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Empowerment - the Manifesto Jamaica goal

Published:Sunday | September 19, 2010 | 12:00 AM
From left: Reginald Bell, Travis Graham, Natalie Reid, Lesley-Ann Welsh, Shane Morgan, Janine 'Jah9' Cunningham, Kareece Lawrence and Gavin Hutchinson are just some of the members of Manifesto Jamaica.
Yashika Graham (second right) performs while Kai Falconer (right) listens during Omega Vibration, held at the Village Blues Bar. Also in the picture are from left: Janine 'Jah9' Cunningham, Sabriya Simon, Raquel Jones. - Contributed photos

Krista Henry, Staff Reporter

Manifesto Jamaica has taken aim at getting the arts recognised and the industry flourishing. A non-profit organisation, 17 volunteers, whose love for the arts is unshakeable, are at Manifesto Jamaica's helm.

Founded earlier this year, the Manifesto Jamaica team encourages the youth to channel their emotions in a positive direction. Director and founding member of Manifesto Jamaica, Kareece Lawrence, discussed with The Sunday Gleaner recently, the work of the group and its goals for the future.

A group affiliated to the Manifesto Community Projects in Toronto, Manifesto Jamaica goes beyond focusing on the urban arts of its counterpart, but chooses to look at the performing arts (theatre, music, dance), culinary, visual, spiritual, martial and literary arts. Lawrence expounded: "Manifesto Jamaica is all about education, exposure and empowering the youth and letting them know that art is an option. Instead of having countless youth turning to crime they know that they have other options. They can be a good dancer and singer and make money from their craft."

Utilising elements of advocacy, festivals and workshops to achieve their goal, Manifesto Jamaica, while still new to the playing field has been doing big things. Thus far, they have staged three 'minifestos', workshops in areas such as Greenwich Town and August Town; aimed at exposing the youth to the arts.

According to Lawrence, entertainers such as singers Keida and Chevaughn assisted in the minifestos by performing for the many persons who came out.

'ART'ical Exposure'

Another project the group organised was the 'ART'ical Exposure' open mic series held at Bookophilia that saw performances from the likes of Jah 9, Protojé, Raging Fyah, Jason Worton as well as poets and more.

"With each of the ART'ical Exposure, we added a spiritual element by starting with a libation, a calling on the ancestors who made this all possible. The shows were very successful, the main intent was to build awareness and we did that. The last show we even had a guest performance from No-Maddz and it was very good," said Lawrence.

Most recently, the group staged Omega Vibration (Live Music and Poetry), a fund-raising event, at the Village Blues Bar that saw performances from female poets as well as displays from female photographers.

The group also started their "ART'ical Empowerment" programme which airs on Mondays on Roots FM.

"The response overall has been great. We have been getting support from the communities we worked in and got other persons interested as well. We're a non-profit, non-government agency. We've reached out to corporate Jamaica, but we haven't received any funding. Despite that, we're still proud about everything that we've achieved so far," Lawrence said.

As part of its growing campaign, Manifesto Jamaica has partnered with the Edna Manley College of the Visual and Performing Arts and are staging the Festival of ART'ical Empowerment from October 14-17.

Convergence of artists

The organisation plans for all types of artists to converge for the four-day festival where there will be exhibitions, dance competitions, film screenings, cooking showcases, live performances from a surprise top dancehall artiste and top reggae artiste, workshops and more.

Lawrence says there are also big plans in the works.

"We believe the arts can unify Jamaica's youth by opening up new channels of communication, creating opportunities for sharing and collaboration and strengthening networks and community ties. In five years, we want Manifesto Jamaica to be helping another country in the Caribbean to start their own manifesto. We also want to expand and do projects in every other parish, so hopefully, our next festival doesn't have to be in Kingston."