This month the AAHM&CC pays a solemn and grateful tribute to our heroic freedom fighter Benkos Biohó, on the 400th anniversary of his brutal execution by hanging and quartering in March of 1621.*
We also take this moment to celebrate the fact that, at long last, an English-language book has been published (in January 2019), rendering his long suppressed story finally accessible to the anglophone Amerikan public: FREEDOM! THE UNTOLD STORY OF BENKOS BIOHO and THE WORLD’S FIRST MAROONS!, A TRUE STORY, by KOFI LENILES and DR. KMT SHOCKLEY, ILLUSTRATED BY IROUPA KEINKEDE, Published by AuthorHouse.
Benkos had been kidnapped in the late fifteen-hundreds from his native island in the Western Mali/Kaabu region of Guinea-Bissau (a part of the world which, nearly four centuries later, would field another world-renowned freedom fighter, Amílcar Cabral).
In approximately 1599 (two decades BEFORE Virginia unloaded its first slave ship), Benkos Biohó, escaping slavery for at least the second time, led a group of about 30 escapees in founding one of the oldest and longest lasting free Afrikan Maroon cities in the Western Hemisphere!
Benkos led the people of Palenque in a just and courageous war against the Spanish Empire’s slave traders, frequently raiding the nearby Atlantic slave port of Cartagena and setting the captives free.
In 1603, the Governor of Cartagena Gerónimo de Suazo, admitted that he was unable to defeat the free people of Palenque, and offered a peace treaty with King Benkos Biohó, which was extended in 1612 between Biohó and the next Governor, Diego Fernández de Velasco.
Naturally, however, the next Governor, Garcia Girón, broke the treaty by ambushing and kidnapping Biohó in 1619, holding him prisoner until March of 1621, and publicly murdering him because, in Girón’s words “It was dangerous the extent to which Biohó was respected in the population!”
But Biohó became even stronger as a martyr! The brave people of Palenque rose up against his treacherous murderers and resumed the war for freedom. They fought for 70 more years, until 1691, when the King of Spain himself personally signed a peace treaty with Palenque!
The 1691 truce has been cautiously maintained and guarded by Palenque ever since, with Spain and with its Imperial successor, the modern state of Colombia. Like its predecessor, Colombia continually vacillates in its willingness/desire to keep its promises to indigenous peoples of either Afrika or this hemisphere.
And yet, the people of Palenque, trustworthy and dedicated to long memory, still sing their ancestor’s songs about the valor of Benkos Biohó, and teach those songs to their children.
Benkos Biohó is a hero to all Afrikan people worldwide!
To all indigenous people worldwide!
To all coastal seafaring people worldwide!
To all laboring class people worldwide!
And to any human being who is sincerely in favor of freedom!
We are all Benkos Biohó!
As of this month, Biohó’s free town of Palenque has endured continuous struggle to exist for 422 consecutive years!
*Accounts very as to the exact day of his death, (anywhere from March 3rd through about March 16th, 1621) due to the inability of the Julian/Gregorian white power structure to keep a straight calendar for that length of time, and its propensity for burning the books of other cultures who might otherwise have successfully done so. However, it is a clear that Benkos Bioho was publicly dismembered for a European settler audience in March of 1621.