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Queen Nanny: Legendary Maroon Priestess

She is the only woman among Jamaica’s seven national heroes. Her bravery and skill as a military strategist are unparalleled.

Born in the 18th century in Ghana, Queen Nanny became the spiritual leader of the Winward Maroons, the enslaved Africans who fled to the rugged mountains of Jamaica’s eastern parishes of Portland, St. Thomas, and St. Mary. It is from this her stronghold that she led her people in several decisive battles against the British army, bringing them to heel.

However, unlike her male counterparts, very little was written about Queen Nanny. The recently released documentary, Queen Nanny: Legendary Maroon Chieftainness, will change that.

Conceived by veteran stuntman and award-winning filmmaker (Akwantu, the Journey 2012), Roy T. Anderson, and Professor of History, Dr. Harcourt T. Fuller, both Maroon descendants, and filmed in Jamaica, Ghana, Canada and the United States, Queen Nanny shines a light on the indomitable spirit of this larger-than-life woman. It tells her story through songs, performances and reenactments, interviews with Maroons, and scholars who are experts in Caribbean history and the study of slavery.

The documentary also examines the legacy Queen Nanny has bequeathed to contemporary Jamaican women.

Queen Nanny: Legendary Maroon Chieftainness had its World Premier at the United Nations on October 19th, the day that is celebrated in Jamaica as National Heroes Day.

The screening was part of the UN’s 2015 Remember Slavery Programme of Activities, which included a solemn commemorative meeting of the UN General Assembly, film screenings, roundtable discussion and an exhibit. The events also draw attention to the International Decade for People of African Descent.

This year’s theme of Women and Slavery pays tribute to the many enslaved women who endured unbearable hardships, including sexual exploitation, as well as those who fought for freedom from slavery and advocated for its abolition.

Every year on 25 March, the International Day of Remembrance of the Victims of Slavery and the Transatlantic Slave Trade offers the opportunity to honor and remember those who suffered and died at the hands of the brutal slavery system. This historic day in 2015 marked the unveiling of a Permanent Memorial to Slavery at the UN Headquarters in New York. Titled the Ark of Return, it was designed by Rodney Leon, an American architect of Haitian descent.


Jamaica Responds to the VW Superbowl Ad with a Video of Their Own

Between fits of laughter during lunch on Thursday, my friend tried to explain the new ad that VW plans to air during Sunday’s Superbowl Halftime show. From his description, I wasn’t sure how the ad, of a white man who returns from his vacation with a Jamaican accent and a laid-back-turn-your-frown-upside-down kind of attitude, was supposed to sell Volkswagen cars – but I was curious to see it for myself.

I had been on the road for three days without television, radio or Internet and as soon as I returned home, I went online. Before I could even search for the ad, I noticed that I’d received five emails with VW in the subject line. One was a forwarded message of a press release that was put out by a Jamaican organization in support of the ad. I read it quickly but since I hadn’t yet seen the ad, I couldn’t understand why it was even necessary.

Now I was really curious. I did a Google search and was surprised to see that the entire page had article after article about the ad. Scanning a few, I noted that several people thought it was racist, others weren’t sure. I was mystified. I hadn’t gotten a sense from my friend’s description that he was offended. Why was everyone making such a brouhaha? What were we missing? 

Two women enjoying a laugh at a Jamaica 50 event

Two young women enjoying a laugh

Have we become so sensitive that we can’t laugh at ourselves?

I was prepared to hate the ad but when I watched it, I couldn’t stop laughing. Maybe I should watch it again to get what all the fuss was about, I thought. I did but I still didn’t get it.

Although it was at times uncomfortable, my friends and I laughed at the portrayal of the Hedleys, a Jamaican family, in the always irreverent, always politically incorrect 1990s hit television show, In Living Color. I don’t remember anyone questioning then whether the  popular show was racist or asking for it to be canceled even while it referred to us “coconuts” and played on and perhaps help perpetuate certain stereotypes.

Though we’re certainly not naive or unsophisticated about stereotyping or racism, every Jamaican I’ve spoken with or emailed about the VW ad thinks it’s funny. Most of us can’t understand what all “the noise,” as one friend characterizes it, is about.

Despite high unemployment, underemployment, corruption, crime, slow economic growth and a host of other ills within the society, Jamaicans manage to maintain such a sunny disposition that last year, the UN’s World Happiness Report ranked the island the 40th happiest of 156 countries in the world.  Perhaps it’s that happiness that some visitors want to take back home.

They say imitation is the sincerest form of flattery. We’re flattered that VW decided to use Jamaica in their ad but maybe they should do one better: allocate a percentage of the proceeds of their sales on this campaign to fund automotive education here. In the meantime, we have our own unique way of responding to the ad. See for yourself. If it doesn’t make you smile, nothing else will.


Inauguration 2013: Barack Obama and MLK, United Today

Four years ago, I was among nearly 2 million people who traveled to the National Mall in Washington, D.C. to witness the Inauguration of President Barack Obama. Today, I’m 1,500 miles away, watching the ceremony on television. But no matter where on the map you are, geographically or politically, the pomp and the ceremony are no less poignant or humbling.

Of course, there are obvious differences between today and four years ago. For one, the temperature in Washington, DC was colder for the last inauguration than it is today, and there are far less people on the Mall than there were then. Watching the ceremony on my TV, I realize just how much of the proceedings I missed — despite the many jumbotrons that were on the Mall.

For Inauguration 2013, a look back at 2009

The President and First Lady in 2009

Of course, the significance of today, January 21, 2013, isn’t lost on most people. To have the president being inaugurated on the day that’s set aside to celebrate the birthday of civil rights activist and preacher, Martin Luther King, Jr., must be gratifying for those who worked and lobbied for the holiday.

And for the survivors of those who, like King, lost their lives in the struggle, it must have been a proud moment to see Myrlie Evers-Williams, the widow of slain civil rights activist, Medgar Evers, deliver the inaugural invocation.

Today, there’s a sense of having come full circle. MLK’s monument graces the southwest corner of the Mall, his spirit hovered over Inauguration 2013 and his dream of an inclusive America was echoed in Richard Blanco’s poem, “One Today,” and in the president’s inaugural address.

[Read more…]

Jamaica Travel News: Direct Flights from Central Europe to Begin Soon

Direct flights from Central Europe to Jamaica to begin soon

Tourism Minister, Dr. Wykeham McNeill announced recently that Transaero, Russia’s second largest carrier, will begin non-stop service from Moscow to Montego Bay starting January, 2013 and run for three months. Discussions continue to extend the flights into the summer.

Service has also been confirmed from the Czech Republic, Stockholm, and Paris.

Readers of Check In Magazine Vote Jamaica ‘Favourite Worldwide Destination’

Jamaica beat out more than 70 other destinations to take the ‘Favourite Worldwide Destination’ in the British Travel Awards’ (BTA) new online Check In magazine’s Readers’ Choice Awards.

Riu Hotel, Jamaica Travel

Riu Hotel, Negril

The British Travel Awards, the largest travel awards program in the UK was created to recognize the most successful travel companies and destinations. [Read more…]