Ten years ago this month, the General Assembly declared 25 March the International Day of Remembrance of the Victims of Slavery and the Transatlantic Slave Trade. It also established the United Nations Remember Slavery Programme, which, in addition to educating about one of history’s greatest tragedies, works to combat racism and prejudice.
The Programme’s theme for 2017 is “Remember Slavery: Recognizing the Legacy and Contributions of People of African Descent”. It urges remembrance of the fact that the transatlantic slave trade, while forming a very dark chapter in human history, also led to an unprecedented transfer of knowledge and culture from Africa to the Americas, Europe and elsewhere.
In honour of the Programme’s 10-year anniversary, the Department of Public Information has rolled out a new logo and entered into new partnerships to better meet its goals. For example, it worked with the International Slavery Museum in Liverpool to launch a new exhibition, “A Legacy of Black Achievement”. On display in the United Nations Visitors Lobby until 29 March, it features 21 notable people who have personified the vital contributions that Africans and people of African descent have made across the globe. Ranging from Brazilian politicians to South African musicians, the achievers also include some “home-grown” heroes, among them former Secretary-General Kofi Annan and celebrated United Nations mediator Ralph Bunche.
The Programme also invited Lonnie G. Bunch III, Director of the Smithsonian’s National Museum of African American History and Culture in Washington, D.C., to deliver a keynote address at the General Assembly’s commemorative meeting on the International Day, to be held on 24 March at 3 p.m. The museum opened last September to widespread acclaim. Following the meeting, which will also feature remarks by the Secretary-General, the President of the General Assembly and Member States, the Department will host a cultural and culinary event at 6 p.m. in the Visitors Lobby. Foods inspired by the African diaspora will be offered by Member States, and live music will be performed by “La Familia Sextet”, a band whose diverse members are united by their passion for Afro-Caribbean jazz.
In 2017, the Programme partnered with the International Decade for People of African Descent to produce a poster exhibition in all six official United Nations languages called “Remembering slavery: recognition, justice and development”. The posters, as well as a calendar to raise awareness of the Permanent Memorial to Honour the Victims of Slavery and the Transatlantic Slave Trade, have been made available to the global network of United Nations information centres for use in their local events.
For its part, UNStories, a video series tailored for the Web and spun off from United Nations Television’s UN in Action, has produced a 90-second video in all six official languages, titled The African Roots of Cuba's Music, on the transatlantic slave trade’s impact on the culture and music of Cuba.
More information on the Remember Slavery Programme and the 24 March events is available at rememberslavery.un.org.