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EDITORIAL: Rihanna deserves, needs our support


rhondathompson, [email protected]

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WHEN PRIME MINISTER David Thompson presented singing sensation Robyn Rihanna Fenty with a framed, official proclamation of her appointment as Youth and Cultural Ambassador, and then revealed that Government would also give her a gift of land in the upscale community of Apes Hill, St James, there were loud screams of approval from the thousands of Barbadians who had converged on Independence Square for the concert in her honour.That was on February 20, 2008, the day after Rihanna’s 20th birthday. The starlet, who was riding high on the international charts with Umbrella, was visibly moved by the expression of goodwill.“I am so grateful, and I have never been more proud to be Bajan,” said the Grammy Award winner.Now, fast-forward to June 23, 2010, when the results of a NATIONNews.com poll on the question:  Should Rihanna get Apes Hill Land? were announced. It was a week after the House of Assembly unanimously passed a resolution to vest 2 635  square metres of land at Apes Hill in Rihanna’s name.The near three-day poll, in which 1 036 people participated, showed that 63.61 per cent disagreed with the decision, while only 36.39 per cent agreed. While this poll is unscientific, it captured some of the sentiments being aired on the radio call-in programmes. Why have some Barbadians changed their minds about giving Rihanna the land?Based on the comments received online, people disagreed principally on three points: 1) Rihanna is wealthy and does not need such a hand-out; 2) The money for such land would be better spent on helping the most disadvantaged; and 3) Rihanna needs to do more at home to help the disadvantaged, similar to what she does internationally. These opinions notwithstanding, we feel accomplishments should always be identified and honoured.A citizen who does well deserves to be acclaimed. Therefore, Barbados needed to do what it did for Rihanna, in the same way we did it for our first individual Olympic medallist, Obadale Thompson.This is the country’s way of showing Rihanna our collective appreciation for her success in reaching the top in arguably the most competitive industry in the world. That she has wealth of her own and can afford to purchase that property is irrelevant.If one looks at the situation in Trinidad and Tobago, Brian Lara was honoured with an impressive plot of land in recognition of his cricketing prowess, and a promenade proclaimed in his name in Independence Square in the heart of the capital, Port-of-Spain. At that time, Lara was said to be a millionaire. But that did not matter. It was not what he had that was important; it was what he had achieved. Similarly, Rihanna’s land gift should be so regarded. Rihanna is a fine example of youth endeavour, and entrepreneurship. And in a country where the Government is pushing innovation, entrepreneurship, and self-employment as the way forward, Rihanna is an example of what is possible as long as one has the skills and is given the opportunity to showcase one’s talent.That said, we, like Attorney General Freundel Stuart, are conscious that Rihanna’s youth can be a challenge in the dynamic and rigorous entertainment industry. As Stuart observed in Parliament during debate on the land resolution, both sides of the House faced squarely the fact that Rihanna was still very young and capable of making mistakes. He said that for these reasons Barbadians should support her “and hope that her mistakes are not sufficiently costly as to make nonsense of what this Parliament is doing today”. Enough said.

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