Roy T. Anderson stood almost waist-high deep in the cold Atlantic Ocean off Coney Island two months ago to pay tribute to the ancestors that perished during their captivated journey through the Middle Passage.
Standing there amidst waves of salty water did not seem to impede the Jamaican.
He has long been acclaimed as a stuntman doubling for the likes of actors Will Smith, Jamie Foxx, Damon Wayans Jr., Morgan Freeman, Mario Van Peebles, Anthony Mackie, Denzel Washington, and others in more than 400 film projects and wading in deep waters posed little challenge for the six-foot tall Hollywood insider.
On the recent June date, along with his life partner Allison Gail, the couple traveled from their New Jersey home to join like-minded Africans who annually commemorate the sacrifice paid by enslaved Africans captured from the continent.
In addition to marking the nostalgia of the travesty, simultaneously Anderson surveyed the Brooklyn coast line and its relevance to documenting his mission to enlightening audiences about Jamaica’s first national hero.
That the annual ritual seems to still pain a great many descendants centuries later struck a chord that must have resonated with the author whose life-long mission personified “One God, One Aim, One Destiny.”
Armed with a movie camera Anderson captured images of some of the elders, the youths, the vast ocean and many of the patrons who wore traditional white, carried flowers and fruits, drummed, danced and paid homage to the ancestors.
For Anderson, his presence in the waters amplified a spiritual connection he said he first felt on a beach in Ghana, Africa where a slave dungeon built by the Portuguese stands as a constant reminder of their atrocities against Africans.
When he walked ashore the Brooklyn sand he was soaked but said he felt even more determined to completing the Garvey document and that his transitioning from being an actor / stuntman to being the established three-time documentarian of Jamaica’s cultural heritage is purposeful.
Aug. 18, one day after the 131st anniversary of the birth of Marcus Mosiah Garvey, Anderson will present a first look exclusive clip of “Marcus Garvey: The Untold Story.”
According to Gail, a co-producer of the one-hour document, it is the “definitive document on one of the greatest political thinkers.”
She says that audiences will have an opportunity to share a stake with completion of the film by attending the free, screening from 7 to 10:30 pm at St. Charles Borromeo Church Auditorium, 211 West 141st St. in Harlem.
Emmy award-winning actor Keith David is the narrator of what is buzzed about as another “eye-opener” from the filmmaker already acclaimed as the “Caribbean’s Stephen Spielberg.”
After making more than 400 appearances in film projects, Anderson decided on paying forward by becoming a director, producer and writer. He made his career-changing switch because he felt there were important stories to be told and he wanted to be among the filmmakers to tell them.
“Akwanda” was still a lingering comic salute conceived by Stan Lee for a Black superhero named The Black Panther when Anderson spotlighted real Black, characters and superheroes.
His foray to the screen showcased a one-hour document about the Maroons he titled “Akwantu: The Journey.”
One of the lesser known stories he told in his first film is that the Maroons were freedom fighters in Jamaica — but also prevalent and defiant in Cuba, Brazil, Mexico, Belize, Suriname and even the United States.
Himself a maroon, the six-foot Anderson said he felt compelled to expand on the written tales mostly told by Europeans.
Reportedly “about the middle of the 18th century, runaway enslaved Africans in the Americas and the Caribbean were generally referred to as Cimarrones or Maroons. In Jamaica, this group waged an 80-year military campaign that resulted in the defeat of the formidable British army. As a result, two peace treaties were signed in 1738 / 39 granting the Maroons territorial sovereignty in their remote mountainous strongholds, including what is now the Blue and John Crow Mountains National Park.”
The film traces the paths of the strong African warriors who took refuge from the pursuit of the British to the rural Jamaican terrain many still reside. The film was endorsed as a Jamaica 50 event and had its world premiere June 2012 in Charles Town, Portland, Jamaica, to a community of Maroons.
On its release, “Akwantu: The Journey” won national and international acclaim after premiering at the United Nations in recognition of Slavery Remembrance Day that same year.
As Jamaicans might say, Anderson did not allow “grass to grow under his feet.”
Two years later, Anderson introduced “Queen Nanny: Legendary Maroon Chieftainess,” a one-hour documentary-film that “unearths and examine the mysterious figure that is Nanny of the Maroons; Jamaica’s sole female National Hero, and one of the most celebrated, but least recognized heroines in the resistance history of the New World.”
Perhaps, the island’s best known Maroon woman, Nanny left her native Ghana, a freed woman to join the struggle of her people in Jamaica.
The film featuring spoken word accounts from Olympian Shelly Ann Fraser-Pryce, revered fastest woman on earth, Rita Marley, the avowed queen of reggae and the first Third World superstar Bob’s only bride, Portia Simpson Miller, Jamaica’s first and only female prime minister and other influential women, the document also debuted at the United Nations and Schomburg Library in Harlem to world wide acclaim.
Earlier this year in Jamaica, Olivia Grange, minister of Culture, Gender, Entertainment and Sport announced the approval of a law by the House of Representatives and the Senate of a bill she introduced to pardon Marcus Garvey.
“Jamaica has completed a long walk to justice for its ancestors” she said confirming the approval of the ‘National Heroes and Other Freedom Fighters (Absolution from Criminal Liability in Respect of Specified Events) Act, 2018.”
Now law in the island, it “helps to bring closure to a painful chapter in history by recognizing our heroes and freedom fighters for who they really were; restoring their dignity in the records; and contributes to the healing of their traumatized and wounded descendants.”
Grange said that by enacting the law, the government has “set the records straight.”
“Now and forever more, it will be known and recorded that our National Hero — Marcus Garvey — supporters and sympathizers including women, and other freedom fighters — was not a criminal but … proud and brave — engaged in acts of liberation with moral justification.”
For more information on the document check garve
By: Vinette K. Pryce