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2020 Theme: “Confronting Slavery’s Legacy of Racism Together”

In response to COVID-19, and in the interests of the safety of staff and visitors, all public programmes at United Nations Headquarters have been suspended until further notice. Join the United Nations’ call for compassion, solidarity, hope and political will in the face of this pandemic. Stand together with us against attempts to use the virus to promote discrimination or hate speech. For more information, please visit: un.org/coronavirus

One devastating legacy of the transatlantic slave trade was racism. Historically, it was used to justify the enslavement of Africans. And today, it has led to people of African descent being relegated to the poorest and most marginalized sectors of society. The 2020 theme underscores the reality that lasting effects of the transatlantic slave trade, including racism, continue to divide societies across the globe and hamper our advancement towards a world that respects human rights and enables sustainable development for all. Only through confronting these legacies can we truly promote inclusion and move forward together.

Calendar of events

21 February 2020

New exhibit on racism to open at UN Headquarters
An exhibit entitled “Us and Them: From Prejudice to Racism” will be on display in the United Nations Visitors Lobby in New York from 21 February until 4 May 2020. Organized in partnership with the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) and the Musée de l’Homme in Paris, France, the exhibit examines the science behind “race”; shows how racism flourished during the transatlantic slave trade and continues to divide societies today; and teaches that racism is not inevitable and can be fought at multiple levels.

28 February 2020

UN cites power of monuments at screening of film on Senegal’s Gorée memorial
The Remember Slavery Programme joined the World Foundation for the Memorial and Safeguarding of Gorée at a film screening hosted by the Permanent Mission of Senegal. The film, called “Gorée-Almadies: Recognizing Transatlanticity”, introduced Senegal’s planned memorial to honour Africa, the global African diaspora, and the victims of the transatlantic slave trade. Addressing the event were: Maha El-Bahrawi, Deputy Director of the United Nations Department of Global Communications’ Outreach Division; Saliou Niang Dieng, chargé d'affaires of the Permanent Mission of Senegal; Malick Kane, Coordinator of the Gorée Memorial Project; Sheila Walker, Executive Director of Afrodiaspora, Inc; and Peggy King Jorde, former Memorialization Director at the African Burial Ground National Monument.

25 March 2020

UN observes International Day of Remembrance of the Victims of Slavery and the Transatlantic Slave Trade
Due to COVID-19, the traditional commemorative meeting of the General Assembly to mark the International Day of Remembrance of the Victims of Slavery and the Transatlantic Slave Trade was postponed. However, the public was invited to reflect on 25 March on the transatlantic slave trade’s shameful history and legacies, including racism. The public was also encouraged to share United Nations social media cards along with their own messages of solidarity.

18 May 2020

Briefing with civil society highlights stigma, xenophobia, hate speech and racial discrimination related to COVID-19
To mark the International Day of Living Together in Peace (16 May), more than 300 people came together in an online webinar today to discuss societal inequalities linked to the COVID-19 pandemic. The virtual event – entitled “Fighting Stigma, Xenophobia, Hate Speech and Racial Discrimination related to COVID-19” – was organized by the United Nations Remember Slavery Programme, in partnership with the United Nations Department of Global Communications’ Civil Society Unit and The Holocaust and the United Nations Outreach Programme.

28 May 2020

Webinar explores links between transatlantic slave trade, racism and effects of COVID-19 on people of African descent
Organized by the United Nations Remember Slavery Programme and the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), this virtual discussion – entitled “Inclusion in the Time of COVID-19: Confronting Slavery’s Legacy of Racism Together” – focused on how COVID-19 has exacerbated health conditions linked to structural racism and caused people of African descent to suffer disproportionately.

8 July 2020

Launch of a live discussion series: “Beyond the long shadow: engaging with difficult histories
The series is co-organized by the United Nations outreach programmes on the transatlantic slave trade, the Holocaust and the 1994 genocide against the Tutsi in Rwanda. The aim of the collaborative series is to develop a deeper understanding of the legacies of these painful histories – and through examining the past, consider how best to build a world that is just, where all can live in dignity and peace. The first episode, entitled “Museums, Memorials, and Memorialization after atrocity— Communicating a Form of Ongoing Justice?”, will consider what role statues, memorials, museums and memorialization after atrocity crimes, might play in furthering the interests of justice. Register here: https://bit.ly/3gb6nvL

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