“When the British invaded Jamaica in 1655, a large number of Africans who had been enslaved by the Spanish colonists escaped into the hilly, mountains regions of the island to live a life free from slavery, joining those who had previously escaped from the Spanish. They came to be known as the Maroons.”
Tafari aka Bygbaby left an interesting comment on my post “The Reason for the Season & why I don’t celebrate Kwanzaa”. What got me thinking were the beginning sentences of his comment “Although I am Christian, I have a love hate relationship with the religion as a proud descendant of Africans, related to the slave trade & how Christianity was used against our people. I will admit that my feeling on this developed over the last 2-3 years as I am coming out of a white oriented matrix.” I totally relate to his polarized “love-hate” emotions about Christianity as I went through the same inner conflicts myself. In lots of ways (but not totally), I have come to resolve many of the issues and practices (both past and present) I had with those who call themselves Christians, both white and Black.
Since I have decided to dedicate myself to spiritual growth this year, his comments got me reflecting on what is it that I truly believe now in relation to my religion and culture, and how did I get here. I see the importance of charting this course before I push on, as I believe it is vital to understand where you came from to truly know where you are now, and then to point you to the correct path on your destination. So I will post 3 articles on my spiritual and cultural journey. The Past, The Present and The Future.
“Over time the Maroons came to control large areas of the Jamaican interior and they would often move down from the hills to raid the plantations. They were very organised and knew the country well. Because of this additional run-away slaves joined them.”
In my formative years in Jamaica, I was brought up an Anglican by my maternal Grandparents. They were what you would definitely term “God-fearing” and they instilled in me a knowledge of God, the importance of reading my Bible and the power of prayer. Although they strictly nurtured my early Christian development, I was nevertheless curious about other religions and philosophy and in my early teens a cousin of mine introduced me to the Baha’i religion. I followed that for a short while but my Grandparents, particularly my Grandmother steered my back onto the Christian path. I wasn’t overtly coerced into renouncing the Baha’I faith. My Grandmother was subtler than that now that I look back on it. She encouraged me to attend a Pentecostal summer bible school that year (although she was a strict Anglican, but her church did not have summer bible school). Before I knew it I had lost interest in Baha’i and was back into the church!
When I came to Canada, my Mother sent my sisters and I to a Baptist church, which we attended for a few years, although she wasn’t interested in church or Christianity for that matter. This would change 180 degrees for her with the death of my Grandmother, and she then became a devout Christian and a member of a Free Presbyterian Church. By this time I was getting into my late teens, the whole church thing, the Bible and God held less significance for me. I had reached the stage where girls, going to parties and hanging out became more important, or a better word would be “exciting”, than going to church 2-3 times a week! Sunday morning service; Sunday evening service; Tuesday prayer meeting and Bible study; Friday Young Peoples’ Fellowship! Naaaw I wasn’t feeling it at all!
So from about 19yrs. to about 25yrs. old, I didn’t go to church at all and considered myself somewhat of an atheist. In University I majored in Political Science and Economics with a minor in Philosophy. A significant event at this time was my joining the African-Caribbean Students Union, as this started my political activism and cultural awakening, which went hand in hand. Although there weren’t any African/Black culture or history courses offered, I did take a course in African Politics. In my spare time, when I wasn’t researching and writing papers or studying for exams, I read various books on African history and culture which I found interesting and not at all “foreign” to me, since I had a foundation in British, African and Jamaican history from my early schooling in Jamaica. I studied Islam for a period of time as I had a close Muslim friend while in university.
Then something happened to bring me back into the church. My cousin invited me to his church. That was it. I wasn’t going through anything dramatic or traumatic at the time. My life was good enough and I was having lots of fun. I didn’t have an overwhelming feeling during that period that my life needed some purpose or that I was in need of direction. I went to his church, which was Pentecostal, heard a message about salvation through Christ and having a personal relationship with God, which I had heard all of my church life. However that day, when the Pastor made the alter-call, I walked up to the front to accept Christ as my Saviour. BAM! That was approximately 23 years ago.