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Remembering Slavery: The African Diaspora’s Triumphs and Struggles for Freedom and Equality

The United Nation’s Department of Public Information (DPI) recently held a briefing observing the International Day of Remembrance of the Victims of Slavery and the Transatlantic Slave Trade. The discussion focused on slavery’s overwhelming impact on the identity of the African diaspora and its overwhelming hindrance on the potential productivity in future decades.

Mamadou Niang, Managing and Executive Editor of Next Media.TV, opened the dialogue as the moderator, commenting on his perception of the revolting effect of slavery. Niang also commented on the rise of the Right Wing and its influence during a time of mass migration. In addition to these comments, he noted slavery still cripples society today. The current assumption states that the United States’ character has changed, which is seen in the rising troubling events.

These assumptions mirror the mass gathering of undocumented individuals in search of an opportunity to xenophobia tensions rising within the U.S. social structure. Niang expressed strong comments on black individuals dying by the bullets and at the hands of police officers. Inequality was then mentioned as a concern with more of a racial connotation rather than economic inequity.

In light of a recent empowering movement, Black Panther builds on the momentum as it is known for its moving storyline, and its creative symbolism depicts an unviolated African society. Niang reflected on what could have been of the African society if African states’ shores were not met by colonizers.

“Yes, not enslaved, colonized. Wakanda would have not been a utopia. Black Panther is my Africa and not a myth,” said Mamadou Niang.

Ambassador Mr. Courtenay Rattray, Permanent Representative of Jamaica to the United Nations, expressed his thoughts on the scope of the transatlantic slave trade. He expressed his deep concerns about human trade and slavery and its repercussions for the legacy to come. According to researchers, the slavery demography disaster in Caribbean accounts for 4.5 million individuals. In process of exploiting these individuals, they were robbed of their identity and future. This unfortunate fate would soon result in generations of socially disfranchised communities and a poverty epidemic.

“Freedom does not fall at the feet of development,” said Ambassador Mr. Courtenay Rattray.

During his reflection, Ambassador Rattray noted five themes which depicted the scope transatlantic slave trade discussion. The five themes were legacy, culture, demography, legacy, sociological harm, and damages to the Jamaican family structure.

In regard to the sociological harm, it is simply immeasurable. In fact, Ambassador Rattray vocalized the mirroring effect it still has on the African diaspora today and the need for rehabilitation. Mental slavery is pronounced as a crippling effect of slavery which hinders the development and relationship building.  Denied the recognition of what qualifies to be categorized as part of human race, victims of the transatlantic slave trade had a shift in purpose and identity. As a result, the sociological trauma ripples throughout the Caribbean and African states. These shortcomings include skin bleaching and colorism.

Negative influence still persists and deep-rooted linkage is seen within the structure of the Caribbean society. Particularly in the family structure, Ambassador Rattray commented on the erosion of the role of fatherhood in relation to the relationships built with partners and children. He mentioned this while observing the roaming mentality of Jamaican men and lack of willingness to marry and have one partner.

Despite the number of negative implications, there was a sense of survival and the rise of blackness, pride, and black militancy in the Caribbean states. Ambassador Rattray then cited the many narratives of survival and the significance of the Rastafarian movement. According to these reflections, it displays strength and underlying principles of endurance. Hence, it is endurance that drives decedents of not victims but victors.

Charo Mina-Rojas, the National Coordinator of Advocacy and Outreach for the Black Communities’ Process (PCN) and member of the Afro-Colombian Solidarity Network, spoke strongly on the need of justice and reparations. She continued the discussion sharing the narrative of living as a minority in Colombia. The minority population in Colombia is deprived of opportunities and services including land rights and collective rights.

Danei Cesario’s, an enthusiast in regard to architecture and advocacy, noted the importance of educating, engaging, and empowering the masses. By building awareness and taking part in conversation, society can narrow the overwhelming gap seen in society. Moreover, utilizing exposure as a tool, the international community can learn from past incidents and prevent potential tensions. Therefore, continuing a homogeneous and group-think narrative denies many the opportunity to learn and sustain peace.

Jadayah Spencer, the Director of the International Youth Leadership Institute​, strongly vocalized the significance of black in today’s society. Spencer added to Ambassador Rattray’s comments and described blackness as a legacy of survival and endurance. She also mentioned the importance of empathy. In order for society to truly grasp a glimpse of the trauma suppressed on the African diaspora, the capability to relive and understand another individual’s experience is critical. Spencer ended the conversation with an argument supporting the need for reparations and the necessity for black individuals to create their own environment to build productivity and equity.

In sum, the African diaspora still feels and lives the trauma met by family lines generations before today’s population. These traumas have seeped into its social structure to the ways in which individuals build relationships with their kin. However, despite this unfortunate narrative, the African diaspora portrays and defines unearthly, radical endurance and perseverance.

Ruthly Cadestin and Marcel Yameogo are UN Digital Representatives for the Center for UN Studies and Global Governance. Currently, they are graduate students at the School of Diplomacy and International Relations at Seton Hall University.

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