On Sunday, Guyana will join in worldwide commemoration of the UN-declared International Day of Remembrance of the victims of slavery and transatlantic trade in captive Africans.
“On this day, we call on all Guyanese irrespective of ethnicity, class, gender, age or religious persuasion to remember all the victims of the transatlantic trade, to draw inspiration from their legacy and to commit ourselves to eradicate such evil and unnecessary practices once and for all,” Director of Culture Dr. James Rose said in a statement.
“By our solidarity we help to guard against humanity’s most vile impulses, raise awareness about the continued dangers of racism and hatred and help to restore some measure of dignity to those who had been so mercilessly stripped of it,” he added.
The statement went on to note that the transatlantic slave trade, often known as the triangular trade, connected the economies of three continents and the trade proceeded in three steps.
The ships left Western Europe for Africa loaded with goods, which were to be exchanged for captive Africans.
Upon their arrival in Africa, the captains traded their merchandise for captive Africans. Weapons and gunpowder were the most important commodities but textiles, pearls and other manufactured goods as well as rum were also in high demand.
The second step was the crossing of the Atlantic and Africans were transported to America, the Caribbean and the Guianas to be sold in the slave markets.
The third step connected America to Europe. The slave traders brought back mostly agricultural products, produced by the enslaved Africans. The main product was sugar, followed by cotton, coffee, tobacco and rice. The circuit lasted approximately eighteen months and Spain, Portugal, the Netherlands, England and France were the main slave trading countries.
It is estimated that as many as 30 million Africans, men, women and children were deported from their homes and sold as slaves in the different slave trading systems.
In the transatlantic trade alone the estimate of those deported is believed to be approximately 17 million. These figures exclude those who died aboard the ships and in the course of wars and raids connected to the trade.
In acknowledgement of this odious trade in human cargoes, the UN General Assembly in its resolution 62/122 of December 17, 2007, declared March 25 the International Day of Remembrance of the Victims of Slavery and the Transatlantic Trade in Captive Africans to be observed annually.
The resolution called on governments and civil societies to “inculcate in future generations the causes, consequences and lessons of the transatlantic trade and to communicate the dangers of racism and prejudice.”
This Day of Remem-brance, Dr Rose added, “affords us the opportunity to confront human beings at their worst. But in those who opposed slavery then and now, we celebrate people at their best. These included the brave enslaved Africans who rose up despite mortal risk, the abolitionists who challenged the status quo and the activists, then and now, who fight intolerance and injustice.
Whether renowned or unsung, these heroes show that the pursuit of human dignity is still the most powerful force at man’s disposal.”