UN links students around world to honour victims of slavery

26 March 2010 – United via videoconference, hundreds of students and teachers around the world gathered today to conclude a week of United Nations events commemorating the International Day of Remembrance of Victims of Slavery and the Transatlantic Slave Trade.

“This is a great opportunity to share with your fellow students the diversity and similarities of peoples of African descent, and the spirit of African culture,” Kiyo Akasaka, Under-Secretary-General for Communications and Public Information (DPI), told a UN Headquarters hall in New York filled to capacity with 500 students and teachers.

AdditioHistory has shown us that culture is one of the most poignant and powerful ways in which slaves and their descendents have overcome the cruel legacy of slaverynal students joined virtually from Banjul, Gambia Accra, Ghana Kingston, Jamaica St. Augustine, Trinidad and Tobago and Wiltshire, United Kingdom.

In Havana, Cuba, students took part from the helm of a replica of the ship Amistad, which is retracing the route of the slave trade.

“History has shown us that culture is one of the most poignant and powerful ways in which slaves and their descendents have overcome the cruel legacy of slavery,” Mr. Akasaka said, highlighting this year's theme, “Expressing Our Freedom through Culture.”

He added, “as importantly, the power and energy of these ideas, words and music from Africa to the New World not only survived, but influenced and enriched the cultures of all societies in which the victims of slavery and their descendents live.”

In addition to sharing in the films and listening to speakers, who included educator and filmmaker Sheila Walker, students sent questions and comments remotely.

“What can the average 'world citizen' do to get rid of racism?” a 13-year-old student from the United States asked.

“The offspring of the enslaved Africans in the USA, are they discriminated against?” asked a secondary school student from Gambia, while one student from Bermuda simply wrote, “GREAT PROGRAMME, THANKS!!!”

The event was organized in collaboration by DPI, the UN Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), the State Department of the United States and US-based non-governmental organizations (NGOs).

The General Assembly designated the Transatlantic Slavery Day in 2007 to honour the 28 million estimated Africans who were violently removed and cast into slavery, mainly in colonies in North America, South America and the West Indies.

Throughout the week, the UN honoured the Day with speakers, music recitals, films and a food fair.

In a message marking the occasion, Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon noted that slavery has mutated and re-emerged in modern forms – including debt bondage, the sale of children, and the trafficking of women and girls for sex – and called for its eradication.

“We must create a climate in which such abuse and cruelty are inconceivable,” he underscored.

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