Emancipation holiday a proud, spirited time for Maidstone
SPIRITS ARE high in Maidstone, Manchester, as community members gear up for the annual Emancipation festival dubbed ‘Fus A August’.
The event is spearheaded by Member of Parliament for Manchester North Western Mikael Phillips, and the Maidstone Community Council.
Maidstone is one of the first free villages in Jamaica, having been founded in 1840. This year’s staging is being held under the theme ‘184 years of Emancipation’.
In an interview with The Gleaner, Phillips cited the Fus A August celebration as a tribute to the emancipated enslaved Africans, adding: “It’s really to preserve the rich history of the community of Maidstone, and the contribution of those free slaves in the development of the parish of Manchester.”
Phillips noted that the event is particularly important in preserving the legacy of the community, as proceeds from the event are used to fund two community-based projects and the maintenance of the Maidstone Museum which houses artefacts from the slavery era.
“We sponsor the Fus A August 100 per cent through the CDF (Constituency Development Fund,) and the proceeds from all the activities that take place go to the community council, which is overseen by the Social Development Commission,” Phillips explained.
He added: “Those monies go to community projects. They normally do one at the [Nazareth Primary] school (home of the Maidstone Museum) and another within the community.”
Noting that the festival existed before he became MP, Phillips said he is excited to be a part of “carrying on the rich legacy of the community of Maidstone”.
Stakeholders say Emancipation (holiday) is an exciting time for the community, as they get to share Maidstone’s history with locals and foreigners who come to support the event.
Horatio Tomlinson, president of the Maidstone Community Council, told The Gleaner on Monday that the concepts of Independence and Emancipation are dear to the hearts of community folk.
“The importance of Independence and Emancipation is something we take personal up here, granted that this was one of the first free villages on the island where freedom meant more than just not working for the slave masters; [it also meant] you were your own ‘sumady’ – not owned – free, and that essence still flows through every fibre of our being here at Maidstone,” said Tomlinson.
“Emancipation and Independence is very personal ... how we go about our daily lives epitomises what we live for here,” Tomlinson emphasised.
He told The Gleaner that the community is strategic in its history preservation, stating that students are involved in cultural ventures, and historic lessons are passed on to them.
The council’s vice-president, Ava Frith, said the event is usually well supported, attracting both locals and foreigners alike.
“Persons come from near or far and it’s like a family reunion, so persons come, recap, catch up and lyme,” added Frith.
The event-planning team said that the Jamaican culture will be heavily represented through food and art. Atop the menu are blue drawers, dokunu, ackee and salt fish, the national dish, potato pudding and mannish water.
Lorraine Messam, a member of the community council, told The Gleaner that the cultural aspect of the Fus A August festival is a crowd favourite.
“We have cultural items, the maypole dance, we have cultural groups coming in to do the dinki mini and other items that refelct our culture, so it’s not only about coming to lyme or eat, but we also are coming to be exposed to our authentic culture. Maidstone comes alive in so many ways on that day,” said Messam, adding that the youth are especially enthused by the cultural displays.
On Monday, the celebrations will culminate with a concert featuring Kevin Downswell, George Nooks and young Manchester-based artiste, Lil Kish.
Adults will be required to pay an entrance fee of $1,000 before 5 p.m. and $1,500 thereafter. Children 12 years and older will pay $500, while those under 12 will pay $200.