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August 23 marked as Remembrance of African Resistance

By The Ligali Organisation | Tue 23 August 2011

UN: 2011 - The International year for people of African descent

A commemorative event hosted at Westminster City hall was successful in marking 23 August as the International Day of Remembrance of African Resistance against Enslavement.


A special tribute was given to elders Jessica and Eric Huntley who were present at the Marking 23 August event organised by community group BTWSC and WSDG. Alongside various members of the public there was also councillors, historians, publishers and several noted community workers present.

Kwaku from BMC led the event which explored the relevance of August in African history outlining the history of the Haitian revolution which started in August 1791 and exploring the surrounding events that led up to and followed making the date 23rd August a significant marker of African resistance against enslavement ever since.

In an article published in the Guardian newspaper, the cultural journalist Felicity Heywood wrote;

“Britain woke up on 23 August largely ignorant of the fact that it is a national day of remembrance. Four years ago the government declared it the day to remember those millions of African people who were captured, denigrated, enslaved, tortured and murdered, who rebelled and ultimately survived a period rightly seen as the most heinous crime of humankind against humankind in history. But when was the government going to tell us? And what is it contributing to the day?”

Her poignant comments are widely echoed across the UK by hundreds of community organisations.

Several have reported to the Ligali organisation that they are finding their efforts to commemorate this history blocked by those resistant to any commemoration of African history outside the themes of sports or entertainment.

There is a quiet and growing anger at the manner in which African history has been marginalised, trivialised and distorted throughout 2011, a period designated by the United Nations as the International Year for People of African Descent.

Indeed, Mirjana Najcevska, Chairperson of the UN Working Group of Experts on People of African Descent stated “This is the year to recognise the role of people of African descent in global development and to discuss justice for current and past acts of discrimination that have led to the situation today.”

Instead of the majority of Britain’s foremost media and cultural institutions leading the charge of celebrating the achievements of African people, they and noted historians have instead supported the marginalisation, demonisation or denigration of both African culture and history.

Worse yet, during the Marking 23 August event Councillor June Nelson revealed the extent to which the problem had become institutionalise when she revealed that in Hillingdon, their annual African history month in October had been renamed ‘peoples’ history month despite the presence of African people in the borough.

This approach is the antithesis of the proposed intent of the UN declaration which Navi Pillay, the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights defined by stating “The International Year must become a milestone in the on-going campaign to advance the rights of people of African descent. It deserves to be accompanied by activities that fire the imagination, enhance our understanding of the situation of people of African descent and are a catalyst for real and positive change in the daily lives of the millions of Afro-descendants around the world.”

This has not occurred.

Kwaku, BTWSC & BBM


International Day of African Resistance

A few museums used the day to reflect on the decision of the UNESCO Executive Board to proclaim the 23rd August, the International Day for the Remembrance of the Slave Trade and of its Abolition. However this designation which has little support across the Pan African world has been abandoned for African Remembrance month and respectfully marking 23 August as the International Day of Remembrance of African Resistance against Enslavement.

Thankfully organisations like BTWSC & WSDG who organise events such as the Marking August 23 continue to place the significance of August within global African history by answering the questions – “What Are We Commemorating & What Should We Be Commemorating?”

As BTWSC project designer Kwaku responds;

“Many Africans object to both the colloquial term Slavery Memorial Day and UNESCO's term International Day for the Remembrance of the Slave Trade and its Abolition, because both terms focus negatively on enslaved Africans (constantly labelling them as ‘slaves’) by not highlighting their determination in fighting for their own freedom.

The preferred term is International Day of African Resistance Against Enslavement, because it underscores the significance of August 23 (1791), which heralded the start of the Haitian Revolution, the first successful revolution by enslaved Africans in the so-called New World, which directly led to the abolition of the trafficking of Africans.”


External Links
A Year Dedicated to People of African Descent
Marking August 23
International Day of African Resistance Against Enslavement
African slavery must not be forgotten


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Speak Out!

Did you take part in any activities to commemorate 23rd August? Were there any organised around the area where you reside? What should we be commemorating?
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The preferred term is International Day of African Resistance Against Enslavement, because it underscores the significance of August 23 (1791), which heralded the start of the Haitian Revolution, the first successful revolution by enslaved Africans

Kwaku, BTWSC & BBM

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