Hip-hop pioneer Russell Simmons joins campaign for slavery memorial at UN

Goodwill Ambassador Russell Simmons

20 May 2009 – The United Nations today launched a trust fund to build a permanent memorial for victims of slavery, and appointed entrepreneur and hip-hop pioneer Russell Simmons as a Goodwill Ambassador to promote the project.

A 2007 General Assembly resolution designated 25 March as an annual day of Remembrance of the Victims of Slavery and the Transatlantic Slave Trade, and called for a permanent memorial to be erected at UN Headquarters to acknowledge the tragedy and consider the legacy of slavery.

“We hope to encourage broad study of the causes and lessons of the 400-year slave trade. We want to mobilize educational institutions and civil society to discuss the threat of intolerance from which no society is immune,” Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said in a message to the launch ceremony, read out by Under-Secretary-General for Communications and Public Information Kiyo Akasaka.

Mr. Simmons told reporters his role would be to increase awareness, especially among young persons, of the history of slavery, its lasting impact, and current slavery issues.

“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,” he said.

“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.”

The memorial, projected to cost $3.5 million, is expected to be completed by 2012.

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