The year was 1830. Like many places in the world, slavery was a way of life in the Bahamas.
So when John Rolle, a British Lord and plantation owner on Exuma, declared that 77 slaves would be transferred to work on Cat Island, it was understood that families would be separated and lives splintered. All accepted this fate, except Pompey.
The 32-year-old slave began an uprising that led to a cancellation of the transfer order.
But more importantly, for Bahamians, it marks a key moment of resistance against the establishment, not long before emancipation was achieved in the Bahamas in August 1838.
To commemorate Pompey and the principles of freedom and equality, “Run for Pompey” will held on Exuma from October 9th through October 12, with the actual race happening on National Heroes Day in the Bahamas (Oct 12). Leaving from the lessor-known Pompey Memorial in Steventon, Exuma, the race features at 5K “fun run”, a 21.5km half marathon and a 42K marathon.
The event is presented by title sponsor BAF Financial & Insurance (Bahamas) Limited, a Bahamian-owned, full service financial services company that has been a leader in the industry since 1920.
“At BAF Financial, we believe in supporting causes that help create our Bahamian leaders of tomorrow. Certainly, Pompey personifies these qualities of leadership and strength, so we are thrilled to be a part of it,” said Chester Cooper, President and CEO of BAF Financial.
“We also believe the ideals Pompey stood for will resonate beyond the Commonwealth of the Bahamas and appeal to athletes and tourists around the world.”
Run for Pompey is also sponsored and supported by GIV Bahamas Inc, Grand Isle Resort & Spa, Sands Beer, BahamasLocal.com and the Bahamas Ministry of Tourism.
Grand Isle is offering special villa discounts to commemorate the race. Simply visit http://www.grandisleresort.com/ and enter the promo code: POMPEY
Peter Nicholson, the President of GIV Bahamas Inc., and the largest homeowner at Grand Isle Resort & Spa, said that the event is an opportunity to bring a lessor-known civil rights leader to the forefront.
“Most people that come to Exuma have no idea who Pompey was, and what we stood for,” Nicholson added. “And they definitely do not know there is a memorial here. This is an opportunity to change that.”
Indeed, the story of Pompey is one of resilience and courage. Once news of the transfer spread, Pompey rallied other salves to his cause and fled into the push, avoiding capture for several weeks. The group of renegade slaves later stole one of Lord Rolle’s boats and sailed for the capital of Nassau.
Their goal: petition the British Governor to stop the transfer.
While Pompey and his crew never stick land in Nassau, the Governor did hear of their cause, and ordered the slaves remain on their plantation in Exuma.
Pompey was hailed as a hero upon his return. Many of the slaves left behind on the plantation now rallied to his cause and refused to work. The rebellion was eventually squashed by the military, and Pompey received 29 lashes as punishment.
However, the rebellion is seen as a key moment in the Bahamian fight for freedom, by showing, for the first time, that people could not be moved like property against their will.
All proceeds from Run for Pompey will towards the Exuma Foundation, with the intent of creating a post-secondary education scholarship fund for deserving students in Exuma.
The run on National Heroes Day will be followed by a “cook-out for the entire community in Regatta Park, located in downtown George Town. Special activities are being organized throughout the holiday weekend for athletes and everyday tourists alike.
For more information on the Run for Pompey, you can visit its Facebook page at https://www.facebook.com/runforpompey, or visit the event’s new website at www.runforpompey.com