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Merikin heritage in the spotlight at symposium
The Merikin Heritage Foundation will host a symposium on August 7 at the Nia Valley Estate, Matilda, Princes Town. Foundation member and Merikin descendant, Akiliah Jaramogi says the symposium is being held to shed light on the cultural issues, needs, challenges, successes and future plans for the Merikin communities.
The event will also feature direct Merikin descendants and speakers Tina Dunkley, director of Clark Atlanta University, Art Galleries, Georgia and Surinamese ambassador to T&T, Fidelia Grand-Galon.
In a telephone interview, Jaramogi said there was still much about the Merikins the public and even their descendants did not know, despite the amout of research taking place.
“There are several organisations that have done work and continue to do work within the various Merikin villages, however information is not transferred or shared among groups so we cannot really get the opportunity to really support each other,” said Jaramogi.
She says she believed there was a serious need for a more cohesive approach through the leaders, NGOs, churches and other groups in these villages, if the foundation was to achieve its objective.
“I mean we still have people thinking that when we refer to Merikins, we are referring to an organisation. We’re not! It’s a people,” she said.
The Merikins were former American slaves who joined the British during the 1812 war between the two countries.
At the end of the war, they were offered the opportunity to settle in a colony owned by the British, and many accepted the offer.
They were then brought to the forested area of Moruga and formed various “company” villages, which still exist today.
In 2012 the foundation released a half-hour long production on the genesis of the Merikins in Trinidad.
It also featured several descendants of Merikins including Hazel Manning, wife of former prime minister, Patrick Manning.
Jaramogi who is also the founder of Fondes Amandes Reforestation Project, said the foundation had held six public events since it was founded in 2010. On August 7, the group will will present the seventh.
She said the foundation wanted to do more to mobilise the Merikin people and to identify and meet their needs but finances had been an issue.
“Our foundation is self-funded. Whatever money goes into projects and events, comes from the pockets of members.
“We received some help in 2013 from the Ministry of Arts and Multiculturalism to host an exhibition at the National Museum, but we really do need continuous support,” Jaramogi said.
In the future, the foundation wants to construct a museum and Merikin headquarters where the history and cultural lifestyle of the Merikins can be showcased.
Jaramogi said the headquarters would also serve as an educational institute where people could do research on the Merikin people.
They also hope to encourage the youth to become entrepreneurs like their ancestors did when they settled in T&T over 200 years ago.
For more information call 689-7794/768-1247 or 325-2534.