Under My Umbrella, No More

Celebrating the second (and 57th) anniversary of Barbadian independence

Published November 30, 2023

Barbados’s most popular cultural export is Rihanna, hands-down, so it’s no big surprise that they’ve also been exporting wild thoughts. (Its chief (actual) export is rum, which has also been known to aid in that from time to time.) Anyway, a couple years ago Barbados took a plunge that looks to be pointing forward to a new chapter in Caribbean history, so let’s Shut Up and Drive right in.

Break It Off

It was on Nov. 30, 1966 that Barbados went from being a full-on British colony to being a self-governing commonwealth (like Canada). And then, on this date in 2021, they shed even that much connection (like the U.S., only without all the shooting): In a grand ceremony that included the naming of RiRi as a national hero – and oh, a speech from Prince Charles about the atrocities of slavery and other imperialistic evils – the country made one final salute to the monarchy before replacing the British flag with its own.

By the way, in case you’ve never seen it, the Barbados flag slaps:

Believe It

While Barbados may have been the first country in 34 years to peace out – Fiji bailed around the same time the TurboGrafx 16 came out (probably coincidentally), in 1987 – it doesn’t appear that they will be the last. There are 14 Commonwealth realms left, and at least six of the ones in the Americas (Belize, the Bahamas, Jamaica, Grenada, Antigua and Barbuda, and St. Kitts and Nevis) are currently considering their own mini-Brexit. Heck, some of them even told Prince William to his face during the disastrous Caribbean trip of Spring 2022.

Why now? It seems to be an outgrowth of the same general awakening that gave the U.S. its Black Lives Matter movement. The Caribbean realms have been protesting ever more heavily since 2020 or so, and it appears that the Crown only finally admitted guilt regarding the slave trade only because it was demanded. Did you know that Elizabeth I approved the very first English enslavement of Africans in 1562? That as many as 187,000 enslaved people were branded with the initials of the Duke of York? Protesters do.

What Now

Barbados has been called “one of the most stable political systems in the English-speaking Caribbean,” which must surely give hope to the others – especially since new U.K. prime minister Rishi Sunak escalated the rift this spring, by saying that further apology is “not something that we will focus our energies on.”

Jamaica is scheduled for a referendum in 2024. Belize, the only Commonwealth realm that King Charles III has never visited, has been considering an act of parliament. It remains to be seen whether it’ll turn into a big game of Russian Roulette, or if they’ll Stay (featuring Mikky Ekko).