Thu | Dec 3, 2020

Dancehall selector son of Iyanla Vanzant gets real - Produces ‘Carib Life ATL’ series

Published:Tuesday | October 13, 2020 | 12:07 AMYasmine Peru/Senior Gleaner Writer
 Damon ‘Bware’ Vanzant and his mother, Iyanla Vanzant.
Damon ‘Bware’ Vanzant and his mother, Iyanla Vanzant.
Lady Chinnks, whose family hails from Jamaica and St Vincent, is a cast member of ‘Carib Life ATL’.
Lady Chinnks, whose family hails from Jamaica and St Vincent, is a cast member of ‘Carib Life ATL’.
Damon ‘Bware’ Vanzant, executive producer of the new reality show ‘Carib Life ATL,’ which will premiere on One Caribbean Television, Monday, October 26, at 8 p.m.
Damon ‘Bware’ Vanzant, executive producer of the new reality show ‘Carib Life ATL,’ which will premiere on One Caribbean Television, Monday, October 26, at 8 p.m.
1
2
3

The executive producer of Carib Life ATL, the new reality series to make its debut in the fall, had always preferred to be known simply by his moniker, Bware. And yes, it is definitely because he had something to hide. As a dancehall selector who has mastered the Jamaican art of clashing, the biggest clash was actually between his cushy real life and his daily reality of life behind the wheels of steel with a microphone in hand.

Bware, whose father is Belizean, was introduced to dancehall culture by his stepfather, the Jamaican promoter who was married to his mother, reality TV star and literary giant Iyanla Vanzant. “I also used to do a lot of work with my mom, and that meant being on television. As a dancehall selector, I used to hide my persona. People would come up to me in the dance and say, ‘Hey, I saw this guy on TV with Oprah and it looked just like you.’ I would deny it straight,” he told The Gleaner.

The selector, who has absorbed the Jamaica culture and can easily speak Patois that sounds straight from ‘yaad’, gave his best impression of what he images his peers’ reaction would have been when they discovered it was really him. “Bwoy, a joke yuh a (Jamaican expletive) mek. Mommy a travel the world inna private jet and all these tings and you deh dah ‘bout yuh ah (Jamaican expletive) selector!” The only thing he didn’t add was “Gwope!” Clearly, Bware, whose real name is Damon Vanzant, can poke fun at himself, and enjoys a good laugh. Proud of his assimilated dancehall roots, he was quick to share his street cred amid queries about his authenticity. “I know Jamaica very well. Johnny P and Mega Banton are my good friends, and I know every selector. My sound has gone up against Bass Odyssey, King Addies, you name dem,” he boasted, dropping in live memories of early days of Reggae Sumfest for good measure.

But there is also the other side of Vanzant, who wears the hats of television producer and Caribbean ambassador. There is the passionate man who readily admits that “my idol is Louis Farrakhan”, leader of the group Nation of Islam, and he has allowed his teachings to seep into his psyche. “To whom much is given, much is expected,” Vanzant, who alluded to his prison experience, said. “I’m not hiding that. My mother even talks about it in one of her poems,” he told The Gleaner.

CREATING OUR OWN PLATFORMS

Consumed with passion and driven by a desire to make his mother proud, this latest project, in a sense, incorporates both his worlds. “I am hoping that Carib Life ATL shines a light on our creativity. Our influence is strong, we generate millions in various cities across the US. There are two carnivals in Atlanta, for example, and we are some of the movers and shakers in the city. We have doctors and a whole lot of other professionals, and the amount of money we spend in the community is in the millions. Carib Life ATL will focus on every city in the diaspora where Caribbean people are flourishing,” he explained.

And on the point of culture and influence, up popped the Bounty-Beenie Verzuz battle conversation and a passionate outpouring from Bware. “I see how the American community pimps us. Yes, it was good for the culture, but the people who staged it benefited the most. There is a global market out there and we should be creating our own platforms, not waiting on them to give us one. We need to empower ourselves. Why did those slaves live so that they could pass on life to you and me? I call myself Bware as a reminder to be aware, to be conscious, and that is what happens everytime somebody calls my name. I’m excited to be working on this project, and I’m not into exploiting to get television ratings. This project is different from working with my mom on Oprah. I am now the focus. I am on purpose, on course. Things are falling into place with me being obedient to what I was called to do,” Vanzant, who inked a deal with One Caribbean Television for the series, said.

The series has six episodes in season one, and through the deal, One Caribbean will bring Carib Life ATL to cable systems throughout the Caribbean, as well as a number of major cities in the United States and Canada in the coming weeks. The first season highlights the highs and lows leading up to the recently split Atlanta and Dekalb carnivals. The show’s stars represent the diversity of Atlanta’s Caribbean diaspora, including Lady Chinnks (bottle service boss); Alex and Brandon (twin owners of Atlanta’s No.1 soca sound system Unique Sounds); Marlon Revo (promoter, producer, DJ and businessman); Patricia Henry (Atlanta Caribbean Carnival president); Annie Love (online radio host, aspiring soca and dancehall artiste and vixen); and Red Carpet Shelley (broadcast radio personality, community activist and voice of reason). Other Caribbean personalities will be introduced this season as well.

Vanzant is satisfied that through One Caribbean Television, audiences will “get to experience the beautiful people, cultures, culinary, sights and sounds of the Caribbean, and an amazing snapshot of the massive Caribbean diaspora”.

yasmine.peru@gleanerjm.com