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Accompong Maroons Celebrate 275 Years of Independence from Britain

Those of you who read my posts last year about Jamaica marking 50 years of independence from Britain might be a little confused by the title of this post.

If Jamaica celebrated only 50 years of independence in 2012, how can the Jamaican Maroons be celebrating 275 years?  And who are these Maroons?

Please read on and I’ll explain.

Accompong Maroon abeng

The Abeng

Who are the Maroons?

The Maroons are Africans who escaped into the interior of the island when the British grabbed Jamaica from the Spanish in 1655. Some found refuge in the Blue and John Crow Mountains in the eastern parishes of Portland, St. Thomas, St. Andrew and St. Mary. They became known as the Windward Maroons. Others took to the Cockpit Country, an area that covers parts of the parishes of St. Elizabeth, Manchester, St. James, Trelawny, St. Ann and St. Mary. They became known as the Leeward Maroons.

Both are difficult and sometimes inhospitable locations which the Maroons used to their advantage when the British, who didn’t take kindly to their slaves escaping plantation life, came hunting them. What the British didn’t count on, however, was the skill and tenacity of these slaves, whose name is derived from the Spanish word for untamed, cimarron, and their unquenchable desire for freedom.

Using the trees and vegetation as camouflage, the Maroons were able to beat back the invading British forces. Unable to defeat them after two Maroon Wars, the British decided to join them and signed treaties with both the Leeward (January 6, 1738), and Windward Maroons (1739).

Under the treaties, the Maroons were given several thousand acres of land and allowed to live in partial autonomy in communities such as Accompong Town, Trelawny Town, Moore Town, Scotts Hall and Nanny Town. In exchange, they had to turn over any new runaway slaves (eventually becoming slave hunters themselves), and fight alongside the British to defend the island from outside attack.

The treaties, which are in force to this day, in effect created autonomous states within the island. The Maroons govern themselves — the Jamaican government can intervene only in cases of capital crime, which is rare among them. All lands belong to the communities – there are no individual owners — and they pay no taxes.

Each year, on January 6th, Accompong Town celebrates the anniversary of the signing of the treaty, and the birthday of their founder, Kojo (and brother of Nanny, founder of the Windward Maroons and National Heroine), with a party that draws hundreds of Jamaicans and visitors to their community in the hills of the St. Elizabeth section of the Cockpit Country.

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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.

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The Jamaica Visitors Rarely See, II

I love road trips and in December, I took a few which brought me into the interior of Jamaica. Here are a few photos of what I saw.

We left early on the morning of the first trip. The air was fresh and cool and as the sun grew higher above the St. Elizabeth hills, it began to burn off the mist that had covered the mountain.

Morning near Spur Tree

Morning near Spur Tree

Rising more than 2,000 feet up the Don Figueroa Mountains in Manchester, Spur Tree Hill offers breathtaking views of the lowlands of St. Elizabeth and Manchester. Spur Tree got its name from the ‘spurs’ that were thrown out by the giant cotton trees that used to grow in the area. The undulating terrain in the middle marks the distinctive Cockpit Country.

View from Spur Tree Hill

View from Spur Tree Hill

Alumina has been mined in St. Elizabeth since 1953. This factory at Nain processes 2 million tonnes of alumina each year.

View from Spur Tree HIll

View from Spur Tree HIll

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New York’s Fashion Walk of Fame

′Think New York and you’ll think either theater, fashion or finance.  Theater has Broadway, finance has Wall Street with its iconic bull, and fashion has Seventh or Fashion Avenue.

Did you know that Fashion Avenue has a Fashion Walk of Fame?

Established in 1999 by the Fashion Center Business Improvement District (BID), the Fashion Walk of Fame celebrates American designers who have influenced fashion worldwide. Twenty-eight designers have been inducted into the Walk of Fame to date. Each has a bronze plaque that is engraved with a description of the designer’s contribution, and an original sketch. Each bears the designer’s signature. The plaques are embedded in the sidewalk on Fashion Avenue from 35th to 41st Street.

Plaques commemorating designers on Fashion Walk of Fame

Fashion Walk of Fame

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