Wednesday, August 19, 2020

Getting to know Kamala’s Jamaica

 © 2020 by Michael Auld

 Dedicated to Kamala, Jamaican descendants, my children and grandchildren


I am a 77 year-old Jamaican National and DC resident with over 57 years of research on my Caribbean Territory. This article was written to honor *the Americas history portion of my fellow Howard University alumna and honored fellow Jamaican descendant, Democratic Vice Presidential nominee, Senator Kamala Devi Harris (CA).


* I don't Use the words "New World" for an ancient hemisphere whose highly advanced civilizations rivaled those of the Eastern Hemisphere.  


Democratic Vice-Preset elect, Senator Kamala Devi Harris with the US, Indian and 
Jamaican heritage flags.

This story is the first to honor the Jamaican immigrant heritage half of America’s first Black/Asian and female Vice Presidential nominee,Kamala Harris, with historic underpinnings. Ancient India we know.

But what about...

OUR JAMAICA?


The island of Jamaica is just the size of Connecticut. It was part of the Northern Caribbean’s Taíno civilization. One of our proud sayings is, “We may be little, but we talawa (tough)!” 

Kamala Harris and I are rooted in a profound history within an ancient, yet underestimated hemisphere. She is also a product of a Western Hemispheric territory which produced phenomenal people and goods that have reshaped the planet, especially after 1492. So much so that in foodstuffs alone, 60% of what humans eat on planet Earth originated in her paternal Americas. Not so inconsequential a gift, this addition to popular culture, also includes not only reggae, but Central American/Taíno chewing gum (from the chicle sap of the naseberry/sapodilla tree, made into “Chiclets”), used to calm the nerves of WWII soldiers.

Jamaica has a history of excelling in sports. So much so that one of its governmental departments is the Ministry of Culture, Gender, Entertainment and Sport.  

Rubber ball History: The Taíno male or female ball player hitting the heavy airborne rubber ball with only the hips, to "keep it alive.". In the Caribbean, the player often wore a beautifully carved stone belt to offset the body's center of gravity. The  batu game's bouncing ball influenced all world team sport games, especially those played with a rubber ballWhen the arriving Spanish first watched the game in the Caribbean, they thought that the latex ball's bounce was caused by witchcraft. Mexico's ancient Olmec Civilization invented rubber and the ball game.The Mexica (Aztec) game was often a life or death event in elaborate stone stadiums where the ball represented the sun's path. The outcome could mean a player's honored death via a messenger to the gods. Gambling was the norm. In Mexico, cities could be gambled away by lords. The Caribbean's games were more social. Vulcanized latex was also used for rain ponchos, waterproof shoes and toys.

Taíno batu stone belt. (The Dominican Republic)


First seen in the Caribbean, one Amerindian civilization, the Olmec ("People of the Rubber") invented latex rubber. As well as its ingenious team sport ballgame that spread around the world via soccer, basketball and all rubber ball games. Other evidence of advanced technological accomplishments was mining in the Americas that began 12,000 years ago in Chile.

Taíno myth of an Island of Women (Matinino) and one of gold (Guanin) unwittingly enriched Europe, influenced the search for El Dorado, the naming of the Amazon and also resulted in the naming of La California; Andean Inca gold mining was dated in use since 2155-1936 BCE) while the Huancavelica Quechua people of Peru mined silver; North American copper was mined since 5000 BCE; other precious minerals (exotic woods and gems) enriched the Spanish Empire while the Venezuelan Pearl Trade (from the Caribbean’s Margarita Island) rivaled that of the old Middle East

Columbus set out for cinnamon, cloves and black pepper spices, intending to circumvent the Turkish blockade, in order to find a passable route to the spices of East Asia. Instead, he encountered the myriad of capsicum peppers (chili, habañero, tame to piping hot), vanilla, and allspice. 

 John Rolfe, Pocahontas’ second husband, imported Caribbean Taíno tobacco that financed America’s Revolutionary War, while Amerindian minerals built governments, cathedrals, universities and economies in foreign colonial homelands.  


There are many Jamaicas!

