DR EPHRAIM MARTIN – THE UNSTOPPABLE FORCE BEHIND IRAWMA
Dr Ephraim Martin, a 65-year-old native of St Thomas, Jamaica, is best known as founder of the International Reggae and World and Music Awards (IRAWMA), and the Chicago Music Awards (CMA), which are just two of the many events that he has founded, and charted the course for, since 1980. In-fact on October 2, 2016, at the conclusion of the 35th IRAWMA, and his 100th annual entertainment event, set a world record as the only known person alive to have consecutively produced 100 annual entertainment events (Awards/Festivals & Special Events), with a 35-year period boasting four unbroken annual events.
Early in his career Martin embarked on a mission to be “a voice for the voiceless peoples of the world”. At the time he believed that Jamaica’s reggae was severely under-promoted internationally and he established the International Reggae Music Awards with the objective of “Bringing Nations Together Through Music and Culture.” It was therefore not a surprise that soon after its launch he expanded it to be the International Reggae and World Music Awards, with special emphasis on Caribbean and African music genres. He also hosted founded and hosted the Chicago Music Awards as well as July 4th and Labour Day cultural festivals in Chicago.
Martin’s mission was not confined to entertainment and music as he championed popular political causes, including an end to South African apartheid; he extolled their passions, and supported the work of Jamaican National Hero Marcus Garvey; civil rights leader Dr Martin Luther King Jr and late South African hero Nelson Mandela. He campaigned hard for the election of the first black US President, Barack Obama.
His latest achievement, of which he is probably the proudest, is delivering the huge social justice win for Chicago’s founding father, Jean Baptiste Pointe DuSable, after more than 240 years of denial. A black man from the Caribbean-island of Haiti, Dusable in 1779, established the first trading post in the place now known as Chicago, the third largest city in the United States. However, because he was black, Dusable was denied the recognition normally bestowed on white founders, such as street names, monuments and city holidays.
Under the banner of the Black Heroes Matter (BHM) Coalition which he co-founded with his wife, retired Justice Shelvin L M Hall of the Illinois Appellate Court, Dr Martin led the campaign that renamed the iconic Lake Shore Drive, to be the “Jean Baptiste Pointe DuSable Lake Shore Drive”. This was not an easy feat, however with his usual bravado and determination, and in the wake of George Floyd’s murder, Dr Martin’s BHM, supported by 80 organisations and city ordinance sponsors Aldermen David Moore and Sophia King, launched the renaming campaign. Lake Shore Drive is one of the bounding streets of the “Gold Coast Historic District” of Chicago and just minutes away from the “Magnificent Mile”, Chicago’s premier commercial district, and home to upscale shops, luxe fashion outlets, cool restaurants and posh hotels; an area where billionaires and multi-millionaires live, play and shop. Initially there was strong opposition to the name change and the Mayor initially fought the proposal; he however later embraced it and offered millions of dollars to carry out projects honouring DuSable. On June 25, 2021 the street was renamed and the unveiling and installation of the official signs took place on October 21, 2021.
In addition to his other exploits, Dr Martin has mentored hundreds of students in various degree programmes through the Martin’s International Foundation. Over his 40 years of activities, Martin has been awarded over 40 awards in areas of music, history and culture, and his journey continues.
- Award Winning Photojournalist – Daily Gleaner, Jamaica – 1974 – 1981
- Photojournalist – Chicago Daily Defender/Gleaner & Star Newspapers Jamaica/North America – 1981 – 1986
- President – Youth for The Upliftment of Reggae – 1981 – 1983
- Executive Producer – International Reggae & World Music Awards (IRAWMA) – 1982 – Present
- Executive Producer – Chicago Music Awards (CMA) – 1982 – Present
- Chairman/President/CEO – Martin’s International – 1982 – Present
- Founder/Producer – African/Caribbean International Festival of Life (IFOL) – 1992 – Present
- Organizer – Special Hands of Love – 1999
- Founder/Executive Director – Caribbean Festival (CAF) – 2002 – 2009
- Chicago Music Foundation, Inc.: Founder/Chairman 2005 – Present.
- Founder/Producer – Jerk, Seafood & Vegan Fest (JSVFEST) – 2017 – Present
- Founder – TheReggae50 (to celebrate and honor 50 years of reggae music) – 2017 – 2019
- Co-Founder – Black Heroes Matter (BHM) Coalition: Powered by Martin’s Intl- 2020 – Present