Columns

Out of many, one people — our heritage

Dudley C
McLean II

Tuesday, October 22, 2019

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In July 2014 I was a guest of St Mark's Parish, Enmore, East Coast Demerara, in Guyana, to deliver a pre-Emancipation address. In my presentation I described members of the Afro-Caribbean community as descendants of the Akan people (modern day Ghana). Five years later, having done a DNA test, I discovered that my estimate heritage admixture consists of nine ethnicities: Nigerian (64.7 per cent), Kenyan (13.9 per cent), North and West European (8.9 per cent), Sierra Leonean (five per cent), East European (2.5 per cent), South Asian (1.5 per cent) and West Asian (0.9 per cent). Most shocking was that I had no ethnic connections to Ghana.
In Jamaica, the general emphasis during the celebration of 'Heritage Week' and the Emanci-Independence period has been the contributions of our African ancestors, especially those from Ghana on the assumption that the Maroons were mostly descendants of the Akan people.
Stories of Nanny of the Maroons, Cudjoe, Sam Sharpe, and Leonard Parkinson, who was one of the leaders of the Maroons who was active in the Second Maroon War, along with the success of African American Alex Haley's Roots have coloured the Jamaican slavery experience.
We have forgotten that to be Maroon is not an ethnicity, as the word comes from the Spanish word “cimarrones”, which meant mountaineers. It was given to the escaped slaves from the Spanish-owned plantations during the British takeover of Jamaica from Spain in 1655.
Up until the signing of the first Maroon Treaty of 1738 slaves from different ethnicities of Africa would have joined the Maroon communities as they escaped the brutality and oppressions of slavery.
The Second Maroon War of 1795–1796 involved the Maroons of Cudjoe's Town (Trelawny Town), in St James, and the colonial Government. The Windward communities of Jamaican Maroons remained neutral during this rebellion and their treaty with the British still remains in force. Accompong Town, however, sided with the colonial militias and fought against Trelawny Town. As a matter of fact, one of the Maroon communities that did not support the Trelawny Town community has its ethnicity identified as Sierra Leonean.
Secondly, after Emancipation, Africans were recruited as indentured workers to come to Jamaica before other ethnic groups from China and India.
The Jamaican heritage admixtures includes the Akan people (Twi, Ashanti Akyem, etc), along with Africans from the Fante and Bono people, followed by Igbo, Yoruba, Fon people, Ibibio people, and Congo or Guinea people who originally settled in Congo Town, Trelawny, among other places, along with Europeans and Asians.
It means that the Jamaican people have contending ethnicities competing subliminally. Ethnicity refers to the cultural characteristics of someone. In this sense, ethnicity is something that is not always visible. Looking at an individual one will not always know the language he or she speaks, nor the religion practised, or the country one comes from, etc. Hence, the thinking that we are one because of our race — black — ignores the dynamics of our ethnicities.
On a personal level, I knew of cousins who were Jews, belonging to the Sephardic community originating from Spain. My DNA results show that I also have Ashkenazi (German) Jewish cousins, and perhaps these ethnicities may have influenced my preference for Hebrew as a language. I enjoyed Celtic spirituality, only to discover that I also have Cornish or Celtic ethnicity. I enjoy history and this is also connected to my Yoruba ethnicity.
The knowledge of my different ethnicities has enabled me to appreciate our national motto “Out of Many, One People”, or as a friend once described me, “a walking United Nations”, because what makes me a unique Jamaican is my nine ethnicities. Having such a knowledge must guide me in not disowning parts of myself; example by disowning my North and West European ancestors or West Asian ancestors, or denying my Africaness, but mobilising all of my parts for inner wholeness.
It would be interesting if a national sampling of the Jamaican population via DNA test could be conducted and analysed against the varied ethnicities to properly understand the psyche of our people as one nation. The idea behind psychic integration is that it makes the individual healthier and more whole, thus allowing for previously tied up emotional, psychic, and hence physical energy to become mobilised in service of the self, in service of moving forward into more of life.
Whatever our political leanings and preferences, we are a society of many ethnicities. Thus, applying this same theory to our country, with a knowledge of our national ethnicities, we would be able to address the psycho-social baggages of the post-psychological slavery experience in four typical situations:
◦ perception of a threat, physical or psychological, and the conviction that misfortune can really occur;
◦ appreciation of small acts of kindness by the abuser towards the victim;
◦ isolation from others; and
◦ conviction that one is unable to escape the situation.

And, channel these with an understanding of how the varied cultural characteristics (ethnicities) of our people may drive policy decisions in making intelligent choices, especially in regards to crime, corruption, racial integration, and work ethic by taking all the various sides of our population into account, will result in inner wholeness and the creation of a better environment for prosperity as a nation.

Dudley C McLean II hails from Mandeville, Manchester. Send comments to the Observer or dm15094@gmail.com.



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