No! I am not only talking of the people of African descent, the Brown Man, Lebanese, East Indian, Chinese, Sephardi Jew, European (with ancestry from Portugal, Spain, England, Scotland, Ireland or Wales). As seen by our Coat of Arms below, this beloved island of many is not just one thing. Here is an abbreviated list of which I'ii just introduce five more. Overseas Jamaicans affectionately called their beloved island, "Yaad" (meaning "yard"). Upon meeting, two islanders in the USA, picking up on the accent, may colloquially ask, "You a Yaadie?" 


Jamaica and Religion 

The island is a deeply religious country whose laws established the freedom of religion and prohibit religious discrimination. Most visible are the Rastafarians (a Black empowerment religious group whose "sect" began in the mountains in the 1930s and considered an Indigenous group in the island), who, before Bob Marley were originally deeply ostracized. In 2015 the Jamaican government had to take steps to make amends to Rastas for endemic discrimination, and persecution. It was their dreadlocks, which the police would immediately cut off upon arrest for smoking illegal ganja (marijuana, called the "Weed of Wisdom" by converts) and vociferously proclaiming that God was a living man in the persona of His Majesty, Hialie Selassie 1, "King of Kings, Lord of Lords, Conquering Lion of the Tribe of Judah.(Biblical Ethiopia)." That is, Hailie Selassie, born Lij Tafari Mekennon , is considered as the "reincarnated" Jesus the Christ. Their iconic dreadlocks, later popularized worldwide via Bob Marley's poetic reggae songs, also became an international icon of Black pride.   

The breakdown of religion in the island is: 64.8% Protestant, 2.2% Roman Catholic,1.9% Rastafarian, 21.3% Unaffiliated, and 8.8% other. This "other" category includes 29,026 Rastafarians, 5,000 Muslims, approximately 200 Jews, 3,000 Buddhists, and 1,453 Hindus (and Sikhism). One of my sister-in-laws is a Jamaican Indian. Her three children are "half Indian", as Jamaicans would quantify people by percentages. (1/2 or 1/4 Chinese, Indian, Syrian, etc.)  As a child, I watched Hindu processions with colorful religious liters being carried down to and floated out to sea; ate Indian curry goat & roti prepared without salt by Indian neighbors.  Kamala would fit in.

Pocomania and Other Beliefs: 

Real Ghosts and Mysterious Experiences

Pocomania, also called Revivalism is 200 years old and has African spiritual beliefs. You'll see bible-thumping dancing revival meetings on some street corners at night.  

Mayal “is an Afro-Jamaican spirituality that developed creolization of African religion during the period of enslavement” (Wikipedia). It is considered the positive opposite to Obeah, the connection of spirits with humans as an African offshoot that uses potions and libations. Say if you want a love potion, you go to an Obeah-man

Obeah is Jamaica’s version of Haiti’s Voodoo while Mayal is similar to Cuban SanteriaWe don’t have Haiti’s real-life zombies (a proven method of using potions that include the puffer fish's venomous flesh to place a "perpetrator" into suspended animation, have a funeral, then clandestinely retrieve the "body", that can then be used as a slave-like captive). But, we in Jamaica believe in ghosts that come to you in dreams to give advice or medicinal remedies by “dreaming to you,” as my maternal grandmother related about dream sessions with her late dispenser (pharmacist) husband during her high blood pressure bouts.


Ghosts and Spirit Manifestations

We won't talk here about Annie Palmer, the young White Witch of Rose Hall an immigrant from Haiti who practiced voodoo,  murdered her English Jamaican husband and had enslaved lovers and who was killed by one of them (whose haunted plantation mansion was bought and restored by the Rockefeller family). Neither will I speak of the Elizabeth Barrett Browning Jamaican family estate (composer of the sonnet that reads "How do I Love thee? Let me count the ways."). Or the homes of James Bond's creator, Ian Fleming; or country singer, Johnny Cash whose home is next to the golf course where Annie Palmer from her Rose Hall estate often bathed in an attached waterfall.  

