Caribbean culture in the spotlight at JAMS at 20

JOne of the many African vendors at the Jamaica Arts and Music Summer Festival in Queens.
Photo by Laura Andrews

Caribbean cuisine and fresh drinks from islands across the Caribbean took court among the diverse dishes from around the world at the 20th anniversary of the Jamaica Arts and Music Summer Festival. The objective of one of JAMS’ organizers, Craig Crawford, is to “make JAMS more exciting, visual and an unbelievable experience for participants,” was seemingly met with an array of food, vendors, music and entertainment. This year, the festival, which is set in Jamaica, Queens reached another heightened point.

“Every year our goal is to raise the bar on artistic talent and we encourage people of several cultures to participate in JAMS and we accomplished that,” said Crawford, the host and artistic director for JAMS. “During this election year, JAMS plays a bigger role in bringing this multicultural community together, especially since one of our presidential candidates is trying to divide us by ‘making America great again’ whatever that means,” added the talented saxophonist.

The unification message put into place by JAMS resonates around the world. A Burkina Faso vendor with one-of-a-kind jewelry returns to the Festival annually to promote African goods. “My job is to go to fair-to -fair,” said the artist who elected to remain anonymous by not revealing her name. Although travelling across the United States to showcase and sell her goods, this Burkina Faso-born entrepreneur explained that “culture is very diversified in outdoor festivals.” As the Western spotlight on the African Diaspora vacillated, her interest in the art form of the business remain steady and aggressive.

“I started selling before the culture was strong,” she noted. Since the 1980’s her eye-catching jewelry contributed to the market. When asked in a face-to-face interview, the importance of buying African goods, this business woman replies, “It is different. It is beautiful. Consumers want their goods to be distinguished.”

A quick glance at the range of earrings representing flags from the Caribbean to the shape of the African continent, explains the countless compliments this seasoned international negotiator clients’ receive when donning her products. A recommendation this African woman, exposed to French culture and tapping into a flourishing Caribbean market in the most diverse county in the world at JAMS is making, is that African jewelry is beautiful. She adds, as the JAMS Festival comes to a close, “We have to manage to like ourselves.”

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