What is at stake for the British Commonwealth?

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Nicole Aljoewho is Jamaican, saw a series of reactions to Queen Elizabeth II’s death in her family conversations on WhatsApp.

With relatives living in Canada and the UK, Aljoe noticed the elderly were sad and upset by the Queen’s passing and spoke of her with great respect.

“They have a completely different relationship with her,” says Aljoe, a professor of English and African studies at Northeastern University.

Many of Aljoe’s older relatives attended schools in Jamaica or the UK when Queen Elizabeth II was described as the mother of kingdoms, she says, meaning they were part of her family .

The 15 flags of the countries that make up the Commonwealth realm and now have King Charles III as monarch and head of state. Graphic by Zach Christensen/Northeastern

Jamaica was one of the dominions of the British monarchy from 1655 until 1962, when it gained independence from the British Empire. The country remained a Commonwealth realm with the British monarch as head of state, represented by an appointed governor-general.

Today, the British monarchy rules over 15 remaining kingdoms, including the United Kingdom, Australia, Canada, New Zealand, Jamaica, Antigua and Barbuda, Bahamas, Belize, Grenada, Papua New Guinea, the Solomon Islands, St. Kitts and Nevis, St. Lucia, St. Vincent and the Grenadines and Tuvalu.

The British monarch also chairs the Commonwealth of Nations, a voluntary association of 56 countries, most of which are former British colonies, with a combined population of 2.5 billion people.

Aljoe’s younger parents had a more nuanced, if not downright negative, reaction to Queen Elizabeth II’s death, she says, as they had the opportunity to attend postcolonial studies classes and learned the misdeeds of the British Empire. The younger generation believe the Queen as monarch was somehow responsible for the horrific events in Jamaican history, she says.

Jamaicans have been asking the British Crown for an apology and reparations for decades, written NPRas the empire forced hundreds of thousands of enslaved Africans to toil on the island and cultivate sugar cane under brutal conditions, including rape and murder.

“You could say that the continued devaluation of the Jamaican economy, the fact that it has to depend on tourism is a complete consequence of the fact that it was colonized by the United Kingdom and that certain aspects of its potential economic development n ‘have not been explored,” Aljoe said. said.

Similar sentiments are shared by residents of other former British colonies, for example, in Africa.

The leader of the South African Pan Africanist Congress of Azania party, Mzwanele Nyhontso, said that his party could not sing the praises of a monarchy that organized the transatlantic slave trade that resulted in the genocide of more than 12 million Africans and the forced and illegal extraction of more than 20 million compatriots. Slavery robbed the continent of its labor force and built the Western Hemisphere’s economies instead, Nythontso said.

Northeastern Associate Professor of Cultures, Societies, and Global Studies Richard Wamai says the death of Queen Elizabeth II marks a lost opportunity for the monarch to come to terms with and address the injustices committed in Kenya, her home country.

Princess Elizabeth was staying at Treetops Lodge in Kenya’s Aberdare National Park in February 1952 when her father, King George VI, died, and she learned she had become queen aged 25.

A year later, Wamai’s mother, Immaculate Wangui Wamai, was imprisoned for three years for supporting Mau Mau freedom fighters when they rebelled against white European settlers, the British army and forces local pro-British.

Wamai’s mother was concerned about the oppression and brutality against black Kenyans, he says, which escalated after the British declared a national emergency in 1952.

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