Charles Town Maroon transformer joins ancestral ranks
Colonel Frank Lumsden of the Charles Town Maroons died at home on Tuesday after battling cancer for a few years.
After studying and working in the United States for many years, Lumsden returned to Jamaica in 1998. He was born in 1942 in Buff Bay, not far from the historic Maroon village of Charles Town.
The preservation of the Maroon culture and heritage in Charles Town was on the decline for years, but upon Lumsden's return, his brother, Keith, was already doing resuscitative work. He had formed a council of elders to revive the Maroon heritage.
Frank, whose great-grandaunt, Jestina 'Tun-Tun' Campbell, was a Maroon chieftainess and herbal healer, joined Keith and spent much time with the council, which was registered in 2003 as a corporation. He became acting colonel then and was selected colonel of the Charles Town Maroon Council (CTMC) on January 28, 2004.
In a release, the CTMC said: "His greatest concern was the dwindling population of the Charles Town community. Residents migrated to urban areas in search of employment ... . This migration resulted in a loss of the oral traditions, skills in woodwork, drumming, food preparation and the use of herbs and plants for medicinal purposes."
In speaking with The Gleaner in 2007, Lumsden said the aim of his stewardship was to use culture as an anchor for development and to bring opportunities to the Charles Town people. And that was the essence of Colonel Lumsden's stewardship at Charles Town.
Along with other members of the Maroon Council, notably Kenneth Douglas, he created the Asafu Yard (meeting place), a library, an office, and a museum for which he was founder-curator.
In partnership with the public and private sectors, local and overseas agencies, Lumsden got assistance with many sustainable development projects such as the making of the replica of the bench drum (UNESCO); the building of an office block, kitchen and sanitary facilities, solar power (Jamaica Social Investment Fund); and the expansion of the museum and Asafu Yard.
Colonel Lumsden expanded the annual Quao Day celebration in 2009 into the Annual Charles Town International Maroon Conference. It has evolved into a must-go event, attracting scholars from all over the world. It is not uncommon to see government officials and diplomats at the conference.
In 2015, at the Seventh Annual Charles Town International Maroon Conference, Colonel Lumsden's desire to establish a Maroon magazine that features articles from Maroons and other indigenous peoples in different parts of the world was realised.
Lumsden was very active in the promotion of the significance of Maroon heritage and history and the defence of Maroon rights, be it in the Cockpit Country, or in the recent declaration of the Blue and John Crow Mountains as a World Heritage Site.
In 2007, Lumsden told The Gleaner: "It is what will make them strong, it is what will give them direction ... so that when they travel abroad, they will not be affected by every wind that blows. They will be able to focus on their purpose and that the Maroon identity is vital for their development."