Amanda M. Pericles
The Other Black History Month
As an Instagram page curator, I feel like May has been a busy month. There have been so many dates and celebrations that I never knew about until now! Now, I know that we all think of February when anyone mentions Black History, and I know that EVERY month is Black History Month *flips hair*, but I feel like this past month has been chock full of awesome celebrations of Blackness within the Latinx community that we shouldn't let pass us by. Hence, The Other Black History Month.
The first celebrations are Haitian Heritage Month and Haitian Flag Day. The Haitian Flag Day celebration, celebrated annually on May 18th, commemorates the day the Haitian flag was officially created in 1803. Funnily enough, the flag you see today wasn't the first official flag. Alexandre Pétion and Jean-Jacques Dessalines, leaders of the black and mixed people of Haiti, came up with the idea of blue and red bands placed vertically, based off of the French flag. The blue represented the Black and Mixed people, while the red represented their blood. They removed the white stripe found on the French flag as a way of telling France that they had lost control of their colony (Haiti). This first flag was sewn by Catherine Flon. On January 1, 1804, the flag was officially modified to what you see today: two horizontal stripes - one blue and one red, with the blue stripe above the red one. On Haitian Flag Day, you'll see Haitians repping their country by wearing the actual flag or its colors. Haitian Heritage Month, especially celebrated by Haitian-Americans, was first celebrated in 1998 (in Boston, MA) by a local television network - "Tele Kreyol". They celebrated all month long with exhibits, parades, and flag raising. A few years after, in Florida, they began celebrating state-wide, leading to its national celebration within the United States. (If you didn't know that there were mad Haitians in Florida, now you do.) May is just a huge month for Haiti, it appears, as even Toussaint Louverture, the Haitian general who led out the only successful slave revolution, and organized victories against the French, Spanish, and British colonizers, was born on May 20th. The 15th-18th of May commemorates the time when Black and Mixed people (led by Pétion and Dessalines) came together to fight against Napoleon Bonaparte's colonial army, leading to the independence of Haiti in 1804 as the first, independent Black Republic in the world.
Panama's Black History Month, or Mes de la Etnia Negra is celebrated to recognize the contributions of the people of African descent within the country, including those directly descended from African slaves, as well as those descended from the imported West Indian workers who built the Panama Canal. During this month, you'll find movies being played, concerts, panels, parades, and more. Panama's Black History Day, or Día de la Etnia Negra has been celebrated on the 30th since the year 2000. Afro-Panamanian contributions are great within music, food, sports, and a great majority of Panamanian culture, as a whole (which we already knew).
Colombia's National Afro-Colombian Day, or Dia de Afrocolombianidad, is celebrated on May 21st annually to commemorate the abolition of slavery in Colombia in 1851. They began commemorating this day in 2001. This day celebrates the contributions of the Afro-Colombian population through food, art, music, and more. San Basilio de Palenque (in Cartagena, Colombia) was the first free African town in the Americas, officially declared free by the Spanish in 1691. It was founded by Benkos Biohó, a former African king who had been sold into slavery and escaped, fleeing to the south of Cartagena. He went on to form an army of escaped slaves who conquered the area around the Montes de Maria. Today, you'll find a statue in the main square of Palenque with Biohó's right arm reaching out, with broken chains hanging from his wrists.
I never knew any of this information until this year! Crazy, huh? Feel free to take a look at the references I listed below. Also, shoutout to all the Black Latinx graduates for making their mark within Black History! Congratulations, Class of 2018!
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