Photo Credit: Courtesy of Jamaican Jerk Festival USA
National Jamaican Jerk Day, a celebration of Jamaican food and culture, takes place on Sunday, October 22, 2023
National Jamaican Jerk Day, a celebration of Jamaican food and culture takes place on Sunday, October 22, 2023. While Jamaican jerk food and culture are unique to the island of Jamaica, jerk has managed to make its way across the globe. Established in 2020, National Jamaican Jerk Day is celebrated annually on the fourth Sunday of October.
“Jerk is very a literal representation of Jamaican history and culture,” said Eddy Ewards, CEO and managing partner of the Jamaican Jerk Festiva USA. “It was birthed out of struggle and strife but now it’s internationally recognized as a culinary art, and that’s what we’re celebrating. We’re celebrating how something from a small island in the Caribbean, created by people fighting for freedom, can spread to the entire world, and ultimately bring people together.”
During the Invasion of Jamaica, which was part of the Anglo-Spanis Ware, the enslaved Africans, who were brought to the island by the Spanish, managed to free themselves from their captors. They mixed with the indigenous Taino people who were the first to cook jerked meat and created an independent community, known as the Jamaican Maroons.
Since then, the seasoning and techniques used in jerk-style recipes have been found in many countries around the world; especially in communities where a strong African Diaspora presence exists. While most Jamaicans who live outside of the island can be found predominantly in the United States, Canada, the United Kingdom, and other areas in the Caribbean and South America, recent reports show that they’ve also emigrated to Mexico, Japan, Malaysia, Indonesia, Australia, and New Zealand.
Today, the largest and most known celebration of Jamaican jerk culture comes from the Grace Jamaican Jerk Festival which was started 21 years ago by Edwards.
“Over 20 years ago, I created the Jamaican Jerk Festival to celebrate Jamaican culture in South Florida,” Edwards said. “South Florida has the largest Caribbean population in the country so it was my desire to share my culture with my community.”
A native of Kingston, Jamaica, Edwards worked in the music industry before owning a lounge in South Florida. He would later open his own marketing agency, Riddims Marketing, which specializes in reaching the Caribbean community in North America; which allowed him to start and grow the Jamaican Jerk Festival.
Edwards continues, “Throughout the years, the festival has grown to incorporate many Caribbean cultures and attract people from all over the country. We’ve also attracted corporate sponsors, big-name performers, and a lot of Caribbean food enthusiasts wanting to either showcase their food or eat their fill.”
Edwards’ Jamaican Jerk Festival started back in 2002 in South Florida. He says that the first year consisted of seven food vendors and over 4,000 attendees. Since then, the festival has grown, keeping the jerk food and culture the star of the show by also incorporating music and performances.
The festival expanded to take place not only in South Florida but also in New York City and Washington D.C.. It is supported by Grace Foods, Publix, and Western Union as sponsors.
It was Jamaican Jerk Festival USA, an organization that Edwards founded, that worked with the USA National Day Archives to make National Jamaican Jerk Day an official day across the county. Jamaican Jerk Festival USA is also the parent company that produces the Grace Jamaican Jerk Festival in South Florida and other areas; in addition to other related events.
The Grace Jamaican Jerk Festival takes place on Sunday, November 12, in South Florida. To learn more about Jamaican Jerk Festival USA and the Grace Jamaican Jerk Festival, please visit https://jerkfestival.com/.
About Jamaican Jerk Festival USA, Inc.
The Jamaican Jerk Festival USA, Inc. develops and produces Jerk festivals and related events throughout the United States and other global markets. The annual festivals in Miramar, Florida, and Queens, New York, are major events attracting all ethnicities and key demographics.