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Super Cat’s Great Escape: A Dive into Dancehall History

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In the annals of Dancehall history, one event stands out for its intrigue and tension: the infamous police raid targeting Clarks-wearing attendees, where the legendary Super Cat executed a daring escape.

During the early 1970s, Dancehall events often became the focal point of police scrutiny, none more so than those presided over by Superintendent Joe Williams. Williams, notorious for his targeting of individuals donning Clarks footwear, instigated a crackdown that would go down in Jamaican folklore.

In a 2015 interview with Reggaeville, Super Cat recounted the harrowing ordeal. Amidst the chaos of Williams’ intrusion, the selector was instructed to lower the music, and attendees sporting Clarks were corralled for what seemed like imminent arrest. However, through quick thinking and agility, Super Cat eluded capture, slipping away unnoticed through the dance gate.

This event, while undoubtedly tense, has since become a subject of fascination within Jamaica’s Dancehall community. Al Fingers, founder of One Love Books, explored the phenomenon in his compilation Clarks in Jamaica, interviewing DJ Trinity and others who shared their experiences with police scrutiny over their choice of footwear.

The popularity of Clarks among Kingston’s gangs in the late 1960s and 1970s drew suspicion from law enforcement, who viewed the expensive footwear as a marker of criminal activity. As Super Cat’s escape illustrates, the Clarks raid was not an isolated incident but rather part of a broader pattern of police targeting black youths based on their attire.

The Gleaner documented similar instances of police tactics, with Superintendent Williams’ raid at Sir Coxsone Dodd’s event serving as a notable example. The enforcement of footwear-based profiling persisted into the early 1980s, underscoring the systemic nature of discrimination within Jamaica’s law enforcement.

As the legacy of Super Cat‘s escape endures, it serves as a reminder of the resilience and resourcefulness of Dancehall artists in the face of adversity. Through their music and actions, they continue to challenge societal norms and injustices, shaping the cultural landscape of Jamaica and beyond.