean Studies (ICS) was founded in 1993 and is a 501 (c) (3) non-partisan, non-governmental organization established to advance the interests of Caribbean Americans. It provides a forum for education, advocacy and action on issues that impact on the inclusive prosperity and sustainable economic development of the Caribbean society at large. The ICS is also a campaign leader for the Commemoration of June as National Caribbean Heritage Month.
Oliver Samuels, widely considered to be one of Jamaica’s thespian luminaries, was born on November 4, 1948, in Harmony Hall, St. Mary. He grew up on a banana plantation where his father worked as a casual laborer and his mother sold items on the estate. His involvement in drama began at the age of seven when he and the other children on the plantation would sing and recite poetry on Friday nights.
It was to be the beginning of a lifetime love for all things dramatic for the poor boy who made good by adopting his mother’s belief that with hard work he could make it out of poverty. Samuels went to the Salvation Army School, Rose Bank Primary and then attended the high school in Highgate, after which he went to the Dinthill Technical High School which he says offered no scope for the development of his innate dramatic creativity.
After school, he worked at a couple of jobs, first at the Orange River Agricultural Station, then in Kingston to which he eventually moved, at the encouragement of his friends.
He enrolled in the Jamaica Theatre School from 1971 to 1973 where he participated in various productions. His first play was A Raisin in the Sun, in which he was a voice off stage. His role as “the coolie” in the play Servant of Two Masters came under heavy criticism from Gleaner critic, the late Henry Milner who commented that Samuels was “laboring under a misconception”.
This statement made him even more determined to prove the critic wrong. His popularity increased when he appeared in his first pantomime “Music Boy” and his performance as the character “Moon Drops” impressed even his former critic. Several roles followed thereafter, and Oliver Samuels soon became a household name.
Samuels has appeared in 13 national pantomimes playing major roles. He has also appeared in numerous film and stage productions including overseas productions The Fight Against Slavery, the British Broadcasting Corporation’s television series which aired in 1974. There were other BBC productions My Father Son Son Johnson, Chef, and Brothers and Sisters.
More success and accolades followed when he was given his own television series, including Oliver, Oliver at Large, and Large and in Charge. His more recent acting roles include the soap opera Royal Palm Estate in which he played “Son-Son”. Samuels has also appeared in Canadian, Italian and German films.
Other honorees will include Reggae Foundation Grammy Winning Inner Circle Band widely known for their song “Bad Boys”, Jamaican Microbiologist and current President of the J.Craig Venter Institute, Dr. Karen Nelson; Rising Star of the Opera, Alyson Cambridge, who is of Guyanese heritage, and Sherry Herbert, Vice President of Black Enterprise, who hails from Nevis.
Oliver Samuels continues to scribe indelible chapters in Jamaica’s theatrical history. Caribbean nationals all over the world are enamored by Oliver who is among a select few in Jamaican theatre history to have been decorated with the national honor of Order of Distinction (OD) for his work in theatre.
For more information on the Caribbean American Heritage Awards Gala, call (202) 638-0460, or visit caribbeanheritageawards.org.