Reggae defines Jamaica’s cultural synchronicity with Black History Month
Written by on February 12, 2024
Philadelphia-native Zahmu Sankofa created a Black History Month anthem that exemplifies excellence, creativity, accomplishments and superlative achievements of Africans dispersed throughout the USA since slavery and expresses the sentiments of descendants throughout the diaspora and the globe.
“LET’S CELEBRATE OUR DAY HAS COME (CELEBRATE, CELEBRATE, AH….)
ANCESTORS GREET EVERYONE
WE CAN TALK ABOUT WHAT MUST BE DONE
BUT IT’S GONNA TAKE MORE THAN A MONTH
ONCE AND FOR ALL
LET’S TELL THE STORY TRUE
LET’S TELL THE STORY RIGHT
LET’S TELL IT ALL
AND SING ABOUT OUR VICTORIES
OUR STRUGGLES AND OUR STRIDES…”
Sankofa’s theme resonates here in February and in in other calendar months in Europe, South America and Australia.
Originally celebrated in the USA and Canada, the United Kingdom and Ireland followed suit by dedicating October the month to honor Black achievers in their territories.
And with pride in culture and heritage, Africans throughout the globe claimed a month-long celebration to boast their contribution to enhancing the world’s status.
However, in 2008 Jamaica decided their “Out Of Many One” motto could better express their cultural heritage by acknowledging the music identified by the nation with a unifying representation they branded — Reggae Month.
According to the Jamaica Information Service:
“On Jan. 9 2008 the government of Jamaica announced that the month of February was to be officially declared as Reggae Month. This was done to highlight and celebrate the impact of the musical genre on the country’s social, cultural and economic development. Additionally, the birthdays of two of Jamaica’s and reggae music’s late icons are commemorated during the month of February: The late Dennis Brown also known as the ‘Crown Prince of Reggae’ is celebrated on Feb. 1, while the late Robert Nesta Marley, the renowned ‘King of Reggae’ is celebrated on Feb. 6.”
“The Ministry of Information, Culture, Youth and Sports was then charged with the responsibility of developing activities to make Reggae Month an international phenomenon and making Jamaica the showplace of Reggae Music for the world.”
Since that inaugural year, a plethora of exhibitions, concerts, symposia, tributes, contests etc highlight the island’s music and its dancehall offspring by dominating the landscape with its beat throughout the shortest calendar month of the year.
The synchronicity to hail pioneers as well as current trailblazers of their black, green and gold banner during the second month of the year distinctly distinguishes the nation’s attempt at saluting specific excellence.
Notwithstanding, the predominantly African population which became independent August 6, 1962 often earmark separate periods to honor athletes, national heroes, and distinguished contributors to their heritage and culture.
Borne from an idea realized by Carter G. Woodson who dedicated his life to educating African Americans about the achievements and contributions of their ancestors Woodson’s emergence in 1875 in New Canton, Virginia is well documented.
According to reports, he worked as a sharecropper, miner and at various other jobs during his childhood to help support his large family.
One writer said “though he entered high school late, he made up for lost time, graduating in less than two years.”
After attending Berea College in Kentucky, Woodson worked in the Philippines as an education superintendent for the U.S. government.
He earned his bachelor’s and master’s degrees at the University of Chicago before entering Harvard.
In 1912, three years before founding the Association for the Study of African American Life & History (ASALH) he became only the second African American (after W.E.B. DuBois) to earn a doctorate from that institution.
In February 1926, Woodson sent out a press release announcing the first Negro History Week.
He chose February because the month contained the birthdays of both Abraham Lincoln and Frederick Douglass, two prominent men whose historic achievements African Americans already celebrated. (Lincoln’s birthday was February 12; Douglass, who was formerly enslaved, hadn’t known his actual birthday, but had marked the occasion on February 14.)
Woodson authored more than 20 books, including A Century of Negro Migration (1918), The History of the Negro Church (1921), The Negro in Our History (1922) and his most celebrated text, The Mis-Education of the Negro (1933), Woodson also worked in education, as principal for the Armstrong Manual Training School in Washington, D.C., and dean at Howard University and the West Virginia Collegiate Institute.
Woodson died in Washington D.C. April 3, 1950.
Every U.S. president has issued a proclamation honoring the spirit of Black History Month.
Gerald Ford began the tradition in 1976, saying the celebration enabled people to “seize the opportunity to honor the too-often neglected accomplishments of Black Americans in every area of endeavor throughout our history.”
Reportedly, Ronald Reagan’s first Black History Month proclamation stated that “understanding the history of Black Americans is a key to understanding the strength of our nation.”
Here is a shortlisting of countries and their inaugural dates of commemorating Black History Month:
Germany — Feb. 1990 — (2nd after England)
Panama — May
UK — 1987 — October
The Netherlands — 2015 — October
Australia — in 2008 — July
Costa Rica — 2018 — August, (1980’s Dia del Negro) Black Peoples Day Aug. 31 in the 1980s
Canada — 1993 — February
Catch You On The Inside!