Sun | Oct 22, 2017

Jack Ruby celebration and street festivals

Published:Saturday | May 27, 2017 | 12:00 AM
Part of the crowd at the second Jack Ruby Festival: The Black Experience, on Friday night in Ocho Rios, St Ann.
Lawrence 'Jack Ruby' Lindo
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Last weekend's second annual Jack Ruby Festival in Ocho Rios, St Ann, was an instruction in celebrating someone who was a community person. From what I have read about Lawrence 'Jack Ruby' Lindo and seen in footage on YouTube, he was intensely committed to using Jamaican popular music as not only an economic resource but a disseminator of ideas. To that end, the live event with wide public access was central to the process, thereby making James Avenue widely known as Music Avenue.

So now there is a move - an advanced one - to rename the street where Jack Ruby operated his activities in his name. There is already a mural at one end of James Avenue, which an official street sign should soon complement.

I have been to many free open-air events in streets, parking lots, football fields and other open spaces across the country. What was striking about the Jack Ruby Festival was how it was shaped by and connected to the street where it was held. It is a narrow roadway, even for ordinary driving purposes, and when it is jam-packed with persons facing a stage it looks even narrower. There were people from the stage area to where James Avenue connects to the main street running through Ocho Rios. They were framed by buildings, some of them more than one storey, and looking back from close to the stage, it made a striking sight.

When an event is held in a community, it stimulates businesses to remain open in order to capitalise on the audience's needs. It happened in Rae Town, Kingston, when the oldies session was held there before issues with the police led to its relocation to Sabina Park on South Camp Road. And it happened at the Jack Ruby Festival, which is in a commercial district. Apart from those formal businesses, there was also someone who was selling clothes slung from hangers, hooked on a chain-link fence. When he packed up and moved after midnight, pulling a green suitcase through the crown, I thought yes, this is a genuine street event.

Of course, the power of Ocho Rios-based radio station, IRIE FM, behind the festival helped immeasurably in its pull. Still, one cannot take away from the factors which led to the event's authentic feel - the person in Jack Ruby, in addition to St Ann's reputation for music production (Ruby produced Burning Spear's seminal Marcus Garvey album, among others, with Bob Marley, Ernie Smith and Bass Odyssey sound system, also from St Ann, plus the Roof International label with Jigsy King and Tony Curtis among its popular artistes of the early 1990s).

It will be interesting to see where the festival goes from here - and I hope it does not go anywhere else physically, although it is sure to grow in audience size.

Melville.cooke@gleanerjm.com