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The Caribbean island of Barbados has severed all colonial ties to Britain, making it the newest republic in the world.

Barbados made headlines a few weeks ago when the prime minister was one of the most outspoken leaders at the COP26 event on the climate crisis. This is due to the fact that Barbados is a country that’s surrounded by ocean and more likely to be devastated by rising water levels in the future. Once again, the country has taken the global spotlight after cutting all colonial ties to Britain after nearly four centuries of European rule. 

Barbados was one of the first colonized islands of the Americas by Spanish travellers in the 15th century. It was an island that was that was quickly covered in plantations after European arrival, becoming a hotspot for brutal slave labour, mostly for the bustling sugar industry of the 17th century. Enslaved Africans were continually sent there to work on the cane fields through the North Atlantic Slave Trade, eventually making it a predominantly Black country.

On Tuesday, Nov. 30 at midnight, exactly 55 years after the nation became an independent state on the same day in 1966, the island ceded the title “head of the state” from Queen Elizabeth II to Dame Sandra Mason, a Barbadian diplomat and lawyer who is now the first ever president of Barbados. 

In celebration, an event was held the night before in a popular square on the island that included many leaders, state officials, and famous artists, including the country’s most famous global celebrity, Rihanna. A British lord’s statue was removed from the popular square where the ceremony took place last year amid the social uprisings around the globe in response to the Black Lives Matter movement. Prince Charles also attended the event and shared some words about the “stain” of slavery on Britain’s history. There were fireworks, a fleet of steel-pan players, and a national awards ceremony to end the night on a celebratory note.

A well known Bajan activist and poet, Winston Farrell, shared powerful words that resonated across the audience. 

“Some have grown up stupid under the Union Jack, lost in the castle of their skin. It is about us, rising out of the cane fields, reclaiming our history,” said Farrell. 

With this final shedding of the violent history and domination of colonialism over the easternmost Caribbean island, the people of Barbados are now a fully self-determinate population.