BY: JELANI GRANT
In support of United Nations Children’s Fund and Helping Hands’ Hurricane Disaster Relief Fund, a music concert was held at the Sony Centre For The Performing Arts. The goal of the concert was to raise funds to repair the damage caused by Hurricane Irma and Maria. Musicians brought the audience unforgettable sounds of reggae and dancehall as a demonstration that Caribbean people everywhere are sending their united love towards the impacted islands.
The relief concert set a goal of raising $1 million in support of the recovery efforts of numerous islands devastated by Hurricane Irma and Maria. The proceeds will be donated to UNICEF Canada’s ongoing contributions to supporting the Caribbean’s recovery.
Otherwise known as Assasin, dancehall artist Agent Sasco said, “It’s a time when you want those who can help in any way they can, to do so. Being our Caribbean neighbours, we are supposed to be the first in line to extend that help.”
It was clear that the bulk of the audience was made up of people familiar with common island traditions based on their reactions to Award-winning Comedian Jay Martin’s Caribbean referenced jokes.
Martin hosted the night’s performances, stirring hysterical laughter each time he took the microphone. Despite the nature of the concert, Martin managed to keep the crowd lively and laughing throughout, making jokes referencing traditional Caribbean traditions such as sending barrels to overseas family and making the most out of dumpling during school. The line up for the night was made up of reggae artist Tarrus Riley, saxophonist Dean Fraser, Sasco, dancehall singer Christopher Martin, Queen of Soca Alison Hinds, and Jamaican rapper G-Loc.
All of the artists performing had their own personal connections to certain islands and said they felt it was their duty to contribute any support they can to relief efforts. “I come from Jamaica and we know about hurricanes and the problems that hurricanes give,” said Riley.
“Anywhere I can lend my celebrity, advice and my music, to raise awareness, to help people, and be kind to each other,” he said.
Riley and Fraser both performed days later at the Jamathon benefit concert in the National Indoor Sports Centre in Kingston, Jamaica.
Hinds said a fundraising event such as this is necessary because it could be years before the affected islands fully recover from the damage. “There’s places with no power, trying to figure out how to begin to rebuild when you’ve lost everything you own. When we do things like this, we put it back into the minds of people and make them understand that this is something that is ongoing, and so we have to keep helping and keep donating” she said.
Hurricane Irma maintained 290 kph wind speeds for 37 hours, it set a record for being the most intense storm recorded on earth for such a long duration. A major evacuation was enforced in Barbuda for 24 days after Irma hit, leaving 95% of the structures destroyed including hospitals and schools. In Cuba, some areas were left without power or running water, and the death toll reached ten. Other islands similarly affected by Irma were Antigua, Anguilla, Bahamas, British & US Virgin Islands, Dominican Republic, Haiti, Puerto Rico, St Barthélemy, St. Martin, Sint Maarten, and Turks & Caicos.
Hurricane Maria was a Category 5 storm, which hit Dominica, Puerto Rico, Turks and Caicos, Virgin Islands, Montserrat, Guadeloupe, St. Kitts & Nevis, and the Dominican Republic. Twenty-seven people were reported killed, and dozens missing after the hurricane hit Dominica while some communities lost communication altogether. Maria hit Puerto Rico with winds over 160 kph and more than 30 inches of rain. All of Puerto Rico lost power and was under flash flood warnings following the storm. The official death toll of Puerto Rico is listed at fifty-one according to the Institute of Forensic Sciences.
Advertising agency BrandEQ helped promote and organize the concert. BrandEQ CEO Nadine Spencer was recently elected as the Black Business and Professional Association President in late October.
Those unaffected by the storm should remember that people in the Caribbean are still recovering from the damage caused and some are still living without power. Throughout the music and laughs, the audience was reminded of the motive behind the concert, Donations can be made to UNICEF Canada and Helping Hands International through their GoFundMe for their continuing work in assisting communities in affected areas of the Caribbean. UNICEF has been contributing supplies that include water purification tablets, school-in-a-box kits, early childhood development kits, school bags, tents and tarpaulins, teaching supplies, as well as hygiene and comfort kits.