24 March 2008
Press Release
Note No. 6132

Department of Public Information • News and Media Division • New York

Note to Correspondents


United Nations Observance in Remembrance of Slavery Victims


Keynote Speech by Harry Belafonte to Commemorate

200th Anniversary of United States Abolition of Slave Trade


On 25 March from 10 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. in the Economic and Social Council Camber at United Nations Headquarters, the Permanent Mission of the United States to the United Nations, the Caribbean Community (CARICOM) Ambassador’s Caucus and the African Union, in association with the United Nations Department of Public Information, will organize the first annual worldwide commemoration of the International Day of Remembrance of the Victims of Slavery and the Transatlantic Slave Trade.


Kiyo Akasaka, Under-Secretary-General for Communications and Public Information, will introduce a programme that will begin with solemn African drumming.  Statements will be delivered by the President of the sixty-second session of the General Assembly, Srgjan Kerim, United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, the Chair of the Permanent Representatives of CARICOM Ambassadors Caucus, and representatives of the African Union, European Union and the United States.  The solemn commemoration will also have the participation of Congressman Donald M. Payne of the United States House of Representatives, whose bill to establish a United States Commission to coordinate activities for the 200th anniversary of the abolition of the Transatlantic Slave Trade Act was recently signed into law by President George W. Bush.  A keynote address on “The 200th anniversary of the abolition of the Transatlantic Slave Trade in the United States” will be delivered by Recording Academy award-winning actor and singer Harry Belafonte.


The observance will feature artistic performances by drummers and dancers from Guinea, Mali and Senegal, poetry from Liberia and a steel pan troupe from the Caribbean.  The event will be telecast live by UNTV and simultaneously webcast at www.un.org/webcast.  United Nations staff members, delegations of Member States, non-governmental organizations and media are invited to attend the 25 March memorial ceremony.  Individuals in possession of a valid United Nations grounds pass need not register.  All others should submit a request for security clearance to Papa Malick Diakhate, e-mail:  diakhate@un.org.


Following the observance, at 1:30 p.m., a press conference is scheduled in Room 226 with Mr. Akasaka, Mr. Belafonte, Mr. Payne and Ambassador Christopher Hackett of Barbados, Chair of the CARICOM Ambassadors Caucus.  (For information, contact Vikram Sura, e-mail:  sura@un.org.)


A series of events at United Nations Headquarters are scheduled for the week.  The inauguration of the exhibit, “The Middle Passage:  White Ships/Black Cargo”, with a musical tribute on 26 March (contact Maria Wichmann, e-mail:  wichmann@un.org);a briefing for non-governmental organizations and the world premiere of a UNESCO-produced film on 27 March (contact Saša Gorisek, e-mail:  gorisek@un.org); and a student videoconference on 28 March with students assembled in Sierra Leone, Norway, Saint Lucia, Canada, Cape Verde, United Kingdom and United Nations Headquarters (contact William Yotive, e-mail:  yotive@un.org).


Also coinciding with the observance, the Department of Public Information will launch the newest worldwide educational outreach programme to increase awareness of and educate present and future generations about the causes, consequences, lessons and legacy of the 400-year slave trade.  The outreach programme, mandated by General Assembly resolution 62/122 of 17 December 2007, builds upon the commemorative programme of 2007:  www.un.org/events/slaveryabolition.


For more information, please contact:  Dawn Johnston-Britton, Chief, Public Inquiries Unit, Outreach Division, United Nations Department of Public Information, e-mail:  johnston-britton@un.org, tel.:  1 212 963 6984.


For media accreditation, please visit:  www.un.org/media/accreditation.  Gary Fowlie, Chief, Media Accreditation and Liaison Unit, United Nations Department of Public Information, tel.:  1 212 963 6937, fax:  1 212 963 4642.


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For information media • not an official record