At the United Nations headquarters in New York some dignitaries on Thursday unveiled a new memorial tied to the International Day of Remembrance of the Victims of Slavery and the Transatlantic Slave Trade.
A question that should come up is “What took so long?”
The memorial, “Ark of Return,” commemorates the millions of African men, women and children who were kidnapped, starting in the 1500s and taken to the Americas and other places in what became known as the Middle Passage. It was the largest forced migration in the history of the world.
It also was part of a “triangle of trade,” in which ships unloaded their human cargo, and then picked up raw material from the Americas to take back to European countries followed by those same ships returning to Africa to pick up more blacks to force into agriculture, mining and other slave labor in the so-called “New World.”
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“From 1501 to 1830, four Africans crossed the Atlantic for every one European, making the demographics of the Americas in that era more of an extension of the African diaspora than a European one. The legacy of this migration is still evident today, with large populations of people of African descent living throughout the Americas,” the UN remembrance material notes. The UN General Assembly on Dec. 17, 2007, set March 25 as the annual date to commemorate the International Day of Remembrance of the Victims of Slavery and the Transatlantic Slave Trade.
The resolution called for the establishment of an outreach program to mobilize educational institutions, civil society and other organizations to teach future generations the “causes, consequences and lessons of the transatlantic slave trade, and to communicate the dangers of racism and prejudice.” Our society has a lot of work to do on that.
The design of the memorial pays tribute to the slaves, abolitionists and the contributions “by slaves and their descendants to societies worldwide,” a UN release notes. The memorial is to get people “to communicate and heal.”
“One of the most important elements of the memorial is that of a deliberately androgynous human sculpture, called ‘the trinity figure,’ representing the human spirit and the spirit of the men, women and children of African descent whose deaths resulted from the Transatlantic Slave Trade,” the release notes.
Another element is a triangular waterfall, created by the tears that flow from the face of the trinity statue into two triangular reflecting pools. Rodney Leon, the American architect of Haitian descent who was chosen in 2013 as the winner of an international competition to design the memorial, says this element, located outside of the memorial, looks ahead to the future.