Organizers of the oldest Caribbean music awards – International Reggae & World Music Awards (IRAWMA) announced protest of Florida’s Stand Your Ground Law and support of Trayvon Martin by withdrawing a promise to host the honors next year in the Sunshine State.
“I feel very connected to Trayvon Benjamin Martin,” Ephraim Martin, IRAWMA founder said. “Not only did my late father Benjamin Martin share a name with Trayvon, but I know what it feels like to be a Black man living in America and I want to do what’s right.”
Two months ago, Martin who resides in Chicago — returned his IRAWMA honors to the southern state where numerous talents performed.
Poet Mutabaruka, Romaine Virgo, Etana, Black Uhuru’s Ducky Simpson and Calypso Rose celebrated the music from the region.
Attended by hundreds of fans from various parts of the United States, the Caribbean, Africa, Europe, Canada and Latin America, the Fort Lauderdale gala paid homage to the late Peter Tosh and Jacob Miller and also lauded numerous, local south Florida radio personalities.
Next year would have placed the state as one of the most visited for the awards which have also been held in Atlanta, Georgia, New Orleans, Louisiana, Chicago, Illinois and New York as well as internationally in Jamaica and Trinidad & Tobago.
According to Martin, “calls are mounting from music lovers and members” to reconsider next year’s proposed location.
Last Saturday at a Trayvon Martin rally held at the Federal Building in Chicago and hosted by the National Action Network (NAN) and Chicago’s talk radio station WVON AM, Martin was again asked to seriously reconsider taking the 2014 event to Florida. Since the acquittal of George Zimmerman, recording and performing artists Eddie LeVert of the Ojays, Stephanie Mills, Dionne Warwick, Madonna, Rod Stewart, Mary Mary, Kanye west, Jay Z and others have followed the lead after Stevie Wonder led the charge by announcing his boycott in Quebec, Canada. Wonder’s decision to abstain from performing in Florida also includes 20 other states whose similar laws are perceived to impact favorably to whites while disadvantageous to Black.
Martin said he will be heading to South Florida next week to meet with his Florida team and to make further announcements about the 33rd IRAWMA.
Initially known as the International Reggae Music Awards, the annual celebration was founded in 1982 in Chicago by then photojournalist and activist Ephraim Martin. He said its mission was “to use reggae music as a vehicle of expression for the voiceless peoples of the world, to help free Nelson Mandela (who was in Prison), to end Apartheid and to honor reggae and world music entertainers who were making outstanding contributions to world music and to humanity.“
Other categories of music were later added after nearly a decade of honoring the reggae genre and renaming it to IRAWMA.