Sunday, March 6, 2016

Maroon Women - their lasting lessons about self sufficiency and freedom

The Maroons

Add caption statue dedicated to a marooon woman who was hung the day after she gave birth.    

Did you remember this book?  You looked at a picture and it looked like one thing but when you looked more closely it was something else. If you looked beyond and into the picture’s details, your eyes focused on something else entirely different from your first impression.

You began to understand.   You began to see what was disguised.   Here we see “poverty” but then, over time, our vision clears and we see something else so profound and so remarkable its wisdom takes our breath away.

Such is the way of my Haiti sheroes, the Maroon Women.    Drug and imprisoned in the native Africa and brought to a plantation in the Caribbean, they found ways to run away or to support the Maroon communities in the mountains.  In the mountains, they met Amerindian women and together they created a new society, a new language and from their self-sufficient communities, they fought a covert was for freedom.  There were more men than women and often the women stayed at the plantations, to help with complicated plots of sabotage and gathering supplies.  

These women were healers and farmers and mothers.   They were abused and raped and beaten and enslaved until one day they slipped away, despite the dangers of being caught, and lived the life of a maroon. 

Nanny- famous maroon healer in Jamaica

From the time, the first African joined the first Amerindian in a cave or small, hidden ravine; they knew they loved freedom more than fear of death or a lack of material things.  

The first building block was their lives in Africa and in life, before Columbus.  The second building block was all they learned from the Spanish and French who invaded their island and brought them there to be slaves.    They took all these lessons and became Maroons.  Some ran away from the plantations and others supported the movement from within but the goal was a new society based on a self-sufficient ability to live on the land and never, ever return to the plantation. 

When I look closer, I no longer see poverty.  I see a brilliant determination to be self-sufficient.    The elite of Haiti, along with their US partners, try to get them to return to the plantation but they are sons and daughters of the maroons and they resist even today. 

Ah – the ships that arrive to this land take many, many forms over many years.    If they wanted to break their spirits, once and for all, they had to take away their ability to live self sufficiently.   They had to create dependency.     

But this morning, I am rooting for the maroons all over the Caribbean. But I am also rooting for the maroon in all of us.   The part of us that is willing to create, new communities, to live simply, to create new ways of communicating and say no to the “plantations” in our own lives who seek to burden us with debt and the use of things we do not need.   

Many years have passed since the first maroon communities were formed in Haiti and Jamaica and Florida, but that spirit lives on. In my work, I see the plantation of the elite and the plantation of NGO’s and the “church” but I also see the maroon.

A small group of midwives comes to me and says we want to start our own birth homes’ simple backyard birthing rooms for their communities.    I watch them as they watch me.   I do crazy things like make them write a mission statement and goals and a timeline and budget.  I feel I have to teach this so they can survive. 

I help a student catch her first baby.   I take vitals and try to be a creative fun teacher.   I try to teach to stop eclamptic seizures.  I do these things.

But I am thinking about maroons and the maroon in all of us.    The maroon in me loves the maroon in you.   Sometimes, I wish I were different.  I wish that this spirit were not so strong in
Me. I think of sitting in meetings and pulling a mask down over my face and then running for the woods, as fast as I could when the meeting was over.  

Thank you to all the maroons for all the sacrifices for freedom and all the lessons you continue to teach today.  You are my International Women’s Day Sheroes. 

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