August 23rd is The International Day for the Remembrance of the Slave Trade and its Abolition. By selecting this date in 1998, The UNESCO wanted to mark and help remember the tragedy of the slave trade and slavery. For the occasion, a series of events are organized in different regions of the world by various organisations for the promotion of human rights.
Mrs Koïchiro Matsuura, then head of UNESCO, articulated the reason for such a celebration, a message that is still relevant today. On their website, Gens De La Caraibe remind us [fr] of the gist of her message:
It is in the following spirit that I invite all of you to organize, initiate and support all activities with youngsters, teachers, artists and intellectuals- that could help awareness of the slave trade and encourage an ethical reflections on its impact and consequences, notably on the new forms of slavery and to promote solidarity with the peoples who have been victimized by slavery.”.
On the night of 22 to 23 of August 1791, an insurrection started in Santo-Domingo that played a critical role in the abolition of the transatlantic slave trade.
Human Rights Education Associates (HREA), an NGO that supports human rights learning; the training of activists and professionals and community-building through on-line technologies explains in more details what they hope to achieve on the day [fr] :
Bringing to light all aspects of slavery is essential to constructing an overall dispassionate vision of this tragedy. UNESCO's Slave Route project endeavors to promote such research that helps to explain, understand and reconstruct the threads of sometimes conflicting narratives and fill the silences of the past.
Many activities are scheduled around the world this year. In Nigeria,, an international conference is organized by black Nationalities which will include the participation of Nigeria's president Ebele Jonathan Goodluck. The objectives of the conference are:
To promote general discourse and inter-cultural dialogue among the various peoples of the world with a view to promoting understanding and encouraging the Black race to aspire to greater heights in an increasingly inter-dependent world
In the DR of Congo, Boris Kharl Ebaka on his blog brazzaville-adiac urges his readers to remember [fr]:
The first commemorations of the International Day for the Remembrance of the Slave Trade and its Abolition happened in many countries, in Haiti in 1998 and on Gorée Island, Sénégal in 1999. Cultural events and debates were also hold; in 2001, le musée de l'Étoffe in Mulhouse (France) joined the commemoration and organised a workshop showcasing fabrics called ” Indiennes de Traite” that were used as currency for salves in the 17th and 18th centuries.
Trace the history of the transatlantic slave trade through rare and revealing manuscripts from the Museums archive collections.
According to Panafricanfestival, in Trinidad & Tobago, the celebrations already started at the end of July:
One of the most popular highlights of the period is the Emancipation Day parade on the morning of August 1. Some 20,000 participants on the street, and tens of thousands more who crowd the sidewalk, create a spectacle of colour dominated by African motifs, textiles and designs adding visual vibrations to the rhythm of ancestral drums and chants, and modern African musical expressions of the diaspora. Exponents of the African martial art, capoeira, draw spectator attention with their dramatic flips and “sequencias”.
One of the most ambitious poject in terms of eduction in the field was initiated by UNESCO, “Breaking the Silence” spans over several years and involves the participation of schools from 24 countries in Africa, Americas and Europe.
According to the organisation, the goal of projet is :
The goal of the project is increased awareness of the causes and consequences of the Transatlantic Slave Trade – including modern forms of slavery and racism – through educational exchanges, sharing best practice and developing and diffusing educational material.
The noir au feminin blog notes [fr] that in France May 10th is also an important day as it celebrates the anniversary of the abolition of slavery in France and all its colonial territories:
The decree of april 27 1848 seals the absolute end of slavery in France and all its colonial territories. 158 ans later, on january 2006, French President Jacques Chirac selected May 10 as the Day of commemoration of the abolition of slavery.
On may 9th 2007, in a speech posted on ldh-toulon.net, former international football player now authorLilian Thuram reminds us [fr] of:
The silence of history books and the invisibility of its victims. The duty of remembrance is critical to rehabilitate the resistance, both physically and culturally that its victims displayed. More importantly, it is important to archive the racism that prufundly affected the culture and society where these events happened.
Franck Salin on afrik.com cites French president Nicolas Sarkozy speech on January 10 2008 about the measures he took with respect to this commemoration [fr]:
Slavery and its abolition will be introduced in the new programs for primary schools. Slavery was a tragedy that affected many continents for a long time. It is a deep wound that weighs on all of our consciences. The memories will carry on the weigh of this chapter of history.
In the Dossier du 10 Mai that noir au feminin blog dedicates to this day, Eric Koua describes the condition of women during slavery and the spirit of resistance women exhibited [fr] :
The refusal to be enslaved sometimes meant committing suicide rather than live under these conditions. It also sometimes meant aborting a pregnancy when colonial authorities encouraged marriages and reproduction.