Drum beats mark UN remembrance of slave trade

“Break the Silence, Beat the Drum” brought together artists from Brazil, Cameroon, Côte d’Ivoire, the Caribbean and the United States, as well as students, diplomats and UN officials, to launch a series of events to mark the International Day of Remembrance of the Victims of Slavery and the Transatlantic Slave Trade.Designated by the General Assembly in 2007, the Day honours the millions of Africans violently removed from their homelands and cast into slavery. It is estimated that up to 28 million men, women and children were taken from Africa from the 16th to 19th centuries and shipped across the notorious “Middle Passage” of the Atlantic – mainly to colonies in North America, South America and the West Indies.Addressing the event, Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said that that the elevation this year of Barack Obama to the presidency of the United States marks a milestone in the 400-year struggle of the descendants of African slaves for justice, assimilation and respect. He said that although slavery was abolished, the people of African descent around the world must still fight daily against entrenched prejudice that keeps them disproportionately in poverty. In addition, racism and contemporary forms of slavery continue to pollute the world. “It is essential that we speak out loud and clear against such abuses,” he stressed. Last night Mr. Ban launched an exhibit of drums sponsored by the Permanent Mission of Cameroon, in collaboration with the Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture, the Caribbean Community (CARICOM) and the African Union, highlighting the significance of drums throughout the slave trade and beyond, from Africa to the Americas. “We must beat the drum to proclaim that whatever our colour, whatever our gender, we are one people, with one common future,” he declared at the opening of the exhibit.As part of the commemoration, Emmy Award-winning musician Peter Buffet and hip-hop star Akon will debut a new song, “Blood into Gold,” at a star-studded concert this evening in the General Assembly Hall, produced by the not-for-profit group Culture Project.“We are delighted that many artists and celebrities have accepted to add their names and voices to this event,” Under-Secretary-General for Communications and Public Information, Kiyo Akasaka, told a news conference prior to the performance.“Tonight’s performers represent many countries where the slave route either originated or ended, that is from Africa to the Caribbean and the Americas,” he noted of the event, which will bring together over 30 artists ranging from musicians Salif Keita and the Blind Boys from Alabama to actors Whoopi Goldberg and Phylicia Rashad. “I love it when we all come together with all generations, all genres, all countries to create and ignite a positive spark on today’s generation,” Akon told reporters. “I think that it’s very important that we continue to do things like this that kind of reminds us of where we came from and how far we’ve come.” Peter Buffet added that “commemoration is critical, otherwise we’ll forget.” And while the Day celebrates the end of slavery, it is important to keep in mind that modern forms of the scourge, such as human trafficking, continue today, he noted. 25 March 2009The powerful sounds of musicians, drummers and steel bands echoed through the United Nations complex in New York today in a celebration of the world’s common humanity and in commemoration of the victims of the African slave trade. read more