It was a place of execution over 200 years ago but this Sunday (July 12) it will become a place of commemoration and celebration as second Maroon Day is observed.
On that day the Old Market Square will resonate with the sounds of the conch shells and bells to be followed by a “moment of outrage,” as opposed to a minute of silence, to bear witness to those “brave African men and women who took up arms against slavery and the capitalist system, and who were executed at the same location,” according to organizers.
The Second Maroon Day, dubbed “Tribute to Jacko,” organized by the ’12th of July Movement’ will pay tribute to the valiant Maroon Chief who was killed on July 12, 1814 and who was considered the most important Maroon chiefs on the island.
The event will begin from 4:00 pm with poetry, power talks, drumming, chanting, libations and the production of a short play called “Your Time Is Done Now.”
The play, directed by Alwin Bully and written by Polly Pattullo, will present the original evidence from the Maroon trials of 1814.
“Historians believe that these trials provide rare examples of the voices of the enslaved. The event will end with Nyabingi chants and drums and a libation ceremony at the well, which, it was said, was tainted by the blood of the executed,” organizers say.
The 12th of July Movement was founded Bernard Wiltshire, Alwin Bully, Dr. Irving Pascal and Derick Rah Peters, among others to raise public awareness about the Maroons of Dominica.
The group said Jacko has been chosen as the Maroon hero to represent all those who fought to undermine and destroy the institution of slavery and to provide liberation and self-determination for the people.
Wiltshire said they believe that the Maroons were a “significant part of our history which has been suppressed or ignored as incompatible with the maintenance of the power of the slaving interests which has survived in various ways to this day.”
“We believe that a true understanding of the Maroon part of our history can help us free ourselves from mental slavery and release new creative energies of our people,” he noted.
The group said its main objective is to lobby for the recognition of the 12th July as a National Day – to be known as Maroon Day – and raise public awareness about the Maroons of Dominica especially among the younger generation, to campaign for the inclusion of Maroon history into the national curriculum, “to better free ourselves from mental slavery, to restore the Old Market Square into a national monument and Maroon information centre; and for its well to become a symbol of the Maroons’ struggle and sacrifice.”
The group also aims to develop Maroon sites such as Jacko Steps, as prime heritage tourism sites.
Maroon Chief Jacko was born in Africa but was transported to Dominica in the late 1760’s.
He escaped from the Beau Bois Estate in Castle Comfort and established a camp on a plateau near the present day village of Belles.
His camp was one of the main targets of a massive offensive launched by the British during the Second Maroon War in 1812.
He was eventually surrounded and killed after living in the forest for over 40 years.