The Washington Post

Barbados declares singer Rihanna a ‘national hero’

- BY JENNIFER HASSAN jennifer.hassan@washpost.com

After 55 years as a constituti­onal monarchy, Barbados has officially severed ties with Queen Elizabeth II — and one of its first actions as the world’s newest republic was to honor global superstar Rihanna with the title of “national hero.”

During her career, the 33-yearold singer has racked up many titles — award-winning musician, billionair­e makeup mogul, actor, philanthro­pist, entreprene­ur, fashion designer.

And now, the star who was born Robyn Rihanna Fenty in the Barbados parish of St. Michael in 1988 can add “national hero” to her ever-growing list of achievemen­ts.

The honor was bestowed early Tuesday during a presidenti­al inaugurati­on ceremony in the capital, Bridgetown, that marked the island nation’s official removal of Queen Elizabeth as its head of state — almost 400 years after Barbados became an English colony and 55 after it declared its independen­ce.

“On behalf of a grateful nation, but an even prouder people, we therefore present to you the designee for national hero for Barbados, Ambassador Robyn Rihanna Fenty,” Prime Minister Mia Mottley said.

“May you continue to shine like a diamond and bring honor to your nation by your works, by your actions,” she told the singer, referring to her hit song “Diamonds.”

Since 2018, Rihanna has held the title of ambassador for culture and youth in Barbados, and many on the island celebrate “Rihanna Day” on Feb. 22.

Calls for the Caribbean island to become a republic intensifie­d amid the Black Lives Matter movement that swept countries around the world last year. Barbados then announced that it would become a republic by Nov. 30, 2021, the 55th anniversar­y of its independen­ce.

“The time has come to fully leave our colonial past behind,” the government said at the time. Buckingham Palace said the widely debated matter was for Barbadian government officials and citizens to handle.

The heir to Britain’s throne, Prince Charles, attended Tuesday’s ceremony to represent the royal family. He said during the event that slavery was an “appalling atrocity which forever stains our history,” adding that “freedom, justice and selfdeterm­ination” had helped guide Barbados.

Britain played a predominan­t role in the transatlan­tic slave trade, with English settlers profiting off the island by turning it into a sugar colony with hundreds of thousands of enslaved Africans forced into labor.

In recent years, there have been growing demands for repa

Title bestowed as new republic swears in its first president

rations for slavery on the island.

On Tuesday, Queen Elizabeth issued a congratula­tory message to the country’s first president, Sandra Mason, and the people of Barbados, calling the occasion a “momentous day.”

“I first visited your beautiful country on the eve of independen­ce in early 1966, and I am very pleased that my son is with you today,” the monarch said, adding that Barbadians had long “held a special place in my heart.”

The queen also expressed hope that the two countries would remain friends.

Now that the 95-year-old monarch has been removed from the role of head of state, the country’s prison will no longer be known as “Her Majesty’s prison,” and officials including police and members of the military will no longer swear allegiance to the queen.

With Barbados’s decision now cemented, some wonder whether other Caribbean nations for which the queen remains head of state might follow suit.

In Jamaica, the leader of the opposition has suggested that the country should follow Barbados’s example. And in July, Jamaica announced that it would request compensati­on from Britain over its role in the slave trade in the 17 th and 18th centuries, when an estimated 600,000 Africans were shipped to the Caribbean as enslaved people.

 ?? RANDY BROOKS/AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE/GETTY IMAGES ?? Barbados Prime Minister Mia Mottley, left, asks President Sandra Mason, seated, to bestow the national honor on Rihanna, center.
RANDY BROOKS/AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE/GETTY IMAGES Barbados Prime Minister Mia Mottley, left, asks President Sandra Mason, seated, to bestow the national honor on Rihanna, center.

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