  • · The "Rolling Calf” is a malevolent spirit usually encountered by lone drunkards returning home at night after a bout of rum-drinking. He is in the shape of a ferocious red-eyed fire-breathing angry bull. Your only witness? A few generations ago, your spooked horse would see him too, then throw you to the ground and bolt off!
  • ·       “River Mumma” (river mother) is a seductive Mermaid. At first beautiful, the river mermaid is seen sitting on a riverbank, slowly arranging her long black hair with a golden comb. If you look at her, she’ll entice and mesmerize you, capturing your gaze. Then murderously pull you down into her underwater deep-hole lair.
  • ·       The solid Golden Table is a piece of furniture that on occasion, floats up out of the river's deep-hole, only to drag down any fool that tries to retrieve it.
  • ·      The Spanish Jar is a large ceramic pot, used by the early Iberian invaders to cool drinking water in the tropics. Filled with gold coins and hidden by 1655 fleeing Jamaican Spaniards to Cuba from the island’s Runaway Bay. The British armada had failed to capture the strongly fortified Hispaniola next door. As part of the English's Western Design to blow up Spain's successes in the Americas, they were thwarted from their attempt. Admiral William Penn and General Robert Venerables decided to go back home to Oliver Cromwell by taking the less protected Jamaica (used for cattle and horse farming for the expanded invasion of the continental Americas since the Spanish found little gold in Jamaica). The Spanish pot of gold often caused tragedy for the unlucky finder.
  • ·      
  • 18th century woodcut of the notorious Three Finger Jack..
  •  The highwayman, Three Fingered Jack a.k.a. Jack Mansong, was a real right hand, three digit person. The leader of escaped enslaved runaways with an English bounty on his head. Jack and his lieutenants were hunted down. He was killed by a party of Maroon bounty hunters in 1781, one of his lieutenants was captured and jailed while the other escaped. After the Jamaican Maroons signed their Treaties of 1739 and 1740 with the British (the First in the Americas to gain independence), they agreed to no longer accept runaways from the sugarcane plantations, but help to capture escapees. (For a more click on https://obeahhistories.org/three-fingered-jack/

However, we must start at the beginning...

Above: Jamaica's Coat of Arms. Originally composed in 1661 by William Sancrof the 
Archbishop of Canterbury (remastered in 1962 for the island's Independence) four years before the English invaded and seized 
Spanish Jamaica. It is composed of two Yamaye Taíno, a woman with a basket of local 
foods 
and a 
bowman (the Yamaye were considered excellent archers). They stand on 
Jamaica's 
1962 independence motto beside a cross with five endemic pineapples. 
On top of the 
shield is an English hereditary symbol capped by an endemic Jamaican crocodile.  

The Indigenous: The island of Yamayeka (Jamaica) was in its Pristine Era 6,000 years ago when it was most beautiful. Hunter-gathering Pre-Taíno Amerindians easily came across the sea by watercraft originating from Florida, Belize and Venezuela over the Caribbean Sea, via cays/cayo (a Taíno origin word). The sea level was much lower then because of its capture in both poles. In our island, the seafaring agriculturalist Yamaye (yam-á-yae) Taíno originated as river-going people from the Orinoco River Basin in Venezuela, turned seafarers, arriving in the northern Caribbean at the time of Christ. There they developed a sophisticated civilization with a stratified society of rulers, advisers, priests, nobles and an underclass. With the island of  Kiskeya/Ayti Bohio (the D.R. and Haiti) as the center of their civilization, they divided the larger islands into cacigazos (hereditary chiefdom), governed by female and male cacike, sub-cacikes, and their Ni-Taíno advisers. History was recorded via areitos, a dance and song historical recital. It is from these people that the world got many foodstuff, technologies and words, many of which originated on mainland South and Central America. Among them are huracan/hurricane, the anona (pineapple), batata (sweet potato), yuca (cassava/manioc/tapioca), varieties of beans, aji (varieties of peppers), allspice (pimento), pumpkin, tabacu (tobacco), barbecoa (barbecue/jerk), hamaka (hammock), and much more.

