- Today, we as a Jamaican people continue to be grateful to the Maroons.
- If we are to build national commitment it must be done through knowledge of our history and heritage.
The Full Story
Today I am pleased to return to Accompong as once again the Ministry of Youth and Culture joins with the Maroon community in celebrating one of the most significant successes in the quest of the displaced African people to restore their original dignity and integrity and record to the world their determination never to give in to the forces of colonialism and enslavement: the signing of the Treaty between Captain Kojo and the British in 1738.
Today we again pay homage to Captain Kojo and his band of freedom fighters for their resilience in the face of oppression and their determination to never allow themselves to be bludgeoned into acquiescence and subservience by the then colonial powers. Theirs was the courage to resist these forces through unity of purpose and force of togetherness. As such, they managed to bring together Africans dispersed from various tribes from the Continent under one common cause: to regain their freedom from the enemy and retain their ancestral Ashanti culture and heritage. We within the challenges of modern Jamaican life are called to understand more fully how the Maroons achieved their success and learn from their methodology and approaches as we confront the issues we face in our own reality.
Last year, we celebrated the 275th anniversary of the signing of that important Treaty, the first of its kind in the Western Hemisphere in which a European superpower was forced to recognise the sovereignty and freedom to be of members of the displaced African population. Today, we as a Jamaican people continue to be grateful to the Maroons, led by National Heroes Captain Kojo and Grandy Nanny, for the legacy of resilience and ancestral pedigree that we have inherited as the Jamaican people, a legacy that was fortified by the prowess of such other Africans as Tacky, Sam Sharpe, and Bogle.
Indeed, it is this legacy that propelled us in various areas of our modern life to take decisions at the national, regional and international levels that many have not been able to comprehend. For example, it was the platform on which Marcus Mosiah Garvey constructed his philosophy of racial integrity and black pride and travelled the world promoting the centrality of Africa within the realities of the common life of African people dispersed across the world. This was what he acclaimed in his concept of Africans at home and abroad, the foundation of Pan Africanism.
On another note, it provided great resonance in the decision by Leonard Howell to reject the God of the European enslavers and promote one that came from the Continent of our heritage, which led to the emergence of Rastafari and the ultimate contribution of that movement to the spiritual creation that became known as Reggae.
Latterly, it remains an enduring image of courage and resilience that the Right Excellent Norman Manley, even before we gained Independence, was able to initiate the worldwide strike against the Apartheid Regime in South Africa that led to the emergence of support for the likes of Nelson Mandela and ultimate dismantling of that regime.
It was the platform on which former Prime Minister Michael Manley was able to strike out for a new world economic order and asserted the right of the Jamaican people to walk with and trade with any country it chose to, beginning with our own neighbour Cuba and extending to encompass such countries as China and the then Soviet Union. This was even as he dared to etch his own signature to the formation of what was then called the Non-Aligned Movement.
Indeed, it is to the enduring pride of the legacy of Grandy Nanny that Portia Simpson Miller could contest all the odds and become not only Jamaica’s first and only female Prime Minister, but also to be considered among the 100 most influential leaders of the world.
It is with these convictions that I have returned to Accompong to re-establish my Ministry’s commitment to working with the Maroons and the development of this place. In this regard, I want to signal the commitment of my Ministry and its agencies — the Institute of Jamaica and the Jamaica National Heritage Trust — to the reconfiguration and revitalisation of the Museum of Accompong. This must be a part of our national programme of museum development that saw last year the renewal of the National Museum Jamaica, the Museum at Seville Heritage Park and the Roxborough Museum in celebration of the story of the life and contribution of the Right Excellent Norman Manley.
If we are to build national commitment it must be done through knowledge of our history and heritage. This can only be achieved if we ensure that our children and young people are able to learn the stories of our past. Here in this space are the awesome and inspiring stories of the Maroons and their successful contestation of the enslavement of Africans by the British. My Ministry together with the Institute of Jamaica will this year work closely with the Accompong community to ensure that when we return here in 2015 there will be a space where we can all proudly hear, read and touch the stories of maroon fortitude, pride and heritage in the renewed and restored Museum of Accompong. In this way we will promote positive identity among our people and forge a nation of people committed to the common cause of national development and sustainable prosperity for all our people.
Additionally, as you are aware, we are in the process of presenting the Blue and John Crow Mountain to be inscribed among the World Heritage Sites within UNESCO. This site is of immense cultural value to Jamaica because within it is situated much of the history of Maroon engagement with the British, this time in the Rio Grande Valley. Again, we cannot advance this cause without engaging the Maroons who have been responsible for the defence of that territory and its maintenance as an area of ecological fortitude and national cultural value and significance.
This element of Maroon history has already earned significance in UNESCO as some years ago the music of the Moore Town Maroons in the Rio Grande Valley was inscribed as among the masterpieces of humanity. In this regard, my Ministry in leading this charge will engage with the various Maroon communities so that together we can collaborate to ensure that our presentation captures the vitality and energy of the prowess and courage of our ancestors. Again, we must ensure that our people, particularly our children and young people, are brought to greater awareness and knowledge of the wars waged, the battles won, the communities consolidated and the victories achieved by these our ancestors.
Finally, we are again pleased that we have worked closely with Accompong in the staging of this year’s celebration. We commit to the continuation of this cooperation as we seek to bring greater knowledge to our Jamaican people of the achievements of the Maroons. We commit to the continued development of this place, not only for its cultural value but also for its potential for educational, medicinal and other forms of tourism.
However, in the final analysis, we come again to re-energise ourselves and re-connect to a past of resilience and pride. As we go forward in what we expect to be an interesting year with all the challenges being articulated, we go forward with the assurance that as our ancestors were able to overcome the great obstacles caused by man’s greatest inhumanity to man, we can through the lessons learnt approach the year with fierce determination and abounding hope in the knowledge that like our ancestors in the past, we too will overcome.