Black History Month in Jamaica: A Reminder

Black history month in jamaica

February is celebrated as Black History month in Jamaica and many parts of the world. However, there seems to be a virtual silence in Jamaica despite its overwhelming black population. The celebration of black history appears to have been shifted from a physical one, where there are numerous events surrounding the accomplishments of contributors and events, to a mental one where we only refer the month as black history month. Nonetheless, that’s my opinion.

Jamaican National Hero Marcus Garvey informs us, “a nation that is ignorant of its past is like a tree without roots”. Therefore, I find it imperative to remind us why we dedicate an entire month to celebrate a race that has overcome and accomplished so much. The black community is widespread and we all celebrate this month differently and that’s the beauty of it. No matter where we are, and no matter where we go, there is a reason to celebrate black history month. Jamaica is no different, we have a unique culture and even so, unique reasons to celebrate black history month

Slavery and where we come from

Generally, the “West” has a disperse ethnicity and many common factors which led to its diversity. The Americas and many parts of the Caribbean were once populated by Tainos, Caribs, and other indigenous tribes. In a nutshell, many wars were fought and several conquests made that led to slavery and the forced population of Jamaica and several other countries, by Africans. And no, we do not celebrate Black History Month to remember slavery. We do it to remember that we are of African descent, and as a race, we overcame the oppression and inhumanity that slavery brought.

It might not look like much but, Africa once belonged to the most intelligent and civilized culture, the Moors. According to this article, The Moorish advances in mathematics, astronomy, art, and agriculture. They helped propel Europe out of the Dark Ages and into the Renaissance. Also, Africa is literally the center of the world where the Equator and Greenwich Meridian meet at coordinate (O, O). There are several more reasons to celebrate our African heritage but this is just one aspect of why we celebrate Black history month.

Our National Heros and Heroine

Jamaica has 6 National Heros and 1 National Heroine. They are Paul Bogle, Sam Sharpe, Alexander Bustamante, George William Gordon, Marcus Garvey, Norman Manley and the only heroine, Nanny of the Marrons. We should not only recognize them in this black history month we must also celebrate them. Why?

  • Marcus Mosiah Garvey started the Universal Negro Improvement Association (UNIA), in Jamaica which grew into an international organization. Garvey encouraged self-government for black people worldwide; organized self-help economic projects and protest against racial discrimination.
  • Samuel Sharpe was the main instigator of the 1831 Slave Rebellion, which began on the Kensington Estate in St. James and which was largely instrumental in bringing about the abolition of slavery.
  • George William Gordon was a politician who gave back to the people from his own riches. Gordon urged the people to protest against and resist the oppressive and unjust conditions under which they were forced to live. He also played an integral part in the Morant Bay Rebellion.
  • Paul Bogle was a Baptist deacon in Stony Gut and was eligible to vote at a time when there were only 104 voters in the parish of St. Thomas. He was also a participant in the Morant Bay Rebellion. The Morant Bay Rebellion paved the way for the establishment of just practices in the courts. It also brought about a change in official attitude, which made possible the social and economic betterment of the people.
  • Norman Washington Manley was a brilliant scholar and athlete, soldier (First World War) and lawyer. Manley founded the People’s National Party (PNP) and was a strong supporter of the trade union movement which leads and achieve the demand for Universal Adult Suffrage in Jamaica.
  • Sir Alexander Bustamante first impressed his name on the society with a series of letters to The Gleaner and British newspapers. With this, he called attention to the social and economic problems of the poor and underprivileged in Jamaica. In 1943 he founded the Jamaica Labour Party (JLP), with himself as its head. The first general election under Universal Adult Suffrage came in 1944 and the JLP won 22 of 32 seats. Sir Alexander became the first Prime Minister of Independent Jamaica in 1962.
  • Nanny was a leader of the Maroons at the beginning of the 18th century. She was known by both the Maroons and the British settlers as an outstanding military leader who became, in her lifetime and after, a symbol of unity and strength for her people during times of crisis. She was particularly important to them in the fierce fight with the British, during the First Maroon War from 1720 to 1739.

 

General Cultural Contributors

We must also pay respect and celebrate the singer-songwriter who helped place Jamaica and Reggae music on the map, Robert Nesta Marley AKA Bob Marley. Coincidentally, Bob Marley’s birthday is February 6. Hence, we can give Bob Marley a double dose of thanks in celebrating Black History Month.

Related: Best Reggae Songs Contest

Let’s not forget Jamaican born American poet and activist Louis Bennet Coverly. She was described as Jamaica’s leading comedienne, as the “only poet who has really hit the truth about her society through its own language”, and as an important contributor to her country of “valid social documents reflecting the way Jamaicans think and feel and live” Through her poems in Jamaican patois, she raised the dialect of the Jamaican folk to an art level which is acceptable to and appreciated by all in Jamaica.Black History Month also provides the opportunity to celebrate our athletes who have contributed to Jamaica being a sprinting superpower. What could be more inspiring to our inner-city youth than the story of O’Neil Gordon “Collie” Smith? A boy from Denham Town whose integrity, ability and Christian values made him a sports legend at Boy’s Town and Kingston College. He also went on to lift Jamaica and West Indies cricket to great heights.

Today, we have the privilege to have “the fastest man alive” Usain Bolt. Usain Bolt smashed world records and won 9 gold medals as a reigning champion at the 2008, 2012 and 2016 Summer Games. An icon and living legend recognized, loved and celebrated all over the world.

I could go on listing persons and their contributions to Jamaica and why we should celebrate each of them. If we were to celebrate each of them then one month just wouldn’t be enough. Without the contributions of these persons and events, Jamaica would not be the strong and proud nation it is today. I only wish we would show more recognition and do more celebration for Black History Month. Who is your favorite person or historical event to celebrate this in Black History Month? Let us know in the comment section below.

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