UNESCO Slave Route project Launched in Saint Kitts and Nevis
Basseterre, Saint Kitts and Nevis, activities of the National Committee of the Slave Route project were officially launched to the public on Tuesday 19 July, with a lecture series and consultations under the theme: ‘Towards the erection of a monument in remembrance of our ancestors, the abolition of slavery, and the slave trade.’
The event which was held at the Open Campus of the University of the West Indies (UWI), located at The Gardens saw a wide section of attendees including Rastafarians, students, government officials and educators. It came under the auspices of the Governor General, Sir Cuthbert, Sebastian.
Chairperson for the Public Relations affairs of the UNESCO National Scientific Slave Route Committee, Marlene Phillips, highlighted that this year is the ‘International Year of People of African Descent. “It’s a very special year,” she remarked.
The project was launched back in 1994 and that it continues to create opportunities to promote mutual understanding, international reconciliation and stability, through consultation and discussion, raise awareness, promote debate and help build consensus on approaches to be taken on addressing the issue of the slave trade and slavery.
Secretary General of St. Kitts and Nevis National Commission for UNESCO, Antonio Maynard explained that this project is a part of a global initiative by UNESCO in giving due recognition to sites and talking of memories linked to the transatlantic slave trade with activities outlined will serve as a prerequisite to the erection of a monument in remembrance of our ancestors, the abolition of slavery and the slave trade.
He said to this major activities to be implemented accordingly; some of which have already been initiated.He highlighted the workings of the [National] UNESCO Scientific Slave Route committee headed by Dr. Ken Ballentyne which was established earlier this year with a mandate to collaborate with the government, civil society and academic institutions under the planning and implementation of UNESCO Slave Route project activities in the realization which includes the fatality and consequences of the slave trade and slavery.
Maynard informed that an important part of the project is to encourage the production of educational materials in the form of a booklet and other friendly learning tools about our own black history as it relates to slavery and the integration of scientific research in the schools curriculum. He said further that In addition one of the highlights of this project will be a lecture series in order to further sensitize and educate the general public.
“Obviously the crowning of these initial activities will be the construction, erection and the unveiling of a slave monument that would foster greater sense awareness among the people of St. Kitts and Nevis on the issue of slavery,” the UNESCO official disclosed.
In accordance with him: “A national monument will be the attraction for locals and tourists alike thus enhancing cultural tourism and the teaching and learning guides for teachers and students.”
The feature address was given by Dr. Ballentyne who spoke at about the importance for black people to recognize their roots of slavery with the goal strengthening themselves on the way forward. In his presentation he used the Akan term which, this media house understands means literally, “to go back and get it.”
It was highlighted that one of the Adinkra symbol for Sankofa depicts a mythical Bird flying forward with its head turned backward. It was explained that the egg in its mouth represents the ‘gems’ or knowledge of the past upon which wisdom is based. Moreover, as gathered from Dr. Ballentyne’s presentation, it also signifies the generation to come that would benefit from that wisdom.
Minister of Education and Information and Chairman of the National Commission for UNESCO, Nigel Carty admonished the people of Federation of St. Kitts and Nevis that "we must not never forget the atrocities that were committed against us" as he too expressed sentiments that encouraged us all to embrace our roots and culture as a black people.
Highlights of the night saw performances by Nicola Thompson accompanied by the drumming sounds of the Okolo Tegremantine Drummers. She sang 'Swing Low, Sweet Chariot.' Stephane Vincent recited a poem crafted especially for the occasion. The night ended with an interactive consultation session as many share their opinions on what could be done in order to sensitize the people of St. Kitts and Nevis about knowing and embracing their African roots.
Source: Press Release (21/07/11)
Precious Mills- Public Relations Committee
St. Kitts-Nevis UNESCO Slave Route Project