19 May 2009
Press Release
Note No. 6203

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

Note to Correspondents


HIP-HOP PIONEER TO BE CONFIRMED AS GOODWILL AMBASSADOR FOR PERMANENT MEMORIAL


TO HONOUR VICTIMS OF SLAVERY, AT 20 MAY HEADQUARTERS CEREMONY


Hip-hop pioneer and renowned celebrity Russell Simmons will be confirmed as Goodwill Ambassador for the Permanent Memorial at the United Nations to honour the victims of Slavery and the Transatlantic Slave Trade at a Headquarters ceremony at 10 a.m. on Wednesday, 20 May.  The hour-long ceremony will double as the official launch of the Trust Fund for the Permanent Memorial to one of the most profoundly tragic periods in the history of humankind.


Organized by the Permanent Mission of Jamaica to the United Nations on behalf of the Member States of the Caribbean Community (CARICOM) and the African Union, the event aims to re-engage the attention of the international community with the horrific nature of slavery, the transatlantic slave trade and its legacy of discrimination.


“We feel Mr. Simmons is an ideal candidate to espouse the broader concept and objectives of the initiative to erect this permanent memorial,” said Raymond Wolfe, Jamaica’s Permanent Representative to the United Nations and Chairman of the Permanent Memorial Committee.  Mr. Simmons, voted among USA Today’s “Top 25 Most Influential People of the Past 25 years”, “was an easy choice”, he added.


Lila Ratsifandrihamanana, Permanent Observer of the African Union to the United Nations, highlighted the commitment of African countries to the initiative, referring to a decision taken at the regional body’s Twelfth Assembly of Heads of State and Government, which “recognizes the enduring and tragic impact of the slave trade as a crime against humanity on the African people and its generations”.


Best known as a leading entrepreneur and hip-hop pioneer, Mr. Simmons’ groundbreaking vision has influenced music and the recording industry, fashion, jewellery, finance, television and film, as well as the face of modern philanthropy.  As Chairman and Chief Executive Officer of Rush Communications, he has consistently leveraged his influence in the media and popular culture to give back.  A devoted yogi, Mr. Simmons also leads the non-profit division of his organization, Rush Community Affairs, and its ongoing efforts to empower at-risk youth through the arts (Rush Philanthropic Arts Foundation), social engagement (Hip-Hop Summit Action Network) and higher education for Africa (Diamond Empowerment Fund).


Mr. Simmons, a native New Yorker and proud father of two daughters, is also Chairman of the Foundation for Ethnic Understanding, dedicated to bringing all religions and ethnicities together.  He also serves on the Board of Directors of several organizations, including Petra Nemcova’s Happy Hearts Fund, and is involved in numerous cause initiatives to empower individuals in struggle.


“It’s humbling to be invited to join the UN community in this role as Goodwill Ambassador.  In recognizing the past, we understand the stakes in ensuring that something as devastating to the human condition as the Trans-Atlantic Slave Trade will never happen again,” said Mr. Simmons.  “My life’s commitment is to be of service to the empowerment of young people living in struggle, who undoubtedly have been effected by this legacy.  I look to the future with inspiration and faith as we work every day to bring freedom and equality to all young people around the world.”


The Permanent Memorial will be administered through the Permanent Memorial Fund by the United Nations Office for Partnerships (UNOP).  Its completion date is set for 2012.  The Fund has received $250,000 of the projected $3.5 million cost so far from 25 of the 122 Member States that co-sponsored General Assembly resolution 63/5.


For further information, please contact Andrea Wilson, Permanent Mission of Jamaica (tel.:  212 935 7509; e-mail:  Jamaica@un.int); or Miriam Auma Omala, Office of the Permanent Observer of the African Union (tel.:  212 319 5490, ext. 26; e-mail:  moweke@hotmail.com).


* *** *



For information media • not an official record