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Advances during Black History Month


The month of February is commemorated in the United States of America as “Black History Month”, a month when the lives, achievements and deeds of Back People, heroes sung and unsung, are remembered and celebrated.

It is not confined to the USA, for such is the extent of not only the repression against Black people world wide, but the deliberate and racist suppression of OUR story, (rather than HISTORY) that the idea has caught on wherever Black people reside.{{more}} Not all pick February (Britain for instance, marks the month in August), but what is important is that it serves as a catalyst for imbuing our people with a true sense of our being, our worth and our place in history.

The Caribbean is one such area to have caught on to the commemoration, mainly under the influence of the Black Power movement of the sixties and seventies. Even those who originally scoffed at, or were skeptical of, the Black History Month idea, today grudgingly accept its value. In St. Vincent and the Grenadines, the February commemoration blends nicely with our glorious month of March now, officially recognized as NATIONAL HEROES MONTH.

Fittingly, in the USA itself, a Black man is again making history. Barack Obama, born to a Kenyan father, a real Afro-American in terms of birth and citizenship, gave Black History Month a further fillip by surging ahead of New York senator Hilary Clinton to occupy the inside track in the race for the nomination of the Democratic Party to contest the next presidential elections. February saw Obama overtaking the former US First lady and early favourite for the nomination. Not only does he lead Mrs. Clinton, but polls show that whereas she trails the Republic contender John Mc Cain in a race for the Presidency, Obama is tipped to beat Mc Cain in a head-to-head to become the next American President. Blacks all over the world, while hopeful, are also fearful for his life, given the violent history of US politics when black leaders are concerned.

Another important development in this month of February where Black people are concerned has occurred right on the opposite side of the world, literally speaking. Australia is as east as the USA is west, and as south as it is north, yet both countries share a common pattern of their treatment of and genocide against the indigenous peoples. In the case of Australia, where English criminals were sent to spearhead the colonization process, the indigenous people were black, the so-called Aborigines. Not only were they forcibly driven from their land to the bareness’ of the “Northern Territories” and interior Australia, but a racist system of subjugation, equating skin colour with the lowest rank of the social ladder was instituted.

As if all this were not enough, the racists, as late as in the 1970s, forcibly took tens of thousands of indigenous children away from their families to be “brought up” and “civilized” by whites. Today these are referred to as the “stolen generations”. The indigenous people, though oppressed and repressed, refused to be suppressed, and continued to fight for their rightful places in Australian society and for justice and compensation. They have produced outstanding fighters but better known to most of us have been their sporting products of excellence, the tennis champion Yvonne Goolagong and today’s cricketer Andrew Symonds.

Claims for compensation and redress were consistently rebuffed by the Australian ruling class, for whom former Prime Minister John Howard, a staunch supporter of US aggression in the Middle East and an advocate of racist restrictions on immigration of non-whites, was a principal spokesman. Howard himself had steadfastly refused even to apologize for white misdeeds against the Aboriginal people. Fortunately, he suffered a crushing defeat at the polls in December last. It is the new Prime Minister Kevin Rudd who has turned around the policies, in keeping with election promises.

Last week, the first act of Prime Minister Rudd’s Labour government was to issue a comprehensive apology for past wrongs and a call for bipartisan action to improve the lives of the nation’s original people. “The Parliament is today here assembled to deal with this unfinished business of the nation, to remove a great stain from the nation’s soul, and in a spirit of reconciliation, to open a new chapter in the history of this great land of Australia,” Rudd told the Parliament.

So at least a forward step, a recognition of wrong and the need for redress has been taken. However, Rudd has not yet addressed the matter of reparation like his counterparts in the West. It is up to us, Black People to stroke those fires, fan the flames, and keep the pot boiling. That is what Black History month should mean to us.