The world seemed to stand still for six hours on Easter Sunday as the entertainment fraternity, local and abroad, joined forces to raise millions of dollars to fight the COVID-19 through the national telethon, ‘Together We Stand Jamaica’.
Prime Minister Andrew Holness made it his duty to “lead by example” and committed US$3000, while Finance Minister Nigel Clarke pledged US$2000 through his foundation, The Growth and Opportunity Trust.
Jamaican dollars poured in courtesy of the Credit Unions of Jamaica which pledged $4million, the United Way of Jamaica ($2.5-million), and cricketer Chris Gayle who matched Usain Bolt’s pledge of $500,000. This was also the amount pledged by record producer Robert Livingston, Black Point Appliances and JMMB’s Donna Duncan-Scott. Reggae Sumfest principal Joe Bogdanovich pledged $600,000. Thousands of viewers checked in for the live-streamed event, which aimed to raise US$10.5-million to purchase protective gear and equipment for healthcare workers and security forces to help fight the coronavirus.
The telethon unfolded with live and pre-recorded performances, to support social distancing efforts. Each artiste was given a few minutes, considering the overwhelming response from the entertainment industry. The Marley family was strongly represented, with Julian Marley doing a live performance of songs like Broken Sail and Cooling in Jamaica, and Ziggy, Stephen, Skip and Ky-mani Marley offered pre-recorded performances and endorsements. Though singing isn’t his forte, Rohan Marley gave his support by pledging US$5000.
The gospel community encouraged viewers to exercise faith, evident in live performers Jermaine Edwards, Rondell Positive, Kevin Downswell, George Nooks and Sister Patt. The air of positivity continued with performances from Wayne Marshall, Ikaya, Richie Stephens, Freddie McGregor and Richie Spice. The latter performed his song Together We Stand, which serves as the theme song for the telethon.
Omi pledged US$2000 after his pop-fused performance, and Ding Dong let his single Inside do all the talking. Capleton flew solo without his flagman and performed tracks like Small World and Raggy Road.
Dancehall artiste Spice, who is currently in Atlanta, reworked the lyrics of Dumpling, of which she is featured alongside Sean Paul and Stylo G, encouraging Jamaicans to, “fry two dumpling and wash dem hands fi kill di some ting.”
Marcia Griffiths, who is in Florida, soothed the Sunday with What Kind of World and Fire Burning. International singer and actress Gloria Estefan also gave an acoustic performance of her 1996 hit, Reach, which she performed in Spanish (Puedes Llegar).
Other performances came from acts like Jimmy Cliff (Humanitarian), Lila Ike (Where I’m Coming From), Chronic Law (Hillside), Munga Honourable (The Prayer) and Maxi Priest with Dean Fraser (Stir It Up).
Dance pieces came from production outfits like L’Acadco, and musicians including Cat Coore also participated.
Video endorsements were abound throughout the telethon, and stars like Shaggy, Safaree, Sean Kingston, Beenie Man, Koffee, Gramps Morgan, Romain Virgo, Walshy Fire, Cindy Breakspeare, Leon Robinson, Wyclef Jean, Sting and Estelle encouraged viewers to visit www.jatogetherwestand.com to pledge to the cause.
Entertainment and Culture minister Olivia ‘Babsy’ Grange extended thanks to the entertainment community, and PM Holness encouraged people to donate regardless of the amount. “The target is an ambitious target, let’s make no bones about that,” he said. “US$10-mil in a difficult time like this is an ambitious target but whatever we raise we are grateful for and whatever you give we are grateful for. Give within your means, give as much as you can give… I’m certain this won’t just go for gears but to assist generally in fighting the epidemic “