Seeking peace. Striving for justice. Together.
Today, Presbyterian Ministry at the United Nations intern Kyla Korvne attended the unveiling ceremony of the Permanent Memorial to Honour the Victims of Slavery and the Transatlantic Slave Trade (co-organized by the Permanent Memorial Committee, the United Nations Office for Partnerships, the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), the NGO Relations Section, Outreach Division, Department of Public Information (DPI), the Caribbean Community and the African Group). Below is her post about the event:
Even with the bitter cold and the windy rain blowing all of our umbrellas inside out, a crowd of people from all over the world gathered outside the UN today to celebrate the unveiling of the Permanent Memorial to the Victims of the Transatlantic Slave Trade. The memorial, titled the Ark of the Return and designed by Rodney Leon, the Haitian-American winner of UNESCO’s design contest, draws upon the historical memory of the ”door of no return” through which the slaves went, never to be seen again. Mr Leon spoke of his desire to undo the emotional damage done by that memory with his Ark of the Return, as well as to honor the memory of more than 15,000 victims of the transatlantic slave trade. He drew his inspiration from the door of no return in the slave castle on Gorée Island in Senegal, a haunting site which I visited myself while living in Senegal. For a more in-depth description and photos of the inside of the memorial, see the UN News Centre feature: http://www.un.org/apps/news/story.asp?NewsID=50424#.VRMJi5OG-0w.
Speakers at the event today, hosted by Jamaican Permanent Representative Courtenay Rattray, included the Director-General of UNESCO, Secretary General Ban Ki-moon, the Prime Minister of Jamaica and the Sam Kahamba Kutesa, President of the General Assembly. Mr Ban Ki-moon spoke first of the injustice of the Transatlantic Slave Trade and the particular hardships of female slaves. All of the speakers expressed their desires that the memorial would act not only as a place to reflect but also as a call to action to fight modern slavery, injustice and racism around the world. Jamaican Prime Minister Portia Simpson-Miller delivered a powerful speech, expressing her deep gratitude for the support the CARICOM-led effort to create the memorial received and calling it a remarkable homage to the ”African Holocaust” that brought the slaves here to the Americas. Several speakers mentioned the cultural richness the descendants of African slaves have brought to our society. At the end of the ceremony, Mr Ki-moon and Mr Kahamba Kutesa cut the red ribbon and then members of the Djoniba Dance and Drum Centre led a colorful and lively procession into the General Assembly Hall.
This story originally appeared in the Presbyterian News Service. Thanks to our colleague Rick Jones for writing this story!
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