During the Atlantic Slave Trade, many Africans were enslaved and forced into labor as indentured workers. Many were brought to North America, Central America, South America and the Caribbean. The ones that were brought to the current day West Indies especially Jamaica, were skilled warriors and intellectuals as well. Many of these enslaved Africans outsmarted their masters and escaped into the mountains, woods, and swamps. These Africans whom resisted being enslaved were called the Maroons. Currently, the descendants of the Maroons still exist in various parts of the world. I took a rare journey for my 30th birthday into Charles Town, Portland, Jamaica for the Ninth Annual International Charles Town Maroon Conference.
Upon arrival to this village, I felt like I was returning to a place that I’ve been before. The feeling was indescribable. The main center of the village was the Asafu Yard where there were cultural dances, presentations, and even poetry readings. I definitely participated by sharing a piece dedicated to the maroons in Jamaica and all over the world. The first day of the conference was Quao Day which commemorates Maroon military leader and hero, Captain Quao. On June 23, 1739, Quao signed a peace treaty to end an eight-year war with the British in Eastern Jamaica.
The Maroons celebrated and partied from sun-up to sundown. There were bom fires, music, storytelling, drum performances, drinks, amazing food, and people from all over the world coming to participate. I had the honor to meet Maroons from all over the world including from Suriname. I also had the honor to meet Gloria “Mama G ” Simms who has served as the cultural ambassador for Charles Town and is the Paramount Queen, Right Excellency Nanny and Gaama of Jamaica’s Maroon nation (you better check-in with Mama G when visiting!). There was the Akom event which was is an African spiritual celebration which included a ceremonial procession.
The environment was inspiring. There were rivers, fresh fruits, herbs, and many vendors selling souvenirs, artifacts, and herbs. I had a very spiritual experience. I met a Rastafarian Maroon named Courtney and he welcomed me home. This Maroon was one of the coolest people that I’ve ever met. We related with each other so much. He loved to travel the world and shared his culture. We had so much in common and his birthday was the day before mine. We connected and he taught me about his Maroon culture. He explained that Maroons passed down skills and their African culture down to the next generation. He was an excellent wood craftsmen. He built his vending booth out of wood and even made wood art as souvenirs. I definitely supported him and bought many customized souvenirs that he made especially for my family and I.
The Maroons in Charles Town really left a lasting impact on my life. They were humble, hospitable, loving and welcoming people. A lot of the Maroons shared their stories with me and asked for photos so I wouldn’t forget them. I tried to capture their humbling spirits with each photo.
I highly recommend visiting Charles Town, Jamaica especially for the Annual International Charles Town Maroon Conference starting on June 23rd every year. This was my most memorable cultural experience ever.
Thank you all for reading. Much love and have a blessed day.