Do We Need To Talk About Slavery?

Every year on 25 March (tomorrow), the International Day of Remembrance of the Victims of Slavery and the Transatlantic Slave Trade remembers those who suffered at the hands of slavery. A memorial was unveiled at UN Headquarters in New York on 25 March 2015.

Given the choice, a plane ticket and some cash, a more impactful memorial visit or pilgrimage of sorts would be to Senegal’s Ile de Gorée, Goree Island. This island tells the story of the slave trade across the Atlantic. A story which began in 1500s when Portuguese arrived and then the Dutch in 1627, who bought the island for iron nails and then built two forts to protect their trade. The slaves were taken to what is now called the ‘door-of-no-return’. This brief factual, historical account does don’t justice to the wealth of emotion involved in the trade.

Today, how do we talk to our girls about slavery or address questions they have? Before thinking of how lets focus on why. Ali Moussa Iye, Chief of UNESCO’s Slave Route Project, explains why:
  • Its (slavery’s) economic impact enabled the industrialization of colonial powers;
  • The emergence of new cultures, and great artistic innovations, such as jazz;
  • Its universalism, which forced a rethinking of Human Rights, once conceived as reserved only for certain categories of people;
  • The transfer of knowledge and know-how from Africa to the rest of the world.

The Slave Trade is one of the most pivotal and foundational events of modernity. To dwell on it may thwart progress as a race, but, to ignore it would be a gross disservice to humanity.

Photo credit – pixabay