A number of Jamaicans know Kingston Harbour as the seventh largest natural harbour in the world, however, too few recall that the majority of enslaved Africans took their first step on Jamaica soil in Kingston.
Thanks to Minister of Culture, Gender, Entertainment and Sport Olivia Grange, and cultural expert Sydney Bartley, as well as a slew of venerable campaigners, on Saturday Jamaica joined the growing number of activist nations whose poignant concern with the history of the African slavery led to the United Nations (UN) designating March 25 as the International Day for the Remembrance of the Victims of Slavery the Transatlantic Slave Trade.
According to information provided at the function, not only did the majority of enslaved Africans took their first step (outside of Africa) on Jamaican soil, but the last ship to disembark Africans at Kingston Harbour unloaded on February 17, 1808, almost a year after the passage of the British "Act for the Abolition of the Slave Trade" on March 25, 1807.
After a 308-day journey 235 enslaved Africans disembarked at Kingston Harbour, 26 fewer than had been forced to embark when it left the African continent.
Saturday took on greater significance in Jamaica as the governor general signed a proclamation declaring March 25 as a national day of remembrance; or a day to be solemnly observed, but not another public holiday.
The event, which was held at the Victoria Pier in downtown Kingston, around the famous "Negro Aroused" sculpture of a stooping black figure looking out from the seaside, reminding the audience of its past and offering the world an opportunity to pause and reflect on the horrific nature of the transatlantic trade in Africans and their enslavement.
As the relatively small crowd of participants threw flower into the harbour, they recalled the theory that more than 12.5 million Africans were carried across the Atlantic on an estimated 40,000 slave-trading voyages between 1519 and 1865, and that nearly two million perished under horrendous conditions on the two-month voyage and were thrown overboard.
The proclamation, signed by Governor General Sir Patrick Allen, and read by the Grange, acknowledged that the date (March 25) "shall be observed annually as the 'National Day of Remembrance of the Victims of the Transatlantic Trafficking in Enslaved Africans and Chattel Enslavement" in Jamaica'.
It read that, it is manifestly the reality that, in Jamaica, "there is no day or moment in the current rituals of recognition and commemoration of historic events and circumstances, that has been designated for the memorialisation of the victims of the transatlantic trafficking in enslaved Africans and a system of slavery, "which experiences wrought horrific suffering upon our ancestors, inflicted at the hands of our colonisers and enslavers". It added: "And whereas their sufferings and heinous conditions of their enslavement have been recorded in the annals of history, often in ways prejudicial to their image and dignity and the truth of their circumstances.
"And whereas our ancestors were the victims of the most egregious episodes of people's inhumanity to other people, from their capture and separation from their families, as well as torture in their homeland; to their stifling and undignified storage, as if cargo, in dungeons, then forced removal from the African continent...
"And whereas in response to relentless resistance and rebellion of our ancestor, on the Twenty-fifth day of March,1807, 'An Act for the Abolition of the Slave Trade" was passed in the British Parliament, abolishing the trafficking in enslaved Africans as at August 1808...
"And whereas the UN also declared the 25th day of March each year, as International Day of Remembrance of the Victims of Slavery and the Transatlantic Slave Trade, pursuant to the instigation of countries of countries, including Jamaica, and that being the day on which the British Parliament commenced the end of trafficking in enslaved Africans to memorialise...
"I Patrick Linton Allen do hereby proclaim and make known that the 25th day of March shall be observed as the 'National Day of Remembrance of the Victims of the Transatlantic Trafficking in Enslaved Africans and Chattel Enslavement'.
Among those attending the event were veteran legal luminary Frank Phipps, and his wife Pearl, as well as president of the Universal Negro Improvement Association Steven Golding; and chairman of the National Council on Reparations Laleta Davis Mattis.
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