International Slavery Museum will mark the 21st annual Slavery Remembrance Day virtually this year with a ‘Weekend at Home’.
Every year, the International Slavery Museum commemorates Slavery Remembrance Day (SRD) on 23 August, a day in 1791 that saw the beginning of an uprising of enslaved Africans on the island of Saint Domingue (modern Haiti) that would play a crucial role in the abolition of the transatlantic slave trade. The date has been chosen by UNESCO as the International Day for the Remembrance of the Slave Trade and its Abolition. The day is an important reminder that enslaved Africans were the main agents of their own liberation.
This year feels different. Emotions of sadness, rage and fear have seeped our minds from George Floyd’s murder at the hands of police brutality which sparked protests and cries for justice worldwide; the vast reach and profound importance of the Black Lives Matter movement globally has seen an accelerated change in awareness towards racism, and the COVID-19 pandemic, which has disproportionately affected our BAME communities. With so much unrest and uncertainty currently in the world, never before has it been so important for us to come together, to remember and reflect on the past, and work together for the future.
This year, we will be marking our 21st Slavery Remembrance Day, and although we cannot physically come together to mark SRD, we have decided to move our programme online, where we hope to bring our communities, friends, visitors and families together in a digital realm – from near and far. With a running theme of remembrance, empowerment and healing, expect to see lectures, conversation, panel discussions, new resources for exploring the past and its impact on the present, creative activities and much more.
Dr Richard Benjamin, Head of International Slavery Museum comments:
‘It’s vital for us to continue with this important annual event; and even though we might not be together in person, we are collectively together virtually. We will still remember the ancestors, their sacrifices, their resilience and their knowledge. We have excellent speakers this year, who will share their experiences and understanding of the subjects which are at the heart of Slavery Remembrance Day and what it means.”
SRD weekend will start with a panel discussion, an honest and engaging discussion about what the museum curators have learnt from the last few months, and whether George Floyd’s untimely death has been the catalyst for the change we so desperately need.
Professor Stephen Small and Zita Holbourne will be keynote speakers as part of the Dorothy Kuya Memorial Lecture. Professor Small joins us from the University of California, Berkeley where he will be talking about how the British systems of slavery shaped the lives of Africans and their descendants, and the consequential features of imperialism – in Liverpool, Britain and the British Empire. A Liverpool born Black man, Professor Small will explore the highly consequential features of imperialism, in Liverpool, Britain and the British Empire – and will interrogate the strategies passed down over generations by African men, women and their children, in the living legacy of slavery and imperialism that we confront in the time of Covid-19.
Zita Holbourne is a lifelong community & human rights campaigner and activist, as well as an artist, curator, poet and writer. She avidly campaigns for equality, freedom, justice and human rights and will delve into these topics as part of her keynote speech, discussing repatriations for past atrocities, healing our collective trauma and equal rights for the future generations. From Windrush to the disproportionate impacts of Covid-19, systemic discrimination and State brutality to everyday racism and micro aggressions, we are living with the legacies of enslavement and colonialism. Zita will explore this difficult but needed narrative.
In addition to this, as we are unable to hold the walk of the remembrance, local historian Laurence Westgaph will be curating an online map which will present Liverpool’s connection to slavery and key sites relating to personal experiences of healing and empowerment. This will be a collaborative project, with a range of participants from the eclectic Liverpool communities and its members.
The libation ceremony will also be digitized this year, featuring Chief Angus Chukuemeka, and pupils from Calderstones School. As well as exploring the contextual meaning of the libation ceremony, the pupils will have the opportunity to be in conversation with Chief Angus, and ask him questions around the importance of this tradition – and what it means for them. We will also have online activities for children and families, referencing the theme of SRD, and including activities such as zine making and drawing.
A comprehensive list of what you can expect can be found at https://www.liverpoolmuseums.org.uk/slavery-remembrance-day
There has never been a more important time for us to come together; in remembrance of the past, but also to fight for change in the present for our future generations. This is a defining moment of change, and we are all a part of it.
We Remember. We Act.