29 Aug 2016

2016 International Day for the Remembrance of the Slave Trade and its Abolition Commerative Event

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August 23rd was the International Day for the Remembrance of the Slave Trade and its Abolition. To commemorate the UN observance, the Sint Maarten National Commission for UNESCO in collaboration with the Africa Caribbean Heritage Alliance (ACHA) and the Philipsburg Jubilee Library showed the DVD, ‘The Middle Passage’ a HBO Documentary and held a dialogue with a number of youth representatives from the St. Maarten Youth Parliament, St. Maarten Youth Brigade (Voice of Our Youth), SOIL (Source of Inspirational Learning), P.E.P. (Patrol to Eradicate Pedophilia), SMYPA (St. Martin Promoting Young Ambassadors Foundation) and the Readers Are Leaders Board members on Monday August 22nd at the Philipsburg Jubilee Library.

The DVD, ‘the Middle Passage’, which can be rented from the Philipsburg Jubilee Library, focuses on the route between Africa, the Caribbean and the Americas and the bringing of enslaved persons to exchange for sugar and tobacco.  This story is told by an enslaved person of African Descent who was sold into slavery by the King of Dahomey. The film gives a visual imagery of the journey from his home and life on the ship.

The main objective of the viewing of the DVD is to ‘break the silence’ on the Slave Trade, Slavery and their consequences, and to promote intercultural dialogue.

Minister of Education, Culture, Youth and Sports, Ms. Silveria Jacobs, who was present at the film viewing, commended the organizers for showing the movie and for educating and engaging the group of young people in a dialogue about this aspect of their history. Minister Jacobs also suggested that the film be shown to wider audiences including teachers because of its educational and historical significance.

After viewing the film, Ms. Marcellia Henry, Secretary General of the St. Maarten National Commission for UNESCO facilitated the dialogue.  Some of the expressions of the Youth and others to the questions posed included:

  • Children do not know what we had to go through before our current history.
  • This is part of our history that is essential for us to know.
  • It might happen again if we don’t show this, because it is still happening and can happen again.
  • Education is also important to the fact that these kinds of activities do not spark rage, but motivation to go forward for change.
  • If I had the opportunity, I will not want to do the same to a white person.
  • Spark a motivation that is directed for better and positive change.
  • Being Champions for Change/advocates for change is what we should aim for.
  • Our history did not start with the middle passage, but this aspect is often left out of the curriculum.

When asked what are some lessons learnt from the movie, some responses were:

  • humbleness, don’t be aggressive no matter the treatment
  • always have faith and be united for freedom: find a common ground for unity
  • remain hopeful to the final end

When asked if the slave trade or slavery is taught in their school curriculum the majority mentioned it is taught, while a few indicated that it is not.

To conclude the dialogue, the youth representatives present, were encouraged to research and learn about their heritage, and the significance and the contribution their African ancestors have made in this world.

Middle Passage ViewingIMG_8352