On October 20, the auditorium and an adjacent overflow space were full. Hundreds of people had gathered to view Queen Nanny: Legendary Maroon Chieftainess by film director Roy T. Anderson. Gloria Simms, who plays Nanny was among our guests, and so was Joel Bernard, a maroon descendant who sounded the abeng, the cow horn typical of the Maroons. The large audience was highly engaged and appreciative.
The documentary recounts the struggle for freedom by the Jamaican Maroons, led by the indomitable 18th century Nanny. A spiritual leader, skilled in the use of herbs and guerilla warfare tactics, from her mountain stronghold at the source of the Stony River in the majestic Blue Mountains, she directed the warfare that effectively neutralized the vaunted British firepower.
Maroon descendants; renowned scholars Verene Shepherd, Linda Heywood – a member of the Lapidus Center Council of Advisors – and John Thornton; Prime Minister Portia Simpson-Miller; singer and activist Rita Marley; and former New York City Council member Una Clarke; are some of the many people who make the film memorable.
Following the screening, Roy Anderson was joined by Dr. Harcourt Fuller and Dr. Afua Cooper – who like Anderson, are Maroon descendants- to answer the audience’s numerous questions. Fuller, a producer on Queen Nanny is an Assistant Professor of History at Georgia State University and Cooper is Associate Professor of Sociology and Social Anthropology at Dalhousie University in Halifax, Nova Scotia, Canada. Both appear in the documentary.
Thoughtful questions from the public led to a fascinating discussion, among many other topics, of education for liberation, maroon land rights throughout the Americas, oral history, and the importance of placing local stories into the wider context of the African Diaspora.
As a special treat, Dr. Cooper read one her poems and the audience, deeply moved, gave her a standing ovation.