Two Barbadian pioneers, one who invented the internet search engine and the other who created some of the most inventive calypsoes of the age, are to be awarded honorary doctorates by the University of the West Indies at Cave Hill, UWI has announced.
Alan Emtage, the father of Archie, the world’s first search engine and Stedson Red Plastic Bag (RPB) Wiltshire, the ten-time calypso monarch and cultural ambassador, are to join the Trinidad-born Global Head of Diversity at Facebook, Maxine Williams, in receiving honorary doctorates at the university’s graduation ceremony later this year, it said.
Emtage is to receive a Doctor of Science (D.Sc) for “his sterling commitment to scientific invention” and Wiltshire is to receive a Doctor of Letters (DLitt) for “his contribution to entertainment”, the university said. Williams will be conferred a Doctor of Laws (LL.D) for “leadership”, UWI added.
The world has Alan Emtage to thank for writing the code that opened the Internet to everyone. As a student at McGill University in Montreal, Canada, he conceived and implemented Archie, the world’s first pre-Web Internet search engine, which provided the foundation on which all public search engines operate to this day.
For his groundbreaking invention, Emtage was inducted into the Internet Hall of Fame in 2017, its first Caribbean member and person of African descent.
Born and raised in Barbados, Emtage attended Harrison College before moving to North America, where he received his B.Sc. from McGill in 1987, before going on to complete his M.Sc. in Computer Science in 1992.
In 1992, Emtage along with Canadian Peter J. Deutsch, founded Bunyip Information Systems Inc., the world’s first dedicated Internet information services company. This company distributed a licensed, commercial version of the Archie search engine.
Emtage is a founder member of the Internet Society and has chaired several working groups at the Internet Engineering Task Force, including one which established the standard for Uniform Resouorce Locators (URLs), the address codes for internet sites.
Red Plastic Bag began his calypso career in the late 1970s in a local competition in his native parish of St. Philip, and on his national debut in 1982 captured the Calypso King title with Mr. Harding and Sugar Made Us Free.
He would go on to win the Calypso Monarch title nine more times between 1984 and 2012, along with two Tune O’ De Crop titles in 1987 and 1999, and also achieved two victories in the Sweet Soca competition. In addition, he has penned hit songs for several artists including Ras Iley, Alison Hinds and another pioneer who helped put calypso on the world music map, the late Alphonsus Arrow Cassell from Montserrat.
RPB was given the Barbados Service Star in 1995 and a Barbados Jubilee Honour in 2016 in commemoration of the island’s 50th anniversary of independence. He has also received recognition in several cities in Canada and the United States for his contribution to entertainment.
An entertainer who has formally studied Bag’s contribution to Barbadian culture has described news of the latest honour for the calypso stalwart as “a happy day for the people of Barbados, St Philip in particular, and the world.”
Comedian, long-time friend and fellow St Philip resident, Carl Alff Padmore, who has written a thesis on Red Plastic Bag’s work, said: “Red Plastic Bag was the last of 11 children, who rose from humble beginnings and used calypso music as a vehicle to reflect the joys and sorrows of the masses of Barbados, and has remained true to the artform over the years.”
He added that the ten-time Calypso Monarch was the only calypsonian who reached the finals every time he took part in the Pic-O-De-Crop competition, and also broke the Mighty Grynner’s stronghold on the Tune O De Crop titles in 1986 and 1987, as he wrote Spring Garden on Fire performed by Ras Iley in 1986, and wrote and performed Can’t Find Me Brudda a year later.
Padmore, who said he plans to publish photos of RPB on the exterior walls of his home in light of this honour, also mentioned the artist’s work in the Caribbean Broadcasting Union Song Contest, where he wrote the winning song for Sheldon Hope – Caribbean Song – in 1998, as well as songs for calypsonians outside of Barbados.
Maxine Williams, in her role at Facebook, is mandated with ensuring that the internet giant’s talent and partner bases are as diverse as its users. She took up this post in 2013, after serving as Director of Diversity at a global law firm where she was responsible for devloping and implementing a diversity plan.
An alumna of St. Joseph’s Convent in Trinidad and Yale University in the United States, Williams created an interdisciplinary major in Caribbean Studies at Yale. A Rhodes Scholar at Oxford University, she read for a first-class honours Law degree.
In the Caribbean, Williams has worked with several international organisations on human rights issues and has represented clients at criminal, civil and industrial courts in Trinidad and before the Privy Council in London. She has also worked as a broadcast journalist, a presenter and actress.