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Black History Month

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Tue, Feb 7. 2012

It has been quite a number of years now since some local organizations have joined people of African origin in the Caribbean and other parts of the world, notably North America, in the commemoration of the month of February as ‘Black History Month’.{{more}} Black people in Britain observe their commemoration in August of each year.

In spite of these efforts, and a growing acceptance of the practice, there has been insufficient forward movement in recognising this or in mainstreaming it. There may not be as hostile a reaction from those who do not regard the value of such commemoration, but neither is there official recognition, at least not in any Caribbean country, subject to correction. Not even when the United Nations declared the year 2011 as “Year of the Descendants of the African People” was there any concerted effort in the Caribbean, certainly not in SVG, to implement meaningful programmes in that regard.

A logical start would be in the Ministries of Education and Culture, but what have been the results? How would we, a wounded, but proud people, report on our attitude to 2011? Are we really serious about such things? Or are they subject to our convenience scale?

Societies such as ours, with their heavy colonial residue, continue to harbour a number of reservations about the necessity of giving official recognition to what, in trepidation, we still regard as “controversial cases”. Indeed, there continues to be some secret suspicion that to talk of ‘Black History’ is to invite anti-white sentiment. Others consider any reference to our African ancestry as being completely irrelevant and counter-productive. Another school of thought is the view that since ours is a multi-racial society, of what relevance is Black History?

These need to be answered unambiguously. Despite all our ‘modernization’, we lack awareness of Black History or our origin and historical reality. The failings are manifest in our lack of will to take corrective action against the falsities still existing in the official versions of history and the consequent lack of pride in our origins and achievement. They also have profound effects, psychologically.

In response to all this, what could be a better build-up to our celebration of National Heroes Month in March, than a vibrant commemoration of Black History Month? That would dovetail perfectly in eroding the negative images of people of colour, who form the vast majority of our population. The decolonization process is not just about documents and legal processes, it also has deep bearing on our socio-cultural existence and practices.

Black History Month is a step in the right direction. It is high time that we move beyond lip-service to it.

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