UN SG thanks CARICOM, African Union for leading Permanent Memorial Initiative

United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki Moon on Wednesday thank the Caribbean Community andAfrican Union for their role in the initiation and creation of a permanent memorial to honor victims of slavery and the transatlantic slave trade. The Memorial which is called the Ark of Return  was unveiled Wednesday in a ceremony at the United Nations headquarters. Rodney Leon, an architect of Haitian descent, living and working in New York, is the creator and designer.

In his remarks at the ceremony Secretary General Ban Ki Moon said the memorial would stand to honour the memory of fifteen million men, women and children who were forced to cross the Atlantic ocean on Slave ships. He said it also helps to acknowledge the collective tragedy that befell millions of people and ensures that we never forget.  He said he hoped it would be a call to action against modern day slavery in the form of  human trafficking.

Chair of the Permanent Memorial Committee and Permanent Representative of Jamaica’s Mission to the UN, H.E. Courtenay Rattray who moderated the proceedings noted that the unveiling represented a dream and vision that has become a reality, since at first the memorial was nothing more than a mere thought. He described the occasion as being glorious, solemn and happy. He also used the opportunity to thank UN Secretary General Ban Ki Moon for his “unwavering support” from the moment the General Assembly decided to erect the memorial.

Prime Minster of Jamaica the Most Hon. Portia Simpson Miller who also spoke at the unveiling said it was an honor for Jamaica to be at the forefront of the initiative as a CARICOM Member State. She said she was proud that the countries of the Caribbean Community took the lead in the initiative along with the African Union.  She said she hoped the memorial would be used to say no to racism, discrimination and intolerance.

Freedom was not gifted to us but was earned by the sweat, blood and tears of our fore-bearers, the Jamaican Prime Minister said.

The memorial aims to remind visitors of the complete history of slavery, urging them to acknowledge the tragedy and its legacy, and to heighten awareness of the current dangers of racism, prejudice and slavery’s lingering consequences that continue to impact the descendants of slavery’s victims today.

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