“We, the Maroons of Jamaica, have a deep and powerful history that began with the capture and enslavement of our African ancestors more than 300 years ago. "
Brought to Jamaica against their will, these brave and resilient men and women were forced to work on Spanish-owned sugar plantations. When the British invaded Jamaica and took control of the island, the Spanish ‘freed’ many slaves to fight with them against the British. But our people saw this as an opportunity to find freedom. Slavery had not broken their determination or their free will. Using their physical strength and their traditional knowledge, the Maroons (as they were then called) escaped to the mountain range where the British could not follow them. There we met with the Indigenous Tainos and we joined with them as an army to fight for our freedom.
As the British brought more slaves from Africa to support their growing sugar plantations, more of our brothers and sisters revolted and were welcomed to the safety and solidarity of our mountain communities. Our people would not give up and they continued to fight for their freedom and independence. In 1738 and 1739 the British signed treaties with the Maroons, recognizing our autonomy.
“Our history is based in violence and the violation of human rights, but our communities are built on strength, resistance, resilience, solidarity, peace and love. We are proud Maroons of the sovereign state of Accompong, of Cockpit Country, and we are governed by our elected Chief and his representatives, our Ministry and our Community Leaders.”
The word “kindah” means one family. After the war with the British the Maroons came together to celebrate the victory under this same mango tree. The tree is over 280 years old.
The Accompong Maroon Youth Culture Group (AMYCG), is a grassroots project, and has been working with young people and elders for the past 12 years to document and preserve our culture and to support our youth in cultural connection, understanding and pride. The funding from Education, Justice and Memory Network (EdJAM) has helped us to further the work of the AMYCG in creating opportunities for intergenerational teaching and learning about our Maroon heritage. This is achieved through our after-school culture programme, the annual culture camp and a memory bank which seeks to educate and uplift the youth of our communities by learning about our true history so we can learn, grow and be empowered from it. These activities address the EdJAM themes of History Education and Classrooms and Heritage Education and Everyday Lives. EdJAM funding has supported the following activities since the funding award at the start of 2022.
Annual Culture Camp – July 2022
Earlier this year in July, we hosted our 10th annual culture camp. Led by the AMYCG, we engage dozens of volunteers to support this two week event here. Over 200 youth and community members come together to teach and learn about our history, and to actively participate in workshops on making traditional handicrafts, traditional cooking using local products (often gathered from the forest), medicinal plant identification and use, dancing, art creation, singing and drumming.
Maroon Memory Bank
The Memory Bank is housed at the local museum and serves as a living archive. Through our teaching and learning activities, together with youth, elders and community members we curate stories, interviews, artefacts, images, videos and artwork about the violent past endured by our people and the strength, solidarity, resistance and resilience that freed them and that lives on in our communities today.
The Accompong Maroon Memory Bank is a mural space of artefacts, and pictures recording the history and culture of the Jamaican Maroons. Here pictures are documented on the walls and stored electronically on the iPad which is available at the front of the mural space. The iPad is used to record images and videos of activities and events at the youth culture centre.
After School Culture Programme
This is a new AMYCG offering, a free afterschool hours culture programme, one day per week for 1-2 hours for youth (the idea of being youth is self-determined but most participants are school aged). The focus of the After School Culture Programme is to engage young Maroons in the exploration of their culture.