Wah Gwan? 5 ways to celebrate Jamaican Independence Day

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Do the Reggae, a 14-film series at BAM this week.

The tiny island of Jamaica is responsible for some of Brooklyn’s finest cultural imports: dancehall clubs, beef patties, and of course, the Notorious B.I.G. (by way of his parents). In honor of Jamaica’s 50th year of independence — the big day is Monday, August 6 — here are five ways to do it right. 

C & J Jamaican Restaurant and Bakery

817 Utica Ave., between Linden and Church
875 Flatbush Ave., between Church and Morton 
Best Bet: $7 for Jerk Pork and Macaroni Salad (Small)

C & J Jamaican Restaurant and Bakery offers mouth-watering dishes for an obscenely cheap price. Its jerk pork ($6 and up) will make you feel like your Jamaican grandmother cooked it from scratch, even if you don’t have a Jamaican grandmother. It’s that good. The catch? There is absolutely no customer service. If you can stomach being served food without a side of TLC, then C & J is the place. It gets extremely crowded during the weekend, so expect to wait around a bit. And remember: to dine this fine, sacrifices are required. Flavor, however, is not one of them.


Sugar Cane
238 Flatbush Ave. between Bergen & 6th Ave., Prospect Heights
Best Bet: Infused Rum Shots, $5. According to folklore, the “Boise Band” rum shot is said to be an aphrodisiac.

When living as a bougie budget babe, I’ve learned that you don’t just stop frequenting more expensive places; you just adjust strategy. Keep that in mind when heading over to Sugar Cane. Dress a bit, pull up a bar stool and listen to a healthy dose of old-school reggae and hip hop. Keep your meal to drinks only, and the scary bill you imagined when looking at the beautiful décor won’t materialize. Especially a couple of rum shots.


The Islands
803 Washington Ave. between Sterling and St. John’s Place, Prospect Heights
Best Bet: Calypso Shrimp Dish (rice and cabbage salad included), $14. Ox tail Dish (rice and cabbage salad included), $12.

Telling you to leave East Flatbush on Jamaica’s Independence Day might sound crazy, but after heading over to The Islands Restaurant (in Prospect Heights) you’ll know why. This small, two-floor establishment serves a dish that will change your life: the buttery, mildly spicy Calypso Shrimp. If you’re not into seafood, try the ox tail. The tender, fall-off-the-bone goodness will have you plotting ways to return back for round two: the West Indian Day Parade edition.


Club Temptations
2210 Church Ave. at Flatbush, Flatbush
Best Bet: Moet Fridays.

A restaurant by day, this dancehall spot offers amazing specials every single night of the week (because just like in Kingston, the party truly never stops). This is not a place where you should dress impeccably; it’s a dancehall club, so your main duty is to sweat it out on the dance floor. Ja-fakin pop riddims will not be played. Club Temptations is an institution, a place where dancehall queens are routinely crowned, so respect the throne. Be sure to come equipped with a lighter or a flag. During the big 5-0 you will be commanded to raise both liberally.

Wah Gwan Wednesdays: Ladies pay no cover the whole night. Sorry gents, we have no hookup with the bouncer.
Dancehall Thursdays: Ladies get in free until 2 am, guys pay no cover until 1 am. Ladies also receive one free drink before 2 am. Bottoms up!
Moet Fridays: On this night, members of both sexes are treated equally- everyone pays no cover until 1 am. Free drinks for everyone, I repeat, free drinks for everyone until 2 am. If you really want to stand out and impress your crew, buy a bottle of Moet and receive a $20 discount.
International Saturdays: Again, this one is for the ladies. If you are not American, or have a legal I.D. from another country, you can get in for free before 12 am.


Do the Reggae at BAMcinématek
General Admission: $12 (BAM Cinema Club Members: $7, $9 (Students 29 and under with a valid ID, Mon—Thu)

What better way to learn more about Jamaica’s musical history and traditions than through film? To commemorate Jamaica’s independence, BAMcinématek presents a 14-film series that sheds light on the country’s history of political unrest and activism. Let your brain feast on classics like The Harder the Come and Roots Rock Reggae or OnePeople: The Celebration, a crowd sourced documentary where artists express their love for the island through song, poetry and dance.

If you happen to be a reggae fan, you will recognize a few influential faces: Bob Marley, Jimmy Cliff, Lee “Scratch” Perry, Toots and the Maytals, Desmond Dekker, Gregory Isaacs and Burning Spear and more can be seen in candid, non-reality-show-reality footage. Enjoy!

Follow Semmi to the dancehall and beyond: @SemWoTweets.

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