25th November 1989 – Stonewall was founded.
Stonewall emerged from the Whitney-Burger combination who got together when time permitted to play for small events. Leading up to the formation of the now international brand, Whitney Williams worked in electronics and Everton “Burger” Williams resided abroad but returned home regularly.
The need for a name arose in 1989 when they were booked to play at the Antigua Girls High School. When asked the name of the sound, they chose the name “Stonewall”, from a “Stonewall Jackson” record.
Since then they have been “Stonewall Sound System, Stonewall International and Stonewall Reloaded”.
Other foundation members were Wayne Hewlett, Lenny Hewlett, Anson Perry, Lyndon Ryan and Trevor “Gusum” Watkins. Other affiliates include Cliff Williams who rose to a management position in the Stonewall family.
Wayne Hewlett recalls the opening of the All Saints Village League Football tournament in 1989 among the early events done by Stonewall in 1989.
Stonewall Sound System’s first set of equipment was provided by foundation members to include the amplifiers from Gusum, the turntables from Burger and the crossover from Whitney. Lenny, who worked as an engineer with Vision Band scored other equipment that band was about scrap which were converted back to functionality by the Stonewall crew. Members also put funds together and built their first small sound system.
They were later sponsored by “Barry”, an entrepreneur who at the time had a clothing store in town. “Lyndon” sponsored building materials which enabled the team to build boxes to play in ‘Shantytown’ the following year. Within a short period, Stonewall Sound System became a popular Shanty Town staple and a part of the must do Antigua Carnival activities in the 1990s to mid 2000s.
Stonewall was largely responsible for the introduction of the ‘clash’ segment of the dance “talk pan mic” in parties from 1992. They were among the first ‘sounds’ to specialise in the mixing and scratching of dancehall music in Antigua. Bus Boys with DJ E.T. was the only other ‘sound’ who played party vibe, but they mostly played HipHop and Rap music.
Stonewall has had a global reach having battled sounds of international repute such as Stone Love, Bass Odyssey, Downtown Outlaws, Bodyguard and Black Cat. They have played alongside David Rodigan sounds but never had the opportunity for a clash.
Stonewall International is the reigning Bronx Clash Champion and Antigua Tag Team Clash Champion of 2019. They hope to defend their crown in 2022 post pandemic.
Stonewall Reloaded Started equipment rental services in 2006, providing sound equipment for events of any kind including carnival across Antigua and Barbuda, Montserrat, St. Maarten and Miami.
They were part of a partnership with another local provider Lava Sound who ended the importation of sound and light equipment for the annual Carnival City events from 2008 to 2013. From 2014 to 2019 they have been the sole provider of sound and light for Carnival City (Antigua Recreation Grounds).
Stonewall Reloaded also provides complete systems for various events big or small across Antigua and Barbuda to include Caribana and the Carnival Monday and Tuesday Parade of Bands, and provide services to small parties, major fetes, political events, school events and much more.
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Stonewall still maintains its core element playing for events and producing its own events. Over its 30 year existence the institution has had a huge impact on the growth of dancehall and reggae entertainment in Antigua and Barbuda. From the early days dances at Patches in All Saints Village, to decades of clashes and dances at Plantation (Fort James) and Factory.
It is listed among the top ten sound systems worldwide representing Antigua and Barbuda in its specialty, Dancehall and Reggae clashes and dance. Whitney proudly states “through Stonewall I have carried the Flag of my Antigua and Barbuda on stage all over the world”.
One of the original members Wayne Hewlett shared his perspective on Stonewall’s impact on the development of the local entertainment culture. “Trust me, we made a huge impact on the entertainment side. You know, even Oungku of Burning Flames called us out when he was sorting out his new systems, acting like he wanted to clash us, sound system wise. We had set precedence with how sound is supposed to sound, we took a lot of pride in that. We were the first to start having so many dubplates to be able to clash internationally so we really paved the way for Antigua sounds. We went down sometimes but we weren’t kicked about.”
Even though he is no longer an active member Wayne is full of pride and respect for the manner in which Whitney and Cliff seized the opportunities to move into equipment rental and the likes. “Their move helped stonewall to be where it is today, that’s a very very expensive venture and when you have less members putting in money, the sound thing is not a profitable thing, it’s fun, it’s a hubby but when you have equipment that can be rented out for carnivals and sessions and stuff like that is the money-making part of it.”
Stonewall today is a full-time enterprise, a significant contributor to the entertainment sector, generating employment and an exporter of services. Stonewall’s Wall is standing firm beyond the early day of just making enough to put back into a viable enterprise.
Stonewall is currently managed by Whitney and Cliff Williams and stands ready to play its part in the rebuilding of the local entertainment sector as we re-open.