Women talk life without weekly dancehall events in times of COVID-19

BY Kevin Jackson
Observer Writer

Sunday, May 10, 2020

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THE dancehall has been a source of income for people from some of Jamaica's toughest communities for decades. Many women who rely on weekly dances for their bread and butter have been in limbo since the sector shut down in March due to COVID-19.

Events such as Boom Sundays, Wet Sundaze, Uptown Mondays, Boasy Tuesdays, Sexy Tuesdays, Weddy Weddy, Day Rave Thursdays, Whappings Thursdays and All Star Thursdays, have all been put on hold indefinitely as the Government tries to stem the spread of the pandemic.

For Kim, a 32-year-old mother of three, the suspension of Weddy Weddy hit her hard.

“It felt like a dark cloud came over mi,” she said.

Kim worked as a bartender at the weekly event which takes place on Burlington Avenue in Kingston. Weddy Weddy has been in existence for more than 15 years.

According to Kim, she faces daily challenges without a steady income but gets some assistance from relatives.

“Well, my family helps me sometimes. Dat [Weddy Weddy] was my job for three years an' I looked forward to going to work,” said the Portmore resident whose children are ages 16, 12 and two.

Arlene, a resident of east Kingston, says selling peanuts and other snacks at several events helped put food on her table. With four children to support, the harsh reality of not having a financial source has sunk in.

“One of the children's father sends money from time to time but it is not consistent. I also have a brother in England who helps with the bills. I can't wait for things to return to normal to be able to support my children financially,” she explained.

Arlene's children are ages eight, 11, 14 and 17. Two attend high school.

“When di street dance dem a keep, is about five of dem I go an' sell to each week. Sometimes I make a good money an' dat is what I use to send dem to school. Mi a hope sey things return to normal soon because it really stressful on mi,” she said.

Blossom, who sells cigarettes at multiple weekly events, says the shutdown of events has also made it hard on her and her children.

“Is two children mi have an' dem father not helping mi, so mi have to hustle at di party dem. Now di party dem nah keep and mi haffi a rely pon family to help mi out. It's a good thing mi nuh pay rent or utilities. Is jus' food an' personal items mi have to deal with but it rough. Rough bad,” said a forlorn Blossom.

The explosion in the number of weekly dances has encouraged inner-city entrepreneurship. Like Kim, Arlene and Blossom, many residents earn money from these events to feed their families; pay school fees, rent and mortgages. That has been the case since the 1950s when Jamaica's sound system culture became a commercial venture.

Promoters of these dances will have to wait until the Government gives a timeline to reopen Jamaica's economy to know their fate.

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