NEWLY-appointed Maroon queen, Gaa'man Gloria “MaMa G” Simms is in TT to link with the Merikins, and for a cultural celebration of her appointment at the reforestation site in Fondes Amandes tomorrow.
Local Merikins head, Akilah Jaramogi, a descendant of the Maroons excitedly said: “The Gaa'man is the highest leader in the Maroon community. MaMa G is the first ever female Maroon Gaa'man to be appointed. The first phase of the appointment began in 2014. After that she continued to do her work, getting to understand the protocol of being a Gaa'man and to complete the whole initiation process. At the recent gathering in Suriname the initiation process was completed in the Okanisi community among the Maroon people.”
Jaramogi said the job of the Gaa'man entails holding council meetings and listening to her chiefs, captains and basiyas (a rank of Maroons) who will talk about challenges, issues in the community, events, fights for land and rights, and in return, the Gaa'man will have the head basiya and the paramount chief disseminate the information coming out of those meetings to the wider Maroon community.
At tomorrow’s event, MaMa G will be celebrated by a small group of Merikins along with the Orisha and the Rastafarian communities.
Jaramogi said it is part of the protocol wherever the queen is, that she is worshipped by bowing to her and celebrate her in song and dance. She also said the Gaa'man will be telling the story of the Maroons at that event.
Simms’ first exposure came when she starred in a documentary for the United Nations (UN) titled: Queen Nanny of the Maroons.
Jaramogi said following the UN story, Simms appeared on BBC where the value of her leadership style was noticed, added to which she was also known as a Jamaican national hero and a born Maroon.
Simms who is Jamaican, is also the first ever female appointed Gaa'man outside of Suriname.
There are six maroon groups within Suriname, namely the Aluku, Okanisi, Matawai, Pamaka, Kwinti and Samaka, the biggest group of maroons there.
Jaramogi said: “The way the people in Suriname govern themselves, the Gaa'man is at the top, then the paramount chief, followed by the head captain, then the head basiya, then the maroon community. At that recent gathering in Suriname all the communities were present along with MaMa G, and the TT Merikin Maroons contingent.”
Asked about the Merikin population in TT, Jaramogi said: “They are so integrated into society that it is difficult to say how many they actually number. But in south, there are six company groups that make up the bulk of the TT Merikin population. However, a lot of us moved out of the villages in south to the UK, Canada, America and north TT.”
She added: “Our role is to acquire indigenous people status from the UN for Maroons around the diaspora. At present we are identifying Maroon communities in Dominica, Dominican Republic, St Lucia, Grenada and Carriacou, St Vincent, Jamaica, Suriname and TT. We also have the Maroon church in Sierra Leone in West Africa. So we are still looking at the model that has been used by the Suriname people. For over 300 years they have been holding on to their traditions and we are looking at sharing that model around the Caribbean, through our organisation the Maroon Women Chambers of Corporation that comprise people from TT, Jamaica and Suriname.”