Carlene declares Dancehall Road March a success, says ‘small’ crowd size due to restriction
Dancehall Queen Carlene, one of the principal organisers of the Dancehall Road March, has declared the event as a “great success” despite the modest size of the march, which she said was a direct result of restrictions placed on the event by local authorities.
What’s more, she has already announced that she will be hosting another edition of the event on December 29, 2024.
“It was great,” she told Observer Online. “The plans are already in place for next year as it will be held on December 29th, the last Sunday of the year.”
Almost 200 Dancehall Road March revellers took to the streets of Kingston on Boxing Day as the event returned following a hiatus due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Dancehall artistes Razor B and Stacious along with a host of notable dancers were among the revelers who gyrated in the streets to polyglot dancehall tracks blaring out of giant speakers on moving trucks.
Netizens may have seen one of the videos from the event which went viral that showed dancer Shelly Belly daggering a woman, Latonya Styles, on a bicycle while revellers cheered on.
“The support for the event was overwhelming, several videos went viral, the one with Shelly Belly and Latonya Styles was the top one, and it wasn’t even planned, that was spontaneous, the same day it hit the net, it had 50,000 likes, not views, 50,000 likes,” Carlene said.
Carlene hit back at criticism that that the apparent low turnout was a result of poor promotion, noting that the small numbers of revellers at the event was a direct result of Government restrictions.
“We had to end up stopping the promotion at the level we started, based on the fact that we only got a permit for 200. They give dancehall a hard time, and this event is the first of its kind, they wanted to see if it would be incident-free, the road keep clean, the traffic was not obstructed and all the rules were observed,” she explained.
“It was not low-key in promotion at the beginning, people tend not to believe something until they see it. Every media house knew about it, we had a lot of people posting about the event, Chinny Unique, Krystal Davis, everyone posted on December 26th before we got the directive from the police about the size of the march,” Carlene added.
She said the small size did not minimize the fun or impact.
“We had more police than people, we had to pay for how many police to be there. It was strategic to not have more than 200, our permit was 10 to 2 and we were off the road before 2 pm. Our revellers had fun, by the time we got to Waterloo, we had 200 on the ground, and some on the trucks,” she said.
A number of the revellers were clearly foreigners.
“We wanted more Jamaicans there, I put the event on my page. I had overseas people clearly following me, they saw it, and they contacted me that they’re gonna book the trip, and that’s who we got – people from Greece, Finland, Italy, Germany and Japan, even the dark-skinned ones were foreigners,” she observed.
The march is the brainchild of Whirlwind International Group Chief Executive Officer, Michael Dawson. Carlene explained that the idea had been three years in coming.
“I launched in 2020 and right after that, COVID came and locked down the country. We had set to do it this year but Pinky (her sister) got sick and then later died. As luck would have it, I was invited somewhere and I heard that some organisers were coming with something similar and there is no way I am going to have something like this in my head for 20 years, do a launch on it and make we come second (in staging it). My boss, Michael Dawson said we have to do it now, win, lose or draw,” she said.
Carlene remains defiant in her fight for societal acceptance of the dancehall genre and hit out against the discrimination meted out towards dancehall promoters and by extension, their events.
“I fight for dancehall for 32 years, it is my culture, I am proud of it,” she said.
“We have to take responsibility, there was a gospel concert in Manchester, five persons got shot, you cannot hold the promoters responsible and stigmatise one genre. If one person comes into a dancehall event and fight, then the whole of the dancehall fraternity gets blamed. There have been street marches in this country, and people get killed, and they don’t dwell in it. We own dancehall and reggae and yet it gets the most fight. You cannot ever decide what a patron will do at any event, we have to stop stigmatizing our own culture,” she said.
– Claude Mills