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Happy Birthday!

It’s Me!



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accompong townToday, Monday January 6th, 2014, a few thousand people will make their way to the hills of Jamaica’s Accompong Town, a small independent community within the parish of St. Elizabeth and also bordering the parishes of Trelawny and St. James. This community is home to the Maroons, a group of African descendants that resisted being enslaved by the Spanish and the British in the 17th and 18th centuries.  Today is a celebration of Cudjoe (sometimes spelled Kojo), the leader of the Maroons. The Ewe, Fon, and Ashanti people in the West African nations of Benin, Togo and Ghana all use Cudjoe / Kojo to name their male children born on a Monday.

In Jamaica, the community’s patriarch, Cudjoe, birthday is celebrated today.  Within the Maroons, Cudjoe was the proud warrior-leader who helped the Maroons claim victory over the British in three wars on January 6th, 1738.  For hundreds of years, there have been no murders in Accompong Town and this thriving community still remains an independent nation within the nation of Jamaica as a result of the Heritage Treaty that was signed March 1st, 1739. The land is communally owned, the people are peaceful and fun-loving, and theZora Neale Hurston culture is rich!  Famed writer, anthropologist and documentarian Zora Neale Hurston recorded many of the rituals and practices of the Maroons. As a result of her research, she was able write extensively about them in her book, Go Tell My Horse.

Cudjoe LewisZora Neale Hurston also documented another Cudjoe of Alabama, Cudjoe Kossola Lewis, seen in the start of this fieldwork footage she recorded in 1928 with the financial and equipment assistance of patrons and other Harlem Renaissance writers like Langston Hughes.In the video that follows, he is seen chopping wood and being his jovial self.   You can also read more about Ms. Hurston’s work on Cudjoe here: Zora’s Printed Cudjoe Interview

In 1861, a white businessman named Timothy Meaher and his brother made a bet that they could smuggle a group of enslaved Africans into America under the noses of the American authorities. The only way for an international slave ship to have made it into America would have been through ill means since international slave trade had been outlawed in America in 1808.

According to Sylviane Diouf, the Muslim historian and author of the book Dreams of Africa in Alabama, the Meaher brothers were successful and their captives were taken from Benin and brought to Mobile, Alabama. About half of the group was divided and sent eastClotilda to Enterprise, Alabama. In the next four years, these African captives would endure lives as enslaved workers until the Civil War and 13th Amendment would end slavery in America for good in 1865. The community’s patriarch, Cudjoe decided that since he and his people could not return to Africa, they would create Africa where they were. Today, Africatown still serves as a reminder of the last indigenous Africans that were brought to this country as enslaved men, women and children on the slave ship, The Clotilda. The picture shows what remained of the ship once the brothers and their conspirators attempted to discard of their slave ship evidence. Cudjoe’s survival and the creation of Africatown proves that Black people have an innate spirit of resourcefulness.  It’s in our DNA!

Read more here: Dr. Diouf’s Website

In 2003, I was inspired to visit Accompong Town and to document the glorious history and culture of the Maroons after reading Ms. Hurston’s work. When I arrived, I was taken aback by the familial feeling of a place that reminded me of my childhood and growing up in Chancellor, Alabama on my family’s farm. I was instantly transported to places and times in which my sister, friends, and I would traverse deep into the woods for hours, enjoying the sights and sounds of nature, but also enjoying our share of the bountiful fruits (namely peaches, plums, persimmons, blackberries, and watermelons—the yellow meat one!) we had at our disposal.  And the people Abeng Mr Reidwere simply divine! They were warm, embraced me completely, and couldn’t wait to share with me their beautiful history. The sugar cane I was given took me back to Alabama, too because it was just as sweet as I always remembered it being. My good friend, Tyrone, gave me the exclusive tour and the top-of-the line introductions to the community’s Colonel and other important people.  I met, Rupee, the abeng blower. The abeng is an instrument made from the horn of a cow that is blown to indicate the start of specific rituals and events within the community.  Experiencing “Maroon Christmas” has certainly been one of the highlights of my life.

After having grown up in Alabama, I recognize the same spirit of resourcefulness that led Cudjoe and his peers and descendants to create Africatown as the same resourcefulness that my great grandparents, grandmother and the rest of my family still have to this day.  Mobile, Alabama, a coastal beautiful town on Alabama’s west coast is the birthplace of the New Orleans’ Mardi Gras, but it is also a source of Africa.

Today, I would like to celebrate every Cudjoe (Kojo) that ever stepped foot in the Western Hemisphere; Happy Birthday!

Lastly, I’d like to wish a Merry Christmas Eve to all Ethiopians, Rastafarians and followers of Coptic Christianity!

Check out this link for more information: Rastafarianism and Ethiopia


  1. Janine says:

    Great story. My Mom is from St. Elizabeth and I have been to Accompong Town for Boxing day.

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