UN Observes International Day of Remembrance of Victims of Slavery and the Transatlantic Slave Trade

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Dessima Williams

Survivors of the "infamous horror" known as the Middle Passage had landed in ports throughout Latin America and the Caribbean, entering into an existence of forced labour and systemic cruelty that had lasted for generations, the representative of Grenada Ambassador Dessima Williams told an event commemorating the International Day of Remembrance of the Victims of Slavery and the Transatlantic Slave Trade.

Speaking on behalf of the Group of Latin American and the Caribbean States, Ambassador Williams said the Atlantic Ocean became the final resting place of thousands of souls who perished along the way.

Dessima Williams : In large measure, entire economies in what is now known as the developed world were literally built on the backs of this involuntary African labour. May such an acknowledged crime against humanity never be repeated in any form or manifestation in any part of our globe.  Emerging from this unparallel tragedy in the history of our planet was the liberation of the many African men, women and children who had endured the torment, the torture and the attempted dehumanization and who fought against these considerable odds to gain their freedom. Those persons and their descendants –people like myself, are those who the great Jamaican thinker, Bob Marley referred to as the "survivors".

NAR: Ambassador Williams said the struggle for full and absolute emancipation remained a continuing endeavour, and reparation was necessary in order fully heal humanity from the brutality of the period when chattel slavery was forced and perpetuated.

Dessima Williams: Part of this emancipation –this freedom was achieved first in Haiti in 1804,  This at had set in motion the movement for freedom from bondage in other parts of the Caribbean and the wider Latin American region, as well as in North America and Europe and beyond. At this juncture, we cannot lose sight of the fact that in a number of regions including the sub- region of the Caribbean, emancipation ushered in an era of colonialism, which in many respects merely perpetuated a refined form of what had formerly prevailed. Thus, the anti-colonial struggle was born in earnest as a logical outgrowth of the anti-slavery emancipation struggle, and serves as a constant reminder that full emancipation did not ended with the abolition of chattel slavery.

NAR: According to Ambassador Williams, a number Latin American and Caribbean States have taken national initiatives to disseminate information on the slave trade and its gruesome historical legacy. She highlighted the efforts of El Salvador to integrate the issue of slavery into the social studies curriculum of its education system. Jamaica promoted awareness through various artistic, literary and scholarly programmes.

Donn Bobb, United Nations.

Duration: 3’13″

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