Today's Tribute to the Struggle Against Slavery

08/23/2011 05:06 pm ET | Updated Oct 24, 2011

People around the globe are celebrating today's International Day for the Remembrance of the Slave Trade and Its Abolition and the day that slavery became illegal in the Western world.

"Some people might not wanna remember!?" says Salah Hassan on a Facebook pages for the international day.

With 27 million slaves in the world today, the moment to rejoice in mankind's victory over slavery has not yet come. We can, however, remember the heroic battle to outlaw slavery.

"While remembering African and Caribbean people enslaved we also recognise that slavery is unfortunately not a thing of the past. Modern-day slavery exists today and as a museum we actively campaign to end this injustice," said Dickie Felton, Communications Manager from the International Slavery Museum in Liverpool.

"This is a very important day to remember those deprived of their liberty and taken
from their families to a life of slavery. The city of Liverpool is today seeing a Walk of Remembrance which ends on the very spot slave ships would have departed hundreds of years ago," he said.

"The uprising that took place on the island of Santo Domingo (today Haiti and the Dominican Republic) during the night of 22 to 23 August 1791 shook the slave system radically and irreversibly and provided the impetus for the process which would eventually lead to the abolition of the transatlantic slave trade," according to Koïchiro Matsuura, former Director-General of UNESCO.

The uprising weakened the Caribbean colonial system and let to the island's independence and the abolition of the transatlantic slave trade. The destruction of the slavery system, the slave trade and colonialism followed. The day is also the anniversary of the passing of the Slavery Abolition Act itself on August 23, 1807.

UNESCO initiated this 'celebration' in 1998 and with the Executive Board's adoption of resolution 29 C/40 invites Ministers of Culture to promote the day and people all over the world to organize events on the theme of abolition. On this day, theater companies, cultural organizations, musicians and artists celebrate the abolition of slavery through music, dance and drama.

The UN's International Day for the Remembrance of the Slave Trade and its Abolition is an observance rather than a public holiday. A number of cultural exhibitions and debates have been organized in Senegal and Haiti. The Mulhouse Textile Museum in France has conducted workshops, and the International Slavery Museum in Liverpool where Slavery Remembrance Day events have been conducted since 2004 is opening its doors once again.

The museum's program will also include a libation ceremony and procession on the waterfront to pay respects to ancestry whose lives were forcibly taken. There will be an ebony steel band performance, a graffiti arts workshop to create a memorial mural outside the museum, and drum performances.

Renowned activist scholar Dr. Maulana Karengato delivered the Slavery Remembrance Memorial Lecture yesterday entitled 'Engaging the Holocaust of Enslavement: The Ethics of Remembrance and Reparations' at Liverpool Town Hall. Dr Maulana Karenga, an author, is professor of Africana Studies at California State University, Long Beach.

Youth associations, government agencies, and non-governmental organizations are actively educating society about slavery, and teachers promote the day by informing people about the negative historical consequences of the slave trade.

If you can't find or host an event in your area, nothing is stopping you from checking out the discussions on the Facebook or Meetup anti-slavery pages, or starting one on the social media platform of your choice.

On August 23, 1791, the slaves march from plantation to plantation, seizing control and establishing military camps. More and more slaves joined the rebellion killing those who did not. By the end of the day the Saint Domingue sugar plantations were burnt.

"One can count as many rebel camps as there were plantations," wrote one colonist. Fugitive slaves who had deserted their plantations, by will, force, or sheer momentum became armed rebels fighting for freedom.

J. L. Morin is the author of the novel Travelling Light (Harvard Square Editions)

This article first appeared in the EUROPEAN DAILY on August 23, 2011

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