Remarks by Elizabeth M. Cousens, U.S. Representative to the UN Economic and Social Council, at the Commemorative Ceremony on the International Day of Remembrance of the Victims of Slavery and the Transatlantic Slave Trade, March 25, 2014

From the U.S. State Department:

Mr. President, Madame Chef de Cabinet, Excellency’s, Ladies and Gentlemen,

Today we pay tribute to the men, women, and children robbed of their freedom and their lives by slavery and the Transatlantic Slave Trade. We honor the memory of the millions who died, who were stolen from their families, who suffered from disease and deprivation, and who experienced other untold horrors because of slavery and its barbaric toll. The Transatlantic Slave Trade is a stain on our collective conscience that indelibly marked our own history and left wounds we must still strive to heal.

Today, we also commemorate those who fought in countries around the world, against this outrageous practice. We particularly honor those who, defied the chains of captivity, intimidation, violence, and fear, rose up against this injustice and reclaim their rightful freedom. It was enslaved men and women who rose up 210 years ago to claim their independence in what became the Republic of Haiti who showed the world that slavery, oppression, and indignity could be overcome.

We look forward to the completion of the Permanent Memorial in Honour of the Victims of Slavery and the Transatlantic Slave Trade, designed by Haitian-American Rodney Léon as a powerful reminder of their strength and common purpose. We must always remember their courage, and the possibility for justice to triumph against even the darkest crimes. As we combat modern-day forms of slavery today, we must be inspired by their example and be unrelenting in our resolve to see all individuals free, to leave in peace and dignity, free from captivity, exploitation, and abuse, free from racism, discrimination and prejudice.

The Transatlantic Slave Trade is one of the darkest chapters in human history. It marks us in ways that we must always strive to overcome and that we must never allow ourselves to forget. Today, we re-commit to combatting slavery’s enduring consequences, we renew our collective determination to end slavery in all its forms, and we rededicate ourselves to advancing rights, freedom, and dignity for all.

Thank you Mr. President.


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