“The Frock” by Yaya Richards for UNESCO Mother Language Day in St. Martin

Book cover of The Frock & Other Poems by Laurelle “Yaya” Richards. Cover art by Roland Richardson.

A book party for The Frock & Other Poems by Laurelle YayaRichards will be held at the Marigot Waterfront on Sunday, February 20, at 7 PM, said Minerva Dormoy, head of the Collectivity’s Department of Culture.
The new book launch is one of two activities, on February 20 and 21, organized by the Collectivity for the annual UNESCO International Mother Language Day.

The new book party will feature guest speaker and USM lecturer Alex Richards, along with readings by artists honoring the late folklorist Yaya Richards, and celebrating the St. Martin way of speaking as cultural heritage, said Dormoy.

The young generation poet Melissa Fleming will perform Yaya’s poetry from the book. And we’re inviting the general public to the book party,” said Dormoy.

Other guest artists will include Fabien Richards and Leon Noel. There will be a skit of oldtime sayings and proverbs by Alphonso Conner and Lucita Richards, both natives of Free Town, Yaya’s village, said Dormoy.

The use of the nation’s mother language, “the way we speak naturally on both parts of our island, is the sweetness to the ear and the heart of Miss Yaya’s spoken word, storytelling, and talks about St. Martin’s folkways,” said Jacqueline Sample, president of House of Nehesi Publishers (HNP).

Yaya Richards, a legacy of the late folklorist lives on in her book. (Saltwater Collection photo)

Richards had completed working on The Frock with HNP at the time of her death at age 55, on May 26, 2010 – about four months before the book was published.

The plan to launch the book on the UNESCO-declared day in 2011 came out of meetings between the culture department, the publisher, and Yaya’s family representatives Priscille Figaro, Adrienne Richards, and Laurellye Benjamin.

We need to recognize our artists like Yaya who are working so hard for our people and our identity,” said Dormoy. “It’s an honor to be involved with this book as part of Yaya’s legacy that can live on, and to launch The Frock in connection with the International Mother Language Day,” said Dormoy.

When Yaya came to the Department of Culture she explained that her book was a way to pass on her style of storytelling and cultural information to the young people. The book party on Sunday evening is a way to show our commitment and to take home a copy of Yaya’s first and only book,” said Dormoy. Refreshments will be served at the affair.

The Collectivity’s President Frantz Gumbs, the human development sector directors, and the Executive Council supported the government’s partial sponsorship of the book’s publication, said Sample.

The Frock & Other Poems is available at Roland Richardson Gallery in Marigot, Van Dorp in Simpson Bay and A.T. Illidge Road, Arnia’s bookstore at Bush Road/Zagersgut Road, Philipsburg Jubilee Library, and www.houseofnehesipublish.com.

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