In 1976, February was officially declared Black History Month in the US. Today the month is officially celebrated in five countries across the world: the United States, Canada, the UK, the Netherlands and the Republic of Ireland. There are also celebrations in countries where there is a strong African-descendant population: Black Awareness Day in Brazil and Afro-Colombian day in Colombia. 

These celebrations usually feature parades with important figures from black history, reflections on the past and conversations around equality and black identity. It is important to hold such celebrations in countries where blacks are a minority since their heritage is usually subsumed to that of the racial majority. There history is a chapter in a larger book of the majority’s story.

In a majority black nation like Jamaica, however, are these celebrations necessary? We do not officially celebrate Black History Month, but educators here use the opportunity to highlight events and figures in black history.

Our privilege as a majorly black nation is that we get to just be black. This is not to say that we have not suffered and perhaps still continue to suffer from the negative effects of colonialism. But we can be ourselves. In fact, Jamaicans often capitalize on our blackness because it is what makes us unique in this world. It is our music, food, and language, and everything that makes us yardies. 

Growing up, we were lucky to be exhausted by the history of our ancestors. Many of us can still go an entire day without interacting with a person of another race. That can be healthy mentally. For our cousins in countries where they are a minority and their ancestral history is just a footnote, Black History Month is food for their soul. It is a recognition of their contribution to the national discourse. It is a celebration of their race that they need because they live in  societies still struggling to accept them. 

Our problem in Jamaica may be just the opposite. We have become complacent because the racial aggression that these people face daily do not necessarily apply to us. There isn’t that constant reminder that we are victims of colonialism. 

Independence, Emancipation and National Heroes Day celebrate our liberation as a nation. But there is still more to be done. What celebrating Black History Month can do for us is offer an opportunity to interrogate the effects of colonialism and what we need to do to move forward.