Monday, 24 August 2009
cutline: Norma Rowe-Edwards and her election competitors
map showing Trelawny Town Maroons Accompong State of Jamaica
Mrs Norma Rowe-Edwards is on the verge of making Maroon history in Jamaica. Today August 23rd, she could become the first female Colonel (comparable to a city mayor)in the 454-year old history of the Trelawny Town Maroons. Although Jamaica's slogan is one love, truth is that there are two Maroon communities that consider themselves seperate states and believe that legally Jamaica is made up of three sovereign nations.
Nursey (Mrs Norma Rowe-Edwards) is having trouble getting press in Jamaica. She is a female candidate in a world that has been male dominated for over 350 years. Not one to simply take this lack of media coverage, she contacted lawyer Courtney Betty in Toronto, who in turn asked me to create a press release that would be picked up by media in Canada, the US and the UK. It is the old End-Run Publicity tact - get coverage outside your country and the local media will pick up on it, because if it is news in America, it must be news in Jamaica.
This strategy often works. Not sure how it will play out for Nursey, the tight time lines between the opening of nominations in Trelawny and the election date is just three weeks. We will see if the Jamaica press rises to the bait. Here is the release that was crafted for Nursey by myself and Dave Tollington.
ACCOMPONG ELECTION: WOMAN CHALLENGES PATRIARCHAL TRADITION OF COLONELSHIP
August 28th election in Jamaica – Mrs. Norma Rowe-Edwards posed to become the first female Colonel in the 354-year history of the Trelawny Town Maroons Accompong State of Jamaica.
Jamaica, August 14, 2009 … Maroons living in the Trelawny Town Accompong State of Jamaica go to the polls on August 28th to choose a new leader. Candidate Mrs. Norma Rowe-Edwards (affectionately called “Nurse”) is poised to become the first female Colonel in the 354-year history of the Trelawny Town Maroons.
Nurse emphatically differentiates herself from the other contenders by the depth and expanse of the vision she has for Accompong. Among her plans are ideas for the redevelopment of Maroon cultural and political institutions, as well as the development of educational, physical and economic potential. But the issues that resonate most strongly with the emotions of every Maroon and also likely to prove the most contentious are Nurse’s plans to have the post-independence Government of Jamaica formally recognize all articles of the 1738 treaty with Britain, including the restoration of all Maroon lands to the Trelawny Town Maroons of the State of Accompong.
Although little known outside of the Caribbean, the State of Accompong has a unique status within the country – it is a nation within the nation of Jamaica. The citizens of Accompong (Maroons) are descended from the people who resisted Spanish and English slavery, having defeated the English and thus gaining freedom from being enslaved any longer. While their special status is recognized by the current government there are many many issues of law that have to be addressed.
The Maroon settlement of Accompong is perched high up in the mountains of St. Elizabeth in western Jamaica, bordering the western parishes of St. James and Trelawny. Demonstrating the best example worldwide of the Karst rock formation, the beautiful and rugged cockpit mountain range in this area of Jamaica provides the backdrop to a potentially intriguing development in the country’s contemporary politics.
After the British captured Jamaica from Spain on 1655, the Maroons (Africans formerly enslaved by the Spanish) resisted for eighty-three long years the numerous attempts by British authorities to re-enslave them, achieving their goal through the efficient application of guerilla warfare. After inflicting numerous defeats on the local British militia and subsequently crippling the plantation economy of Jamaica (then the most profitable European colony), the British were forced to admit defeat in the instrument of the now famous treaty signed in 1738 on the location of present-day Accompong town. The treaty acceded to the Maroons vast tracts of land that successive Jamaican governments since independence have refused to acknowledge as property not under their jurisdiction.
In the 354th year as a free and independent people, Maroon leadership has persisted under the title of Colonel, a position which historically has been an exclusively masculine domain. But now, the position of Colonel is poised to be occupied for the very first time by a woman. Mrs. Norma Rowe-Edwards (“Nurse”) is the frontrunner in what many observers expect may not to be a particularly close race, given that Nurse is challenged - as one would expect - by three male candidates, including two former Colonels.
The aura surrounding Nurse has become almost mystic - “unbelievably overwhelming”, according to supporters. Amongst Maroons, Nurse re-ignites memories reminiscent of Nanny, the legendary 18th century warrior princess who was sister to Kojo, the famous Maroon leader who signed the treaty signaling the formal surrender of the British colonial armed forces. “It is not just the militant and progressive stance that she has taken towards the issues affecting Maroons, but Nurse – like Nanny - practices traditional African healing methods,” said one supporter, an undergraduate student at the University of the West Indies.
Meanwhile, Nurse has strong international support as well. In Canada, former Ontario MPP and Speaker of the House Alvin Curling and prominent civil rights lawyer Courtney Betty support her campaign. “If Nurse’s ambitious plans manifest even a reasonable amount of success, posterity will mark the leadership of Nurse as the beginning of the Maroon renaissance,” said Mr. Betty. “This is a movement that not only continues to enshrine the Maroon’s language, culture and civil rights, but will also bring the community the best the 21st century will have to offer.”
Editor’s note. Please contact Courtney Betty for phone interviews with Nurse and Alvin Curling.
Stephen Weir & Associates