- Published on Wednesday, 28 August 2013 05:32
- Written by Caricom News Network
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New York – They were considered the “Spartacus” of their time; except these enslaved Africans were victorious in their fight for freedom. For more than eighty years during the 17th and 18th centuries in Jamaica, these brave warriors were able to engage and defeat the mighty British Army in some of the most inhospitable regions of the country. Referred to as Maroons or “Cimarron,” meaning wild and untamed; this determined group of Africans refused to remain in bondage.
Although poorly armed and outgunned, the improbable victories by these freedom fighters led to the signing of two peace treaties in 1738/1739 that established Maroon self-government in Jamaica. Nowhere else in the New World had Africans enjoyed such a degree of autonomy, coming almost sixty years before the Haitian Revolution of 1791, and more than one hundred years before the Emancipation Proclamation that ended slavery in the United States. This fact is not lost on Jamaican-born director Roy T. Anderson, who brings us the rich history of his ancestors in this award-winning documentary, Akwantu: the Journey.
Through Anderson’s lens, the film tells the story of an enduring people who possess an indomitable spirit. With towns and communities physically indistinguishable from that of their fellow Jamaicans, even today, the Maroons remain a "nation within a nation," fiercely protective of their ancestral legacy. Because of its historical significance, the Jamaican government selected “Akwantu: the Journey” to participate in its historic 50th Anniversary of Independence Celebrations in 2012. To view the trailer on YouTube, visit http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ICOlg6j8iyQ.
The annual Slavery Remembrance Day is held on August 23 to commemorate events that gave rise to the Haitian Revolution which started during the night of August 22 to August 23, 1791 in St. Domingue (today Haiti). This date has been designated by UNESCO as a reminder that Africans were the main agents of their own liberation. Akwantu: the Journey celebrates a people who not only resisted slavery but inspired others as well all across the Americas during the slavery period - including the great Toussaint L'Ouverture in Haiti. This day we will honor the memories of our ancestors and collectively say “never again.”
On Wednesday, August 28 at 6:15 pm, New York will join a growing list of cities, including Toronto, Los Angeles, Oakland, Kingston, Amsterdam, and Liverpool that will screen Akwantu: the Journey in recognition of Slavery Remembrance Day. In New York, the New Jersey-based filmmaker will be on hand to present his groundbreaking film to an invitation-only crowd of dignitaries and their guests at the United Nations. The screening of the film is part of the United Nation’s ongoing programme of events and educational activities in commemoration of the International Day of Remembrance of Victims of Slavery and the Transatlantic Slave Trade which is observed annually on 25 March. More information on this programme can be found at http://rememberslavery.un.org and also on Facebook at http://facebook.com/rememberslavery and Twitter at @RememberSlavery.
The screening at United Nations Headquarters is organized under the auspices of the Jamaican Permanent Mission to the United Nations and also presented within the context of Phase II of the International Competition for the Permanent Memorial to the Victims of Slavery and the Transatlantic Slave Trade at UN Headquarters. A panel of judges and seven finalists will be in New York for the final evaluation, with the winning design to be announced in September.
Akwantu: the Journey will also screen on August 23 at the International Slavery Museum in Liverpool as part of their 2013 Slavery Remembrance Day Programme that will include a post-screening panel discussion and Memorial lecture by noted University of the West Indies (Mona) Professor Verene Shepherd, who herself is featured in the documentary. The city of Liverpool issued a formal apology for its role in the Transatlantic Slave Trade in 1999.
The DVD for “Akwantu: the Journey” has just been released, and can be purchased at www.amazon.com or www.createspace.com. The film is also available through digital download on Vimeo on Demand at www.vimeo.com/ondemand. For more information about the movie, visit www.akwantuthemovie.com.