With the United Nation’s proclamation of the year 2011 as the International Year for People of African Descent , the annual Black History Month observed by African Americans for nearly a century will reflect a deeper significance when it kicks off next week.
The proclamation was first issued by the United Nations General Assembly on December 18, 2009, and launched December 10, 2010. As quiet as it may have been kept thus far, the International Year for People of African Descent officially started January 1.
In the words of the resolution adopted by the U.N. General Assembly, the proclamation was made “with a view to strengthening national actions and regional and international cooperation for the benefit of people of African descent in relation to their full enjoyment of economic, cultural, social, civil and political rights, their participation and integration in all political, economic, social and cultural aspects of society, and the promotion of a greater knowledge of and respect for their diverse heritage and culture.”
An Upgrade in Perspective
Black History Month has traditionally functioned as a means of highlighting the first-time individual achievements, landmarks events, and cultural trends associated with African Americans. And no one has suggested that should not happen in February 2011. However, an International Year for People of African Descent suggests individuals expand their awareness beyond the United States to embrace knowledge regarding “Afro-descendents” on every continent.
This leap in global consciousness is a major one for many Americans because citizen of the U.S. have long been accustomed to thinking in terms of African Americans or Black Americans. But few outside specialized academic or political circles are likely comfortable or even familiar with the following terms, which represent only a sample:
Speaking at an event supporting the launch of International Year for Peoples of African Descent, UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon noted that the impact of the transatlantic slave trade is one that continues to have negative consequences for Afro-descendants and Africans across the globe:
“The international community,” said Ki-moon, “cannot accept that whole communities are marginalized because of the color of their skin. People of African descent are among those most affected by racism. Too often, they face denial of basic rights such as access to quality health services and education. Such fundamental wrongs have a long and terrible history.”