  1.   The North Coast of the highly populated Yamayeka (Jamaica) was the first in the island to encounter European outsiders. In 1494 Christopher Columbus also became the first rebuffed tourist on the island's North Coast. There 
    where many houses and a multitude of Taino had gathered on the beach.  Warriors shot arrows at his ships from 60 to 70 war canoas (a Taino source word for “canoe”). Columbus responded by killing a number of Yamaye and sent war dogs on shore to maim the scattering crowd. The North Coast Yamaye diplomstically brought yuca and other provisions to Columbus. The South Coast Yamaye at Bajia de Vaca (Bull Bay, near today's Kingston), were more welcoming after his worm-eaten ship had sank on the North Coast near today's St. Ann's Bay. He is quoted as saying that the cacike of that region was the most astute man that he had met in the Indies.
  2. . The MaroonsCimarones, the root word for Maroons, marooned and Seminole, were Yamaye Taínos who removed themselves away from free labor on Spanish ranches to the high mountains in Jamaica, before the English arrival in 1655. After the English capture of Jamaica from Spain, some Africans (mostly from the Akan speakers in Ghana) who were imported to Jamaica from Ghana's Fort Coromantine to work on English sugar plantations, escaped up into the mountains to join the Cimarrones. These mountain Yamaye incorporated the escapees into the fold, and taught them how to survive in an alien land. The result? World famous “jerk” was the local spicy Taíno barbecoa renamed from a Mayan word for drying meat. (also related to “jerky”). The Maroons, who twice fought the English to a standstill, were the first in the Americas, before the US, to win independence from the British crown. (The photographs above are descendants of Maroons who ran away from enslavement to form their own communities, four of which remain in Jamaica today. The catch was, in the treaty with the English, Maroons could no longer accept runaways, but help England to hunt down runaways and scalawags, put down insurrections and help to defend the island from Spain and France). The four Maroon settlements are Accompong Town, Moore Town, Charles Town and Scott's Hall. 
  3. ANANSI, Our Spider-Man

  1. Anansi the folkloric Spider-Man from the Ashanti of Ghana. He is a Jamaican icon. (See http://anansistories.com/)  

 

PIRATES, BUCCANEERS & PRIVATEERS

Here in Jamaica lived and died the Buccaneer, pirate and privateer, Welshman Captain Sir Henry Morgan, Lieutenant Governor of Jamaica. Buccaneers started out as fired French woodcutters in Hispaniola who moved to an offshore island to make a living from selling barbecued meets to passing ships. The meat was smoked on a boucan. Then these bucaneers began to rob their customers and sailed off into the Caribbean Sea as thieving and pillaging scalawags. They, like the pirates were punished when caught. Some were hung. Pirates were buccaneers by another name. Some privateers, who were initially employed by the British Crown, turned to piracy. This was Captain Morgan’s story. Sanctioned by the Crown, he used Jamaica as a base to sack rich Panama City of its silver and treasures. Returning to bawdy Port Royal on Jamaica’s South Coast peninsular, he was knighted and rewarded for harassing the Spanish and given the title of Lieutenant Governor of the island. His silver drinking cup is a part of a surviving church in Port Royal, a survivor of the 1692 earthquake that sank most of the town into the sea. 

AnecdoteAn informant at the Port Royal church that housed Captain Morgan's silver tankard, with a whistle on the top of its handle, said, "The whistle he would blow when he was too drunk to order it refilled with brew. He would stumble out into the street from the pub and challenge a passerby to drink with him. If the victim refused, Morgan would threaten to shoot him."

5. Along with jerk, famous dreadlocks, Rastafarians, Marcus Garvey and Bob Marley’s revolutionary reggae, Jamaicans took the world by storm. Marcus Garvey originated the Black Power flag and Rastafarians, gave us the name dreadlocks. Although found in Ancient Egypt, worn by Native American, Asian and African holy men, dreads particularly replicate the lion’s main  (Hailie Selassie’s “Lion of Judah”) and represented the Biblical Samson’s strength. (See http://yamaye-mike.blogspot.com/2020/06/black-international-lives.html)

 

Marcus Mosiah Garvey, August 17, 1887- June 10, 1940,  founder of the Universal 
Negro Improvement Association UNIA) and designed the red, black and green flag 
below. This flag was adopted by the Black Nationalist Movement in the 1960s,


Marcus Garvey's UNIA and the America's Black Power and Black Nationalist flag.


Robert (Bob) Nesta Marley the iconic international artist and Rasta man 
who also popularized Dreadlocks.

ENDORSEMENT

Did I mention world-class Blue Mountain coffee or rum? Jamaica is much more. I recommend a visit to Jamaica first. 

In the age of the Corona virus, relocate your tele-office on a beach; It is just next door.  Then visit fabulous India.

 

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