In the UK, October marks the beginning of Black History Month. This national celebration aims to promote and celebrate the contributions of those with African and Caribbean heritage to British society and to foster an understanding of Black history in general.
The event began in the US in the 1920s, and was first celebrated in the UK in 1987. It was arranged by Akyaaba Addai-Sebo, who came to the UK from Ghana as a refugee in 1984 when he sought refuge from political persecution during the regime of Jerry John Rawlings. He said leaving Ghana during that time meant he was “therefore absorbed in community activism right on my arrival.”
Loíza is Puerto Rico’s center for African-inspired traditions and it retains one of the largest Black populations on the island; more than 60 percent of its 30,000 residents identify as Black.
The history of science and technology in Africa has received little attention compared to other regions of the world, despite notable developments in various fields. African people have been observing the stars and planets since ancient times. For centuries, Africans have searched the heavens for meaning, order and understanding of their place as a people on earth.
Astronomy was and is still practised in parts of Africa to measure time, seasons, cycles, direction and naming rites. Culturally embedded astronomical knowledge and observation were used to inform social forms, ideologies and behaviours in society.
The Antemoro people are an ethnic group in Madagascar, an island nation off the coast of Africa that were widely reputed in the pre-colonial period for their astrologers, who could predict the future based on lunar phases and astrological charts. Until the fall of the Antemoro kingdom in the late 19th century, the inhabitants were revered for their knowledge of astrology. This art by the Antemoro people of Madagascar was largely attributed to their knowledge of a writing skill known as “sorabe”. The “sorabe” texts that provided instructions for teaching astrology and documented historical accounts of their customs and traditions
Due to this ability to read stars and predict future occurrences, the services of Antemoro astrologers, who were traditionally referred to as “ombiasy,” were in high demand in many localities in Madagascar, according to 101last tribes.com.
There came a period where almost every king had an ombiasy in his court who served as an adviser. It also became a pattern where every village in Madagascar had an ombiasy stationed in the locality to offer insights and understanding before major decisions were taken.
It became a culture where Antemoro astrologers would travel out of their homeland for six months to a year to consult on behalf of people who were in need of good fortunes for their harvest or marriage or wanted to resolve a misfortune that had befallen them.
This periodic exodus of the ombiasy created a network of spiritual advisers across the Madagascar region. Today, the Antemoro paper, which is decorated with fresh flowers and traditionally used to record secret knowledge using sorabe, has become a source of income for many inhabitants who either sell it to tourists or export it to international markets.
The Antemoro have a population of 500,000 and are situated on the southeastern coast of Madagascar between Manakara and Farafangana. When they settled in Madagascar, they converted to Islam. They soon adopted the traditional religion but many still upheld the tenets of the Islamic religion by refraining from eating pork.
Their mainstay is farming, producing rice and coffee. They also mine salt. Those with knowledge of the sorabe manufacture charms and practice divinity. The kingdom witnessed a decline following the emergence of the Europeans in Madagascar and their subsequent colonial exploitation. The Antemoro are also known for their expertise in other traditional arts and crafts, including weaving, carving, and the production of perfumes and essential oils. These skills are passed down through the generations and are an important part of Antemoro culture and identity
In the 19th and 20th centuries, African tribes were subjected to colonization and exploitation by European powers, which led to the loss of much of their traditional land and cultural practices. This period of colonization had a profound impact on the Antemoro people, and many of their cultural traditions and practices were lost or suppressed.
Despite these challenges, the Antemoro remain a vibrant and resilient community, with a strong sense of cultural identity and a deep connection to their traditions and way of life. Their astrological traditions, in particular, continue to thrive and are an important part of their cultural heritage.
Multiple Grammy Award Winner Susana Baca is considered one of the most celebrated political elites in Peru. Ipsos Apoyo poll in 2011 named her as one of the most popular politicians with an approval rating of 62 percent after her appointment as Culture Minister in the Ollanta Humala administration. She is the first public official in Peru of African descent.
In its 60 year history, Notting Hill Carnival has become a symbol of Black Britain and its resilience to celebrate cultural pride in the face of oppression and discrimination.
Once used to target the Black community and tarnish Afro-Caribbean culture, Notting Hill Carnival has become a national British icon, honouring multiculturalism and the uniting of diverse identities across London and the UK. However, the origin of Notting Hill Carnival will always be in the Caribbean and with London’s Black British community.
The Notting Hill race riots
Racially motivated violence on Black Londoners occurred throughout the summer and culminated in the Notting Hill race riots. On 29 September, a mob of white nationalists marched on Bramley Road and attacked the homes of the West Indian residents. The riots continued every night until 5 October.
When did Notting Hill Carnival start?
As a social response to the riots, the first Notting Hill Carnival took place the following January in the form of an indoor, BBC televised event at St Pancras Town Hall. The founder of the Notting Hill Carnival was Claudia Jones, a Trinidadian journalist and activist, who worked closely with fellow Trinidadian and influential musician Edric Connor. Connor became a regular performer over the early years of the carnival and Jones is now known as the ‘Mother of Notting Hill Carnival’.
