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Reggae Month and Black History Month

By January 22, 2015Articles, blog
Lloyd Stanbury Island Stage contributor

Article by Lloyd Stanbury

January 22, 2015
“A people without knowledge of their past history origin and culture, is like a tree without roots.” – Marcus Garvey

HISTORY OF REGGAE MONTH – Reggae Month was conceived and initiated in 2007 by the board of directors of the Recording Industry Association of Jamaica (RIAJam) of which I was a member. The concept arose out of discussions between myself and public relations consultant for the Reggae Academy Awards Jackie Knight-Campbell, in the course of planning the February 2008 staging of the inaugural awards ceremony. A written request was submitted by RIAJam to then Prime Minister of Jamaica Bruce Golding proposing that February be officially declared Reggae Month in Jamaica. In January 2008 Governor General Hall, acting upon the advice of the Prime Minister, made the formal declaration, and Reggae Month was born.

The vision for Reggae Month is to generate local and international focus on Reggae music throughout the month of February each year, with the staging of relevant celebratory and business developmental activities in Jamaica. Activities for the first Reggae Month (February 2008), were coordinated by RIAJam working in collaboration with the Bob Marley and Rita Marley Foundations, and the Ministry of Culture. These activities included the staging by RIAJam of the Reggae Academy Awards in Kingston, the Bob Marley Africa Unite/Smile Jamaica concert at James Bond Beach in St. Mary presented by the Marley Foundations, the Reggae Film Festival presented by Barbara Blake Hannah and Peter Gittens, a series of music business panel discussions, emerging artist showcases, photographic exhibitions, and other events. The first Global Reggae Conference was also staged by the University of the West Indies during Reggae Month 2008.

WHY FEBRUARY FOR REGGAE MONTH – The decision to chose February as Reggae Month was unanimously agreed to by members of the board of directors of RIAJam. We took into consideration, among other things, the fact that music and media communities in Jamaica and around the world were already bringing special focus to Reggae in February each year as a result of various festivals, concerts, conferences and panel discussions staged annually in recognition of Bob Marley’s February 6th birthday.

REGGAE AND BLACK HISTORY – Some persons have suggested that celebrating Reggae Month in February poses a conflict with the American celebration of Black History Month. To those persons I would say, Reggae music IS about black history. In my opinion, there is no other genre of music in the world that can claim to highlight, celebrate, and inform about African history and issues as Reggae music has done, and continues to do. To my mind celebrating Reggae Month and Black History Month simultaneously therefore makes a lot of sense.

THE ROLE OF JARIA- The Jamaica Reggae Industry Association (JaRIA) was formed in 2008 after the staging of the first Reggae Month with the support and encouragement of then Minister of Culture Olivia “Babsy” Grange. For the past seven years JaRIA has been responsible for coordinating annual Reggae Month activities in Jamaica. The board of directors and members of JaRIA deserve very high commendation for the hard work and dedication displayed to facilitate the growth of Reggae Month to become what it is today. As we move into the future we should ensure that we proceed always being cognizant of the fact that Reggae Month is larger than any individual or organization. We should also not lose sight of the rapidly changing dynamics of the global music industry of which Reggae is a part.

“Shallow understanding from people of good will is more frustrating than absolute misunderstanding from people of ill will” – Martin Luther King, Jr.

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