Carson ‘Eddy’ Edwards is one of the original promoters of all Things Jamaican and Caribbean in the South Florida area since 1982. He has been an advocate of Caribbean people, culture and music in South Florida. For over 20 years through the organization Jamaica Awareness Inc he has brought Jamaican plays, music and events here to Florida. He is also a popular radio personality in the area, campaign manager for local Jamaican born politicians running for office and is in charge of Media Relation for the Jamaica Diaspora in the South Eastern United States. This month we pose 10 questions to Eddy Edwards.
Q: When you started Jamaica Awareness Inc over 21 years ago what was your vision?
A: The vision at the time was to promote Jamaica and Jamaicans abroad in a positive manner as the U.S. Media was focusing on the “Possees” and a lot of negative images towards the island. Jamaica Awareness was also created out of a desire to celebrate Jamaica’s Independence anniversary using Reggae music as the main force.
Q: Did that vision change as the South Florida Caribbean population grew?
A: The vision remains the same, but we have embarked on also preserving the culture and exposing not only the popular culture but also traditional cultural art forms, especially to the youth and Americans of Jamaican parents living in South Florida.
Q: Describe the Jamaican population in South Florida then and what were some your biggest challenges?
A: The population was young, as an immigrant population in South Florida, compared to New York and England. Support was passionate and we were learning about life in America. Communications was not as efficient as today, so any “news from yard” was difficult to come by. There were meeting areas, such as Pepper Pot Restaurant on 27th Ave. Getting the word out about any event was a major challenge.
Q: You may be more eloquent when discussing this but I see a lot of promotion of similar events to yours. I think people see the success and try to duplicate it. Each year there are 2 Independence balls in south Florida. And there are other similar duplications. Any thoughts on this and do you believe the copycatting has affected the quality of the events in the area?
A: As in any free enterprise system, there will be others who will see an idea and decide to venture into that field, especially if it is perceived as profitable. Some will fail, while others will be very successful and even improve upon the idea. This is good for the community. There is always the process of elimination. Only the strong survive and usually those are the better and more successful ones. Over time, the community knows who the quality organizations are that present quality events.
Q: Do believe these events are tearing the community apart and do we have the market to sustain having 2 very similar events.
A: Over the years, both Independence balls have survived, proving that the market can sustain. As long as the promoters realize that and do not go at each other in a negative way, they both can survive.
Q: The Jerk Festival you started a few years ago has been a huge success and its crowds seem to double each year. Did you expect this event to take off so fast?
A: We knew it was a good idea and anticipated some amount of success.
Q: In many of the events Jamaica Awareness Inc hosts there seems to be an effort to use as much local Jamaican talent as possible. However in the area of theatrical plays promoted by Jamaica Awareness Inc and other organizations, the whole production is directly from Jamaica. Is there a lack of local playwriting talent?
A: We have the talent locally and in the near future you will see productions developed here in South Florida being staged.
Q: Is there a need to develop local talent in that area? Do you foresee any future productions or plays with a mixture of the talent.
A: We have had several discussions and ideas towards that goal, but all the components have to come together at the right time to make it successful. Over time we will be able to produce locally.
Q: Tell me us a little bit about your next event, Culturama, which features traditional Jamaican dance, music and storytelling? How has the response been?
A: The response to Culturama2005 has been tremendous. Each year the audience grows and we are happy for the support. It is the only show of it’s kind to feature a lot of the traditional cultural expressions of our heritage and we wish to preserve and continue to present that show to South Florida. We are hoping that over time this event will be sold-out weeks before staging.
Q: Most recently you have ventured in the political area with your involvement with the Jamaica Diaspora, Caribbean voter registration drives and also being the campaign manager for a few Jamaican candidates running for office. I know you have seen many failed attempts to mobilize the Caribbean community in South Florida. What are your thoughts on all the new efforts to galvanize the Jamaican community here? Is there anything different in this movement than the efforts of the 1980’s and 1990’s?
A: This is just the result of the work done in the 80s and 90s and the seeds planted then are now bearing fruit. As our numbers increase and we are able to make an impression at the polls we will be a force in the political arena.
Many of us are now beginning to understand the politics of the United States and just how important it is to our daily lives and that of the Caribbean. We will have to continue to mobilize our community as a unit and impact the politics from the various cities we live in to the county, to the state to the national level. It is only then that our community will get the recognition we deserve and demand.
Q: How actively involved will you be in politics in the future? Any chance we will see you running for office soon?
A: I will always be involved in anything that furthers the success, recognition and improvement of my people. As to running for office; time will tell.
Q: Any final words for the Jamaican community at home and abroad?
A: The spirit of the Jamaican people has been one of our greatest assets. We must continue to build upon the work of those before us so that we can all continue to be Proud Jamaicans.
* Please note that “Culturama” took place in August after this interview.