Let us honor the memory of the victims of #slavery by standing against racism and discrimination, by calling for greater commitments to social justice, and by celebrating the equal worth and dignity of all our communities.https://t.co/XDh9zTHSS2 pic.twitter.com/dekvTsKZCY
— UN GA President (@UN_PGA) March 29, 2022
In his opening remarks, the President of the General Assembly, Abdulla Shahid, called for greater commitments to social justice, and the celebration of all communities, irrespective of caste, creed or skin colour.
Standing in solidarity
He also spoke personally about his visit to the island of Gorée, off the coast of Senegal, which from the 15th to the 19th century, was the largest slave-trading centre on the Africa.
“Standing in solidarity with victims is the bare minimum we can do,” President Shahid said. “We must act to address these inequalities.”
Secretary-General António Guterres also spoke about the ongoing obstacles faced by people of African descent, who “are often among the last in line” for quality healthcare, education, justice and other opportunities.
He noted that ending racism is imperative for justice, adding that “This imperative implicates us all – we are all responsible to stand up and speak out in solidarity against racism wherever, whenever we encounter it.”
Stories of courage
This year’s theme for the commemorative event is Stories of Courage: Resistance to Slavery and Unity against Racism.
Some of them were recounted by Nikole Hannah-Jones, the keynote speaker at the event, who is also the creator of The New York Times’ 1619 Project, which aims to place the consequences of slavery in the United States, and contributions of Black Americans, more at the centre of the national narrative.
A descendent of slaves whose family went on to be sharecroppers in the southern US, Ms. Hannah-Jones told how her grandmother fled to “plant the seed of freedom that she would never see herself.”
Ms. Hannah-Jones noted that “as we remember our brutal enslavement by people who saw themselves as civilized, we must remember the fierce black tradition of resistance.”
She noted Zumbi dos Palmares in Brazil, Queen nanny of the Maroons in Jamaica and the independence of Haiti as some of the examples, stressing that “resistance remains the legacy of slavery.”