New Chief Richard Currie leads Maroons to greater independence
By Ricky Browne
The small island of Jamaica got its independence from the United Kingdom in 1962, but within its borders existed two even smaller semi-independent states, which were recognised as much by the British in the 1700s.
Now, a new leader for the Maroons in an area that was once known as the Land of Look Behind, is seeking to ensure that his people’s independence is taken seriously by the Jamaican state.
Richard Currie was recently made the Chief of the Trelawny Town Maroons — commonly called the Accompong Maroons — and has brought new attention to the community. Looking like he could have been chosen by central casting for a leading role in the Black Panther movie, he has got rave reviews from Jamaican women across the globe.
But he is not heading Wakanda. He is heading a small community of people who have held some level of independence since 1739.
“It is now time to rise the Maroon nation,” Currie said in an interview with The Gleaner. “We have been dormant for way too long.”
His ambition is to remove the shackles of the people, he says.
“My mission is to alleviate the struggle and release the shackles and bring about the economic liberation economic independence that we need to survive as a sovereign nation,” he told Flair magazine in a video interview.
On his Instagram profile, 43-year-old Chief Richard Currie says that he is a Government Official, Chief for The Sovereign State of Accompong. Head of State. He has 13,100 followers on Instagram. On Twitter Currie has more than 2600 followers.
Currie is looking at things like Guinea hen weed and turmeric and other traditional herbs such as medical marijuana — as an area of economic expansion. Eco-tourism is another area – nature walks, and bird watching are two areas. “Eco tourism is a big thing” he said.
“We have so much work to do it is unbelievable but its not undoable,” he said in an interview with Jamaican radio personality Miss Kitty. Clucking chickens could be heard in the background, along with some crowing roosters.
“It looks like the Maroon cocks work hard so they are always up,” said Miss Kitty.
Miss Kitty was not the only admiring female with the double entendres. Other women made comments on line about how they would like to “blow his abeng” … the abeng being the cow horn that Maroon warriors would sound to alert others.
Currie holds an MBA from the Mona School of Business at the University of the West Indies in Kingston. Much of his speech is peppered with terms that are familiar to an MBA graduate. Things like: sustainable development, value added, endemic species, R and D, and some that are a little less familiar like the United Nations Declaration of Indigenous People
“We know we are sovereign there is no question about that”, he said.
The Chief who is in his early 40s, previously worked in corporate Jamaica as a business consultant, marketing manager and financial analyst.
“We are sovereign people,” Currie said, pointing to the treaty that was signed with the British in 1739.
The history of the Maroons goes back hundreds of years.
Jamaica had been a colony of the Spanish ever since the island’s ‘discovery’ by Christopher Columbus in 1494. Columbus himself lived on the island for a short period as he did repairs to his ships.
The Spaniards hadn’t thought much of Jamaica as a colony as it didn’t have gold. The economy was based mainly on farming, especially livestock and was lightly defended as a result.
But there was a population of a couple thousand people, with maybe a thousand slaves.
When Oliver Cromwell’s forces successfully fought off the Spaniards in Jamaica around 1655, many of the Spaniards fled the island from a town now known as Runaway Bay, to escape to the better defended island of Cuba.
When the Spaniards exited the scene from Runaway Bay, they left many of their slaves, who escaped to the mountains and continued to fight the British.
All in all it is estimated that there were about 1500 slaves and free black people in Jamaica at the time of the British invasion.
The freed slaves became known as Maroons, and they turned out to be excellent guerrilla fighters, who knew the terrain better than any of the British redcoats.
The first of the Maroon Wars between the two sides finally ended in 1739, when Cudjoe, the leader of the Leeward Maroons signed a treaty with the British.
This treaty gave the Maroons liberty and freedom and the right to own about 1500 acres of land in the Cockpit Country – an area that is intensely hilly – in the west of the island.
But as a part of the treaty, the Maroons were to return any runaway slaves.
The Windward Maroons, in the Blue Mountains in the east of the island signed a similar treaty.
It meant that slaves could no longer easily escape to the mountains, as they could now be hunted down, not only by the British, but by the Maroons as well.
This has not endeared them to most Jamaicans – who though also African in origin, do not trace their origins back to the Maroons. The majority of Jamaicans trace their descent to the slaves who the British brought from West Africa to work on the sugarcane plantations under very cruel conditions.
That willingness to return escaped slaves to the plantations has not endeared Maroons to Jamaicans.
So Cudjoe, — who fought a valiant war against the British and won independence for his people even before Haiti became the first black republic in the Americas almost 70 years later — was never made a national hero of Jamaica, once the island got independence.
In the 1970’s Cudjoe’s supposed contemporary from the other group of Maroons – Nanny of the Maroons – was made the country’s first female national hero. But there is some controversy over whther or not she actually existed – and whether or not she could have caught British bullets in her nether-regions and fired them back, as legend says.
But Maroons continued to be viewed suspiciously by the majority of Jamaicans, as people who collaborated with the colonialists to keep the majority of the population oppressed – even after slavery ended.
Indeed, the Maroons are blamed by some for capturing another of Jamaica’s national heroes – Paul Bogle – and handing him over to the colonial authorities, who then court-martialled and hanged him.
So their claim of independence, and of being one of the first if not the first group of black people to win independence in the Western Hemisphere, has never been much appreciated by the majority of the Jamaican population.
Will this new leader of the Maroons be able to get greater recognition for his state within a state?