Fight for freedom from slavery still relevant today: Cooper

Cory Hurley cory.hurley@tc.tc
Published on November 6, 2013
Afua Cooper, the Jamaican-born Canadian historian and author, was in Corner Brook on Tuesday, Nov. 5, 2013 to participate in Maroon and Mi’kmaq: An International Exchange being held at Grenfell Campus.
Cory Hurley

CORNER BROOK — There is much people today can take away from the history of the Maroons of Jamaica and their revolt against slavery, says Afua Cooper.

The Jamaican-born Canadian historian and author is in Corner Brook to participate in the Maroon and Mi’kmaq: An International Exchange being held at Grenfell Campus.

The Maroons — indigenous people of Jamaica, who originally would have been escaped slaves of Africa themselves, according to Cooper — offered and created freedom for the black slaves in isolated settlements throughout the island British nation.

They fought the British army and won time and time again, despite the obvious power of the opposition.

The associate professor at Dalhousie University in Halifax, N.S. said the David and Goliath-like story is a lesson that transcends time and carries relevance across issues.

“If we have oppression in our lives, there are alternatives, that there is always a way out,” she said Tuesday prior to her presentation “The Jamaican Maroons in the 18th-Century TransAtlantic Struggle for Black Liberation” at the symposium.

“It might mean joining with other folks, collaborating with other folks. There is no short of oppressions in the world today. There is a way out, and one needs not suffer in silence.”

However, there is also a pertinence between Jamaica and Canada that goes beyond the history of Maroons settling in Nova Scotia.

As an independent country, there remain issues concerning Maroon lands. Governments and industry are encroaching upon lands traditionally associated with the Maroons, according to Cooper, for exploration of minerals and harvesting or researching flora for medicinal purposes.

“There is a conflict and a standoff, and people pointing to the treaty signed in 1739,” she said.

“The people say, ‘This treaty still stands. You do not own this land. You cannot be encoaching upon our land.

“As I see the new developments, I say the past is still with us, the past is not dead — especially in this era of globalization where companies and corporations want to patent and own every plant, every stone, every jug of water on the planet.”

It is another issue pertinent to Canada, with aboriginal groups fighting to proclaim land ownership or opposing organizations, such as oil and gas companies, looking to profit.

The second evening of the two-day symposium concluded at Grenfell Tuesday. The Mi’kmaq Drumming Group joined Cooper, Col. Frank Lumsden of the Charles Town Maroons, and Chief Mi’sel Joe of the Conne River First Nation in giving presentations.