Haile Gerima and The Maroons Project

Creative statement: "The story of Maroon communities in the Americas is one of the most important and fascinating chapters in the history of New World societies. However, it is a story that is not well known because it has received neither scholarly nor popular examination. Historical omissions of this kind marginalize the contributions of African people in the design and growth of the Americas and widen the chasm between well-meaning people of all ethnicities.

The Maroons Project aims to unearth and remember evidence of the African response to slavery and coerced labor in the Americas and to restore this most important story to its proper place in world history.

Documented from an alternative perspective - grounded in the voices of historians, archaeologists, scholars, and Maroon descendants – The Maroons Project aims to bridge the gap between history and the future of contemporary race relations.

Using film, digital, broadcast and print media, The Maroons Project will share the results of almost two decades of research with mainstream audiences, educational and cultural institutions around the world.

Sankofa is an Akan word that means, "We must go back and reclaim our past so we can move forward; so we understand why and how we came to be who we are today."

It was in the spirit of reclaiming the past that the powerful film Sankofa was released in 1993. The depth of research and overwhelming community response to the film inspired the filmmakers, Haile Gerima and Shirikiana Aina, to go even further in unearthing the history of African resistance during the period of bondage. Over the last several years, The Maroon Project has taken shape, continuing on in the legacy of Sankofa.

The Maroon Project directly addresses many of the questions raised after the screening of the film, Sankofa:

Did Africans resist enslavement?

Who were the Maroons?

What was the life they lived?

What lessons can we learn?

Why haven’t I heard about them before?

What are the contemporary manifestations of Maroon culture?

Although the Maroon phenomenon in the Caribbean is quite known, mainstream media has yet to produce, from a North American perspective, an in-depth documentation of Maroon history during slavery that reflects Africans as agents of their own liberation and creators of their own free societies.

{Gerima at a panel discussing his recent film, "Teza"}

The prevailing African American history currently taught in the U.S. tends to emphasize Africans receiving freedom solely through benefactors in the white community, leaving the story incomplete. While dedicated abolitionists and members of the Underground Railroad did aid in the struggle for freedom, it was the African spirit of resistance that inspired them to take an active role in the struggle. It is not only demeaning to ignore the leadership role Africans played in actualizing their own freedom, but it also perpetuates divisiveness in contemporary race relations. For someone cannot be given their freedom, and it still be called freedom.

Much is needed to do justice to the true story of Africans in the U.S., and The Maroon Project offers another turning point through which African American history can advance.

Maroon history offers stirring accounts of courage, a self-determined commitment to freedom and of democratic and multiethnic communities developing in tandem with early European colonial societies right here in the Americas. Yet, documentation of this important history is woefully absent from the media and our educational system. The legacy of the Maroons still lives apart from the larger public awareness of history and culture in the Americas. Your support can help change that.

In our endeavor to honor the struggle of captured Africans who successfully resisted slavery and their descendants, The Maroons Project is seeking participation from every member of the global community that shares a commitment to cultural diversity and accuracy. This grassroots investment initiative gives individuals, foundations and corporations the chance to become involved and support our efforts to document the rich, cultural legacy of the Maroons.

All financial contributions, whether large or small, will play an important role in making The Maroons Project’s filmed works, educational initiatives, digital repository and continued scholarly research possible. With your help, the story of these courageous men and women will live on.

Your support is vital to bringing The Maroon Project to fruition.