This first Notting Hill Carnival showcased elements of Caribbean culture and art, taking inspiration from the original carnivals of the Caribbean islands but presented in a more European cabaret style. There is some debate as to whether this event was really the first Carnival, but most agree on its importance in the Carnival’s history and the UK’s Caribbean community.
Over the next few years, the Carnival took place in this format, however another event that more closely resembles today’s extravaganza was being planned. Rhaune Laslett from Stepney was the President of the London Free School, a group of activists and emerging artists based in London. The group, led by Laslett, wanted to establish a festival to bring together the various ethnic groups and nationalities in the then-disadvantaged area of Notting Hill. Laslett felt that;
“although West Indians, Africans, Irish and many other nationalities all live in a very congested area, there is very little communication between us.”
She wanted to change this whilst also challenging the perception that Notting Hill was a run-down slum area, something that’s hard to imagine now, partly due to the success of the Carnival.
The London Free School realised their dream of a community fair for Notting Hill in September 1966. Originally a traditionally British fair, the various identities and ethnicities of the Notting Hill area were given the chance to showcase their culture and interact with others. It’s safe to say, over 50 years on, their more lofty goal of cultural unity has been largely achieved.
The 1966 Notting Hill Carnival hosted famed Trinidadian musician Russell Henderson, who had previously performed at the indoor edition. Henderson’s influence, as well as other musicians who performed in the first few years, shaped the event into what it is today. He moved off the stage and into a precession to bring more energy and excitement. This was a driving force behind the two iterations of the Carnival merging – and why today it epitomises West Indian carnival culture.
The fair continued annually and by the late 1970s it was undeniably Caribbean, and only growing in popularity. In the 10 years after its inception, the Carnival progressed from two bands to a dozen and, after operating out of The Mangrove Restaurant for a time, it attracted sponsorships, introduced generators and sound systems, and the route was extended.
The origins of Notting Hill Carnival costumes
Most of these advancements were credited to Leslie Palmer, Notting Hill Carnival’s director from 1973 to 1975. Palmer encouraged bands, performers and attendees to wear traditional masquerade costumes, a Caribbean tradition that goes back hundreds of years. Enslaved Africans on the British and French West Indian plantations would hold their own festivities when their masters held masquerade balls for lent.
The enslaved would mimic the costumes worn by the Europeans as a way to mock them. After emancipation, these costumes became a symbol of freedom and cultural identity, traditions that survived over two centuries, made it back across the Atlantic with the Windrush Generation, all the way to Notting Hill. By the mid-1970s, the Notting Hill Carnival of today was beginning to take shape, but unfortunately, racist attitudes of the time would still have to be confronted.
Racism, tension and clashes
The more West Indian the Notting Hill Carnival became, the more it seemed to spark racial tensions and be tarnished by riots. In reality, the Carnival was an easy and large-scale target for those who wanted to harass London’s Black British communities. The policing of the Carnival at this time was harsh and uncompromising. Media coverage was overwhelmingly negative and one-sided, often portraying the Carnival as menacing and attendees as troublemakers.
Disproportionate coverage of confrontations at the Carnival put tensions on a knife edge every year. Huge numbers of police violently broke up the predominantly Black crowd in 1976, resulting in rioting and arrests. Whilst the violence did slowly diminish as the years went on, it wasn’t until 1987 that the approach to policing the Carnival softened in response to the clashes of that year.
For the first time in 54 years, the Carnival was forced to desert the streets of Notting Hill in 2020 and 2021 due to the Coronavirus pandemic. The organisers replaced in-person festivities with online events. However, the previous few years attracted around one million attendees, making it the largest street party in Europe. The tribute to Caribbean, African and Black diasporic culture has stayed true to its roots through its unmistakable sounds, colours and atmosphere.
The spectacle of the modern Carnival however has changed, its significance is now far beyond the cultural unity of the Notting Hill area. The Carnival is part of the identity of the UK’s Afro-Caribbean community, a symbol of their fight for equality, a huge event in the British calendar and a £93m contributor to the UK economy. The Notting Hill Carnival is one of many ways Black people have made a profound cultural impact on Britain, and perhaps the most fun.
In 2006, the festival was voted into the list of cultural icons of England by the general public since its beginning in 1959. The success of the Notting Hill Carnival demonstrates the power that culture has in bridging gaps and easing tensions. The festival is held yearly in August during the Bank Holiday.
When Colombians elected their first leftist president ever on Sunday, they also elected the country’s first Black vice president: Francia Marquez, a single mother who worked as a maid before challenging international mining interests as a fiery environmentalist. Her victory marks a turning point in a country plagued by social inequalities and historically governed by conservative elites.
“It’s time to move from resistance to power,” the 40-year-old candidate would chant, raising her fist – with a smile.