Please note that all PDF documents are marked as such and will open in a new browser window.
BigLogo.gif UN Member States on the Record
Break the silence, beat the drum on 25 March
10 March 2009 / 03:27

[Dateline: New York | Author:  DPI/Outreach Division/iSeek]

Poster: Breaking the silence, beating the drum | Credit: Graphic Design/KSD/OD/DPIPlans are underway to mark the 2009 Commemoration of the International Day of Remembrance of the Victims of Slavery and the Transatlantic Slave Trade on 25 March, one of which is a star-studded cultural evening and concert in the General Assembly Hall.  

This year’s theme is “Breaking the Silence, Beating the Drum,” chosen because drums are traditionally used the world over, especially in Africa, to send a loud message. 

In this case, drums will serve to remind listeners of the causes, consequences and lessons of the transatlantic slave trade, and of the dangers of racism and prejudice.   

One of the evening’s highlights will be the public debut of an issue-inspired song, “Blood into Gold,” by Emmy-award winning musician and philanthropist Peter Buffett, and R&B/pop star Akon (Senegal/USA).

Other performers from all continents invited include:  Mezzo-Soprano Audrey Babcock (USA); Soprano Angela Brown (USA); The Blind Boys of Alabama (USA); Izaline Calister (Curacao/The Netherlands); Toumani Diabaté (Mali); Danny Glover (USA); Gilberto Gil (Brazil); Bill T. Jones (USA); Sarah Jones (USA); Salif Keita (Mali) and his band; Ladysmith Black Mambazo (South Africa); Emeline Michel (Haiti); The Marley Brothers (Jamaica); CCH Pounder (Guyana/USA/Senegal); Stephanie Benson (Ghana); Phylicia Rashad (USA); Tenor Noah Stewart (USA); Randy Weston (USA) and his Quintet; Choreographer Gabri Christa (Curacao/The Netherlands) and ten award winning dancers of various nationalities in a piece dedicated to the Middle Passage. Other invited celebrities will be present in the Hall and pre-taped testimonials from Nelson Mandela and Muhammad Ali will be shown.

The event, which requires the building of a special stage in the GA Hall, will feature a combination of artistic expressions, including music, dance and the spoken word. 

This cultural evening will draw on the voices of the victims to tell the story of centuries of slavery, and honor the achievements of the enslaved people who, though denied their freedom, were still able to confront and transcend oppression. Over the years, the oral history of the transatlantic slave trade has been perpetuated in music by the descendants of the millions of victims of slavery.

Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon and General Assembly President Miguel d’Escoto Brockmann will also attend. 

The SG will kick-start the day drumming a few notes of his own at an event at noon on 25 March with the participation of other musicians, drummers, steel bands and students.

The concert is being produced by Culture Project, a not-for-profit organization. Legendary music producer, Nile Rodgers, will be the concert’s music director.

Additional information will be forthcoming.

The day was designated by the General Assembly in a 2007 resolution (A/RES/62/122).

Related New York events

Tuesday, 24 March
6 p.m., "Drums" Exhibit Opening

An exhibit of drums sponsored by the Permanent Mission of Cameroon, in collaboration with the Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture, CARICOM and the African Union, highlighting the historical perspective and socio-cultural impact of drums throughout the slave trade and beyond, from Africa to the Americas, will be on display from 24 March to 24 April.  The exhibit is expected to be launched by the Deputy-Secretary-General.

Wednesday, 25 March
9 a.m. Student Videoconference

Participating in the conference will be U.S. schools that are part of the UNESCO Associated Schools Project (ASPnet) Network and schools in the Caribbean invited by the organization Amistad America, including students from schools in New York City gathered at UNHQ.  The conference will close with a noon drumming event.  In preparation for the observance, the Cyberschoolbus team is developing a related online educational guide. 

Thursday, 26 March
10:15 a.m. DPI/NGO Briefing - Panel Discussion on the “Legacy of the Slave Trade on Modern Society”

-Sylviane A. Diouf, Ph.D. (Senegal), Author of several books on slavery, Curator of Digital Collections, Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture;
-Jeffrey Heyman (USA), Executive Director, Marketing, Public Relations and Communications, Peralta Community College District;
-Jean Claude Martineau (Haiti), poet and historian;  
-Ngugi wa Thiong'o (Kenya), Author and distinguished Professor of English and Comparative Literature, University of California; and
-Derek Walcott (St Lucia), Nobel Prize laureate.

1:30 p.m. 
UN Bookshop event focusing on slavery, Aimé Césaire, drums, and global nomads and a “Meet the author” book signing with Derek Walcott, Ngugi wa Thiong’o and Sylviane Diouf.

Also planned are documentary film screenings ( MS Word programme with additional details and times  ).

UN Information Centres are expected to organize similar commemorative events around the world.

Related web site

Peter Buffett and Akon have created a social networking web site called intended to serve as a place for people to share stories of how they’re making a difference.  Beginning on 25 March, slavery and human trafficking will be the site’s featured subject through the end of April.