By Mark Hallum
Jamaica Arts and Music Summer, better known as JAMS, returned to southeast Queens last weekend, bringing some of the best food and talent to the streets for the second decade in a row.
Jamaica Avenue from Parsons Boulevard to 170th Street was lined with street vendors last Friday and Saturday, selling every variety of goods from clothing to jewelry to culinary treats from different nationalities. Top-notch musicians took to the stage both days, showcasing R&B, jazz, hip-hop and rock sounds at the event organized by the Cultural Collaborative of Jamaica.
Artistic Director Craig Crawford organized the performers and said JAMS has the ability to bring a healthy dose of fun and economic benefit for a community that feels overlooked in some respects.
“This is the community where sometimes they can feel left out; sometimes they can feel forgotten,” Crawford said. “So organizations like the Cultural Collaborative have been doing this for 21 years. This is our 21st anniversary. It’s the Cultural Collaborative that understands what this community needs.”
Crawford explained how the Cultural Collaborative brings JAMS to southeast Queens every year, and runs a summer-long program for youth called Arts in the Park. Executive Director Tyra Emerson is responsible for bringing these events together every year, according to Crawford.
“The purpose of JAMS was to highlight Jamaica and the different small businesses in the area,” Emerson said in an interview leading up to the event. “The whole purpose of the event is to shine a positive light on Jamaica, do something fun the community can enjoy, and hopefully get some foot traffic from tourists from JFK, because Queens is the first place they will arrive when they come to New York.”
Veronica Daeh Band played in the late afternoon Saturday. The Bronx native currently works with the R&R Soul Orchestra and brought a big sound to the main stage of the event.
The Queens Classic Car Club brought its members out to show off some of the community’s best hot rods. The types of historic vehicles ranged from a 1970 Grand Prix to a Ford built in the 1920s.
“We use our organization to support charities,” Queens Classic Car Club President Gordon Duncan said, explaining they had recently raised funds for a donation to Long Island Jewish Medical Center to support breast cancer research. “We use the cars for a social benefit. We’re fortunate enough to have them, so we’re fortunate to be able to use them for a positive impact.”
According to Crawford, hundreds of vendors were on the street. Cuisines from the Middle East, South America and the Caribbean were being sampled by the huge crowds.
Reach reporter Mark Hallum by e-mail at mhall