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Highest award for Sparrow
The Mighty Sparrow, Slinger Francisco, is to receive the highest national award, the Order of T&T, Prime Minister Kamla Persad-Bissessar said yesterday. Persad-Bissessar made the announcement at the annual Siparia Women’s Association’s Kiddies Carnival celebrations at Bhupsingh Park, Penal. The State will also cover the medical expenses Sparrow incurred during his recent illness in the United States, she said. Last September Sparrow suffered a stroke and spent three months in a New York hospital.
Persad-Bissessar also presented veteran masman Peter Minshall with the deed for the government house in Federation Park where he has resided for many years. Both men were on hand as the PM unveiled Government’s plan to reward them for their contribution to culture in T&T. She hailed them as two of the greatest icons in T&T and paid tribute to them for their contribution in their respective spheres.
Saying she could not leave the country today without paying tribute to both men, Persad-Bissessar said their work had been recognised nationally and internationally. “As Prime Minister of our land, I am very pleased to announce today in your very distinguished presence that I have advised his Excellency the President, Mr Justice Anthony Carmona, to confer on you, Dr Slinger Francisco, the Mighty Sparrow, the prestigious Order of T&T, the highest recognition and honour which can be awarded to any citizen,”she told Sparrow.
Announcing the Government had agreed to pay his medical expenses, Persad-Bissessar said by the grace of God he had successfully recovered from his ailment. “In the immortal words of your calypsoes and the unique style of your showmanship, you have entertained our senses and challenged our sensibilities.
“Your words have inspired, reflected, caused serious introspection and at times have just provided sheer musical and lyrical delight,” Persad-Bissessar said, adding: “Sir, you are literally one of a kind, emulated but never imitated.” In true Sparrow style, the Birdie said it was with great pride and pleasure that he accepted the honour. “I want to thank the people for their love and kindness and I only hope I will be around to give you more and more,” he said.
Asked afterwards the cost of Sparrow’s medical expenses, Persad-Bissessar said she did not have a final figure but once the bills were presented the State would pay them. Hailing Minshall as one of the greatest masmen of all time, she said the deed presented to him was in keeping with grants given to other noteworthy citizens. In accepting the grant, Minshall thanked the people of T&T for “putting a roof over my head.”
Persad-Bissessar, who is expected to leave for China today on state business, said she was hoping to be back in time for Carnival. In a-capella style, Francisco then had the audience grooving to popular hits. such as Congo Man, Education and Dan is the Man. Speaking about the honour afterwards, Sparrow said: “I feel very good about the Prime Minister’s gestures. I think I could only show my appreciation by composing and singing a nice song about national awards.
Something like this enables the public to see that if government gives more jobs to people it helps citizens to help themselves.” He said he had also received several calls from promoters seeking to book him for performances. Canboulay Productions organised a five-part lecture series to raise funds to help offset Sparrow’s medical costs before yesterday’s announcement by the PM.
Guardian Media Ltd has partnered with the organisation in the drive, which was hoping to raise $100,000, and produced a collector’s magazine, titled a Tribute to the Mighty Sparrow, to honour the calypsonian for his contribution to calypso. The final lecture in the series is scheduled for February 26 at the Daaga Auditorium, UWI, St Augustine, from 7 pm.