Top UN officials, including the Secretary-General and the President of the General Assembly on Monday paid tribute to the millions of men, women and children who suffered as a result of the Transatlantic Slave Trade, one of most devastating chapters in human history.

Addressing a commemorative meeting to mark the International Day of Remembrance of The Victims of Slavery and The Transatlantic Slave Trade, Assembly President Dennis Francis highlighted the harrowing journeys endured by millions during the so-called Middle Passage, emphasizing the stripping of their identities and dignity. “It is inconceivable that the enslaved were cruelly regarded as mere commodities for sale and exploitation,” he said. “Together with their children born into slavery, perpetuating the vicious cycle of bondage and suffering – enduring untold horrors at the hands of their oppressors,” he added.

Assembly President Francis paid tribute to revolutionary figures such as Samuel Sharpe, Sojourner Truth, and Gaspar Yanga, who bravely fought for freedom, paving the way for abolitionist movements and inspiring generations to challenge injustice. He emphasized the ongoing impact of slavery’s legacy, calling for accountability and reparations as essential components of pursuing true justice, stressing the urgent need to address systemic racism and discrimination faced by people of African descent, both historically and in contemporary society. “It is incumbent upon States, institutions, and individuals to acknowledge their roles in perpetuating these legacies of injustice – and to take meaningful steps towards reparatory justice,” he said.

Also on Monday, Courtenay Rattray, Chef de Cabinet of the Secretary-General, delivered a message on behalf of the UN chief, further amplifying the call for remembrance and justice. Leading the Secretary-General’s message, Mr. Rattray echoed the sentiments of honouring the millions who suffered under the brutal regime of slavery. “For four hundred years, enslaved Africans fought for their freedom, while colonial powers and others committed horrific crimes against them,” he said.

“Many of those who organized and ran the Transatlantic slave trade amassed huge fortunes,” he continued, noting that the enslaved were deprived of education, healthcare, opportunity, and prosperity. “This laid the foundations for a violent discrimination system based on white supremacy that still echoes today.”

Mr. Rattray underscored the need for reparatory justice frameworks to help overcome generations of exclusion and discrimination, urging united effort towards a world free from racism, discrimination, bigotry and hate. “Together, as we remember the victims of the Transatlantic Slave Trade, let’s unite for human rights, dignity and opportunity for all.” Also addressing the General Assembly, 15-year-old activist Yolanda Renee King of the United States said she was at the UN to be a changemaker. “I stand before you today as a proud descendent of enslaved people who resisted slavery and racism,” she said.

“Like my grandparents, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and Coretta Scott King, my parents, Martin Luther King III and Arndrea Waters King, have also dedicated their lives to putting an end to racism and all forms of bigotry and discrimination. Like them, I am committed to the fight against racial injustice and to carrying on the legacy of my grandparents.”

Calling on young people to lead the way to a better world, she said “we must connect via the internet and organize across national boundaries around the world.” This will open up new possibilities for global campaigns to advance human rights and social justice for all nations, she added. “Let’s today affirm the bonds on interdependence that unite freedom and justice loving people everywhere,” she said. “All the young people in the world should embrace the future with hope, optimism and radiant assurance that we shall overcome, as sisters and brothers of all races, religions and nations.”

Source: The UN

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