The International Day for the Remembrance of the Slave Trade and Its Abolition was observed across the world on Tuesday, Aug. 23. The purpose of the observation is to pay tribute to the people who revolted against the system of slavery on that day in 1791 and started the Haitian Revolution. The early hours of Aug. 23, 1791, in Santo Domingo (today Haiti and the Dominican Republic) saw the beginning of the uprising in the abolition of the transatlantic slave trade. Freedom and independence for Haiti, which was gained in 1804, was a turning point in human history. In 2014, a United Nations resolution established the worldwide observation.
The popularity of the observation is spreading beyond countries like Haiti and Senegal, which have held celebrations on Aug. 23 since the late 1990s. Dozens of demonstrators gathered in London, England, for the city’s first-ever memorial honoring victims of the transatlantic slave trade. The crowd in bustling Trafalgar Square was filled with Black people with raised fists on Sunday, two days before Aug. 23.
“This is the first ever memorial service for the victims of the trans-Atlantic slave trade to be held in Trafalgar Square,” said Shezal Laing, one of the organizers. “This day passes by largely unnoticed, and most people are unaware that the day exists.”
Dozens of London’s Black residents, musical performers, poets and activists gathered Sunday. They spoke out against contemporary slavery, celebrated freedom, and highlighted the importance of the world’s collective Black history.
British musician and activist Akala performed at the event and spoke to Ruptly about why remembrance is so crucial.
“When Black people remember their victimhood at the hands of the British Empire and colonial slavery, apparently they should get over it and it’s all in the past,” Akala said. “Even when the legacies of said brutality are still here with racism and police brutality and mass incarceration and things of that nature.”
Organizers said they hope Sunday’s demonstration is only the start of something that will continue to grow.