The 2013 education program of the International Caribbean American Diaspora (ICAD) Film, Theatre & Literary Festival Inc., in partnership with the Caribbean American Research Foundation Inc., presented the award-winning documentary “Akwantu: The Journey” by filmmaker Roy T. Anderson Jr. to students at the Frederick Douglass Academy (FDA) in Harlem on Wednesday, June 5. Joseph Gates is the principal of FDA.
Dr. Gregory Hodge, principal emeritus of FDA, initiated the 2013 ICAD-FDA collaboration. Under the direction of Assistant Principal Thomas Ajibola, teachers involved in this year’s education film program included Richard Erisnor, Hilroy Nixon, John Harris, Florence Okwemba, Joseph Onubogu, Vicky Rodriguez, Dana Monteiro, Erika Brantley, Yvonne Yamusah, Papa Tall and video technician Andres Alonso.
The ICAD brand, “Exo-Genesis” (“a going-out to new beginnings”) continued the theme of “Our World,” while focusing on this year’s centerpiece, “Caribbean Kings.”
Riding into Caribbean Heritage Month is Caribbean King Anderson, an award-winning stunt man/stunt coordinator who, for the past 25 years, performed stunts for the who’s who of Hollywood, including Will Smith, Denzel Washington and Jamie Foxx. Anderson has more than 400 production credits to his name that include appearances in blockbuster hits such as “The Dark Knight Rises,” “Spiderman 2,” “Bourne Ultimatum” and “American Gangster.” On television, he has appeared in such top-rated TV shows as “Law & Order,” “Sopranos” and “Person of Interest.”
In addition, Anderson made a great achievement in 1990. “That was the year I performed a self-planned stunt, setting a world record by jumping between two buildings–28 feet on foot … just run and jump,” he said. That feat gave Anderson major publicity all around the world, including in the National Enquirer. His record has yet to be broken.
In the same way, writer/director/producer Anderson scores high with “Akwantu: The Journey.” “This film is a result of the search for my roots,” he shared. “What started out as an innate sense of curiosity grew into a newfound sense of pride as I began to learn more and more about my ancestors–brave men and women that history refers to as ‘Maroons.’ There were many days during my research when I was simply not able to contain myself as I uncovered new and fascinating information. I was driven to find out more. From there, things just really took on a life of its own. Without realizing it, I had given birth to “Akwantu: The Journey.”
“Akwantu” is a miraculous story about the Jamaican Maroons who won their fight for freedom. Poorly armed and outgunned, these brave warriors victoriously engaged the mighty British superpower over an 80-year period resulting in two signed peace treaties in 1739 that established Maroon self-government for the first time in the New World.
This history came to life for the Jamaican-born, Toronto-raised and New Jersey-based Anderson, whose documentary weaves his own personal, ancestral sojourn into the story of his heroic ancestors. Because of the importance of this film, the Jamaican government officially selected “Akwantu” to be presented during last year’s historic 50th anniversary of independence celebration.
Anderson’s methodology of combining oral history, archival material, historically-relevant geographic locations, scholarly commentary and cinematography to reconstruct the history and transatlantic journey of the Jamaican Maroons represents an important contribution to the advancement of the disciplines of history, African studies, African-American studies, Caribbean history, military history, women’s studies, political science, ethnomusicology, applied linguistics, sociology and anthropology.
These strong educational components comprised a discussion guide developed and written by Harcourt T. Fuller, Ph.D., an assistant professor in Georgia State University’s Department of History, in collaboration with Anderson and research assistant Patrick Nichols. This guide was introduced to FDA’s advanced placement students prior to the screening of “Akwantu: The Journey” providing the fertile educational tools for students to engage in dialogue and conversation about a major topic in Caribbean history and culture during a post-screening Q-and-A with Anderson.
The International Caribbean American Diaspora Film, Theatre & Literary Festival founder/Executive Director is Misani. Celebrity co-founders are award-winning actor/voice-over artist Keith David and award-winning filmmaker Euzhan Palcy. Geoffrey Holder serves as honorary ICAD patriarch.