Celebratory gunfire, dance, parades, fireworks, music: this was the scene in Bridgetown, Barbados, as the island country officially made its transition from constitutional monarchy to a republic on November 30th, 2021. One of its first acts as a republic? Designate Rihanna as a national hero.
Although Barbados gained independence from the United Kingdom in 1966, it remained a Commonwealth Realm: a constitutional monarchy with Queen Elizabeth as their head of state. For 400 years prior the British Empire had controlled Barbados, and for 200 of those, it actively participated in the slave trade on the island. For many Bajans, keeping the royal family of their former colonizers as their head of state seemed an uncomfortable link to their colonial past.
In choosing to replace Queen Elizabeth as their head of state, Barbados severed its last remaining ties to the United Kingdom. Although Barbados is becoming a republic, it will still be a part of the Commonwealth of Nations.
Chayse Buckley, a senior at Wayne Hills, said that, “I think a republic is better than a monarchy. So it is good that Barbados is doing this.”
Dame Sandra Prunella Mason was chosen by the Barbadian parliament to be the head of state for the country’s new republican government. Dame Sandra Prunella Mason was the former Governor-General of Barbados from 2018 to 2021.
As Elizabeth II, the former, “Queen of Barbados”, was being replaced, a different kind of queen was receiving an award. Rihanna, international superstar and Barbadian native, was designated a National Hero of Barbados as one of the new republic’s first acts.
“On behalf of a grateful nation, but an even prouder people, we therefore present to you the designee for national hero of Barbados, Ambassador Robyn Rihanna Fenty…May you continue to shine [bright] like a diamond and bring honor to your nation by your works, by your actions and to do credit wherever you shall go,” said Barbadian prime minister Mia Mottley.
Rihanna was previously named the ambassador of Barbados in 2018, with her new designation as a national hero adding to a long list of achievements in politics, business, entertainment, fashion, and music.
Rihanna addressed the crowd at Barbados’s National Honor ceremony, saying, “I’m so proud to be a Bajan. I’m gonna be a Bajan till the day I die…I have traveled around the world and receieved several awards and recognitions, but nothing, nothing, compares to being recognized in the soil you grew up in.”