Accompong Festival 1977
The People's Law
1977, we were young punks, staying with Ras I-stro in his home community. We knew nothing.
The buzz was about, we were going to a festival the next day, just a likkle bus ride away. I was pretty surprised to see I-stro pull an ironing board and iron out to prepare his clothes. The room we stayed in was the bedroom, one of two rooms in the concrete house. It had a double bed with a mosquito net and a dresser. Dave and I slept at the foot, I-stro, Pearly, 1 1/2 year old son Ivan and baby daughter, Princess slept in the bed. I do not remember a closet, but the ironing board materialized from somewhere.
I felt a little shabby and wrinkled as we walked down the street and caught the already packed mini-bus that would take us to the festival. Through the musical lilt of the thick Patois talk, I picked up that this festival celebrated the People's Law. The people who lived in the interior, The Maroons, did not pay taxes nor were they ruled by the Jamaican government, they followed their own laws. Ok, cool!
We rode the bus, round and round, up and down, on roads so narrow no bus could fit, with drop offs so steep I could not look. We rode this bus for hours! But what I really remember is the gambler who used his table as a chair on the bus and I remember holding pinky fingers with our bus-drivers daughter, the biggest one in pink. Such a sweet ride.
Well, to tell it true, we got there. We refreshed ourselves with a bowl of goat's head soup and maybe something else, I do not remember. Then walked down the road to the Gathering Tree for songs and drumming. There was a man from University there with a microphone to record the festivities.
Then we ambled through the town. We saw several gamblers with their tables set up, including our friend from the bus. We saw jazz band playing in a zinc covered structure. There were various entrepreneurs along the way plying their wares.
Then the parade assembled and proceeded the several blocks through the town. The Colonel led the way. One person carried a branch and one had a drum. The procession was respectfully solemn.
A Mercedes with tinted windows drove up to us and rolled down the window. Inside was a white family, Dad, Mom, and teenage boy and girl. They asked what was going on and we told them there was a festival celebrating the People's Law. They drove down the road, turned around and came back once again rolled down the window. The Dad said, "We came, we saw, we conquered."
I have often thought back on this experience and I see we took home something a bit different. "We came, we did our best to see, we were filled with wonder."
Story by Dianne Birney
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