Wednesday, August 22, 2007

International Day for the Remembrance of the Slave Trade and its Abolition

John Kamara - Amistad's deckhand and native of Sierra Leone triumphantly showing the Sierra Leonean colors while the Freedom Schooner sails into Albert Dock in Liverpool.
Photo courtesy of Albert Novelli via Amistad America

23 August 2007
The International Day for the Remembrance of the Slave Trade and its Abolition

Since 1998, UNESCO has been reminding the international community of the importance of commemorating 23 August, International Day for the Remembrance of the Slave Trade and its Abolition. This date not only commemorates the historic night in 1791 when the slaves of Santo Domingo rose up to break their chains and launch the insurrection that eventually led to the Haitian revolution, it also serves to pay tribute to all those who worked collectively and individually to trigger the irreversible process of the abolition of the slave trade and slavery throughout the world. This commitment and the strategies of action used that were conducted to fight the inhumane system of slavery were to have a considerable impact on the human rights movement.

Beyond the act of commemoration, this international Day aims at eliciting reflection on a tragic past that may be distant but whose repercussions continue to fuel injustice and exclusion today. This reflection on the barbarity our society is capable of unleashing with a clear conscience is all the more necessary, salutary even, as millions of men, women and children still today suffer the horrors of new forms of slavery. This is how the remembrance of past tragedies serves to enlighten us about present-day tragedies of exploitation and dehumanization.

Message from Mr Koïchiro Matsuura, Director-General of UNESCO
The Voyage of the Amistad

Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice honored the launch of the Freedom Schooner Amistad at a ceremony earlier this year. One passage read,
It is important to remember the struggles of the past as we work to transform the future. I very much have in mind our own history as I work to promote freedom and fundamental human rights around the world.
The Amistad is making a fourteen-month transatlantic, international journey retracing the historic triangular trade in honor of the 200th Anniversary of the Abolition of the Transatlantic Slave Trade Route. The vessel left the port of New Haven, Connecticut on June 21 to a fanfare attended by hundreds. The ship is a near-replica of the historic 19th Century schooner La Amistad. The crew of this expedition will include college students who will be using information communication technologies to report back to classrooms of the travels from port to port.

The Secretary Rice message added,
“This schooner is about to embark on a new journey. This time, the Amistad sails the Atlantic as a symbol of freedom. Her voyage will highlight education, tolerance, and freedom for all mankind.”
The United Kingdom's Minister of Culture and the UN Ambassador from Sierra Leone also participated in the launching; large events are planned for the ships arrivals in Liverpool, England and Freetown, Sierra Leone later this year.

The Freedom Schooner Amistad sailed into Liverpool on Sunday with the UK's former Deputy Prime Minister John Prescott at the helm. It's arrived at Albert Dock was timed to launch a week of events leading up to the opening of Liverpool's new International Slavery Museum on 23rd August.

The U.S. National Commission for UNESCO has a webpage dedicated to the 200th Anniversary of the Abolition of the Transatlantic Slave Route.

UNESCO Commemorates The Slave Trade and its Abolution

While the notion of a “duty to remember” was in large part developed in the aftermath of the Second World War, the tragedy of the slave trade and slavery has only recently entered the international debate, raising specific ethical and socio-political issues in the societies concerned. UNESCO's Slave Route Project endeavors to enhance mutual understanding among peoples by creating a dynamic process to help develop new forms of citizenship, respect for cultural diversity, intercultural dialog and the fight against prejudice and racism.

No comments: