by Howard Campbell
LAUDERHILL – Fifty years ago, teenaged Ephraim Martin arrived at the Daily Gleaner (as it was known then) newspaper to work as a messenger in the Editorial department. He caught on so quickly that within one year, Martin was a photographer with the publication, the oldest of its kind in the English-speaking Caribbean.
Martin, best known as founder and main organizer of the International Reggae And World Music Awards (IRAWMA), celebrates his golden anniversary as a journalist and social activist this year with several events. The first of those is the IRAWMA, scheduled for March 22 at Lauderhill Performing Arts Center in Fort Lauderdale.
From rural St. Thomas in eastern Jamaica, Martin covered some of the biggest events in that country during the 1970s and early 1980s. These include the bloody 1976 general election, the One Love Peace Concert two years later and the Eventide Home fire in which 157 older citizens perished in a fire at an old age home in Kingston, the capital.
“In those days, when the other people (reporters) were sleeping I was out there covering assignments. I remember the 1976 elections were crazy…we used to drive through Trench Town and Tivoli Gardens through all the bullets,” Martin recalled.
Early Days In Chicago
Since 1980 when he settled in Chicago, he has covered many events in the Windy City, starting with the black-owned Chicago Daily Defender newspaper. Chicago is home to some of the leading social activists in the United States, including Nation of Islam leader Louis Farrakhan and Civil Rights firebrand Jesse Jackson, both of whom Martin has known for almost 40 years.
While synonymous with the IRAWMA which marked its 40th anniversary last year, Martin points to being part of a thrust to rename Lakeshore Drive in his adopted hometown in memory of its unheralded black founder, among his greatest achievements.
It was renamed Jean-Baptiste Pointe DuSable Lake Shore Drive in October, 2021 by then mayor Lori Lightfoot.
“They told me it wouldn’t work, some people in government didn’t even know who Jean-Baptiste Pointe DuSable was. After one year of fighting, we won,” said Martin.
In addition to the IRAWMA, Ephraim Martin will celebrate his 50th anniversary as a journalist, events promoter and activist during two shows in Chicago. The African-Caribbean Festival of Life from July 4-7, and the September 10-11 Jerk, Seafood and Vegan Fest.