JAMS to continue without support from BID

The 11th Annual Jamaica Arts and Music Summer Festival (JAMS) will take place as planned August 3, despite a controversial decision by the Jamaica Business Improvement District (BID) not to support this year’s event.
JAMS, which is organized by Cultural Collaborative Jamaica (CCJ), a community organization aimed at building cultural awareness in Jamaica, has been funded in part by BID in past years. The festival is held on Jamaica Avenue and includes musical performances, ethnic foods, exotic car shows, fun for kids, and more.
Tyra Emerson, Executive Director of CCJ, believes BID’s decision is personal.
“It has to do with personalities,” said Emerson. “Some people at BID don’t like me, so they’re cutting off funding for the entire event.”
Janet Barken, Executive Director of BID, sat on CCJ’s board with Emerson until January, when she and other members left, citing concerns as to whether CCJ was meeting certain legal obligations. Emerson maintains that the allegations were not true, though she did not elaborate on their nature. Since then, she believes Barken and others have tried to lessen her role and influence as a community leader.
“Anyone has the option not to be on [the CCJ] board,” she said, “but to actively try to cut off funding for an entire event is another story…I never thought that a group that was created as a liaison between people and business would do this. It’s contrary to their purpose. To me, it doesn’t make sense.”
CCJ has helped plan and orchestrate JAMS each year since it began. One of the group’s main responsibilities, said Emerson, has been to advertise the celebration by posting signs along Jamaica Avenue in the weeks leading up to JAMS. This year, in addition to pulling financial support, BID prohibited CCJ from hanging such signs.
“The signs let people know that JAMS is coming,” said Emerson. “They trigger something in people’s minds. But more importantly, we put our sponsors’ logos on there. That’s one of the main reasons organizations choose to sponsor us.”
Without the benefit of the advertising, said Emerson, multiple sponsors have pulled out of the festival, or expressed hesitation in supporting it.
Ida Smith, who has been a member of the festival’s planning committee since the beginning, said that JAMS has grown over the years, in both “expectation and participation.”
“It’s grown from a meager several hundred people to a hundred thousand or more,” she said. “Sponsorship also grew. People expect and enjoy it.”
Regarding the rift between Emerson and BID, Smith said it goes deeper than “mere business,” but declined to comment further.
Neither Janet Barken nor BID Board President Claude Brodwell chose to comment on the matter.
Emerson said the 2007 edition of JAMS will go on as planned, stressing that recent rumors suggesting BID’s pullout would sink the festival have been blown out of proportion.
“Their financial support was $7,000 on a $200,000 festival,” said Emerson. “Them pulling out will not stop it.”

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