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Organizing for Social Change

Impact in Jamaica[edit]

A Black Power movement arose in Jamaica in the late 1960s. Though Jamaica had gained independence from the British Empire in 1962, and Prime Minister Hugh Shearer was black, many cabinet ministers (such as Edward Seaga) and business elites were white. Large segments of the black majority population were unemployed or did not earn a living wage. The Jamaica Labour Party government of Hugh Shearer banned Black Power literature such as The Autobiography of Malcolm X and the works of Eldridge Cleaver and Stokely Carmichael.

Guyanese academic Walter Rodney was appointed as a lecturer at the University of the West Indies in January 1968, and became one of the main exponents of Black Power in Jamaica. When the Shearer government banned Rodney from re-entering the country, the Rodney Riots broke out. As a result of the Rodney affair, radical groups and publications such as Abeng began to emerge, and the opposition People’s National Party gained support. In the 1972 election, the Jamaica Labour Party was defeated by the People’s National Party, and Michael Manley, who had expressed support for Black Power, became Prime Minister.[53]

Black is beautiful[edit]

Main article: Black is beautiful

The cultivation of pride in the African-American race was often summarized in the phrase “Black is Beautiful.” The phrase is rooted in its historical context, yet the relationship to it has changed in contemporary times. “I don’t think it’s ‘Black is beautiful’ anymore. It’s ‘I am beautiful and I’m black.’ It’s not the symbolic thing, the afro, power sign… That phase is over and it succeeded. My children feel better about themselves and they know that they’re black,” stated a respondent in Bob Blauner’s longitudinal oral history of U.S. race relations in 1986.[54] The outward manifestations of an appreciation and celebration of blackness abound: black dolls, natural hair, black Santas, models and celebrities that were once rare and symbolic have become commonplace.

The “Black is beautiful” cultural movement aimed to dispel the notion that black people‘s natural features such as skin color, facial features and hair are inherently ugly.[55] John Sweat Rock was the first to coin the phrase “Black is Beautiful”, in the slavery era. The movement asked that men and women stop straightening their hair and attempting to lighten or bleach their skin.[56] The prevailing idea in American culture was that black features are less attractive or desirable than white features.