Slavery Remembrance Day: A Weekend at Home

International Slavery Museum will mark the 21st annual SRD virtually this year: 21 – 23 August 2020 

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International Slavery Museum will mark the 21st annual SRD virtually this year: 21 – 23 August 2020 

Every year, the International Slavery Museum commemorates Slavery Remembrance Day (SRD) on 23 August, a day in 1791that saw the beginning of an uprising of enslaved Africans on the island of Saint Domingue (modern Haiti) that would play a crucial role in the abolition of the transatlantic slave trade o. The date has been chosen by UNESCO as the International Day for the Remembrance of the Slave Trade and its Abolition. The day is an important reminder that enslaved Africans were the main agents of their own liberation. 

This year feels different. Emotions of sadness, rage and fear have seeped our minds from George Floyd’s murder at the hands of police brutality which sparked protests and cries for justice worldwide; the vast reach and profound importance of the Black Lives Matter movement globally has seen an accelerated change in awareness towards racism, and the COVID-19 pandemic, which has disproportionately affected our BAME communities. With so much unrest and uncertainty currently in the world, never before has it been so important for us to come together, to remember and reflect on the past, and work together for the future.  

This year, we will be marking our 21st Slavery Remembrance Day, and although we cannot physically come together to mark SRD, we have decided to move our programme online, where we hope to bring our communities, friends, visitors and families together in a digital realm – from near and far. With a running theme of remembrance, empowerment and healing, expect to see lectures, conversation, panel discussions, new resources for exploring the past and its impact on the present,  creative activities and much more.  

Dr Richard Benjamin, Head of International Slavery Museum comments:  'It’s vital for us to continue with this important annual event; and even though we might not be together in person, we are collectively together virtually. We will still remember the ancestors, their sacrifices, their resilience and their knowledge. We have excellent speakers this year, who will share their experiences and understanding of the subjects which are at the heart of Slavery Remembrance Day and what it means." 

We start SRD weekend by learning more about the connection between slavery and key sites within Liverpool. As we are unable to hold the Walk of Remembrance, local historian Laurence Westgaph will be curating an online map, relating it back to personal experience of healing an empowerment. This will be a collaborative project, with a range of participants from the eclectic Liverpool communities and its members. 

Professor Stephen Small and Zita Holbourne will be keynote speakers as part of the Dorothy Kuya Memorial Lecture. Professor Small joins us from the University of California, Berkeley where he will be talking about how the British systems of slavery shaped the lives of Africans and their descendants, and the consequential features of imperialism – in Liverpool, Britain and the British Empire. A Liverpool born Black man, Professor Small will explore the highly consequential features of imperialism, in Liverpool, Britain and the British Empire – and will interrogate the strategies passed down over generations by African men, women and their children, in the living legacy of slavery and imperialism that we confront in the time of Covid-19. 

Zita Holbourne is a lifelong community & human rights campaigner and activist, as well as an artist, curator, poet and writer. She avidly campaigns for equality, freedom, justice and human rights and will delve into these topics as part of her keynote speech, discussing reparations for past atrocities, healing our collective trauma and equal rights for the future generations. From Windrush to the disproportionate impacts of Covid-19, systemic discrimination and State brutality to everyday racism and micro aggressions, we are living with the legacies of enslavement and colonialism. Zita will explore this difficult but needed narrative.  

The libation ceremony will also be digitized this year, featuring Chief Angus Chukuemeka, and pupils from Calderstones School. As well as exploring the contextual meaning of the libation ceremony, the pupils will have the opportunity to be in conversation with Chief Angus, and ask him questions around the importance of this tradition – and what it means for them. We will also have online activities for children and families, referencing the theme of SRD, and including activities such as zine making and drawing.  

A comprehensive list of what you can expect can be found on our website.  

There has never been a more important time for us to come together; in remembrance of the past, but also to fight for change in the present for our future generations. This is a defining moment of change, and we are all a part of it. 

We Remember. We Act.   

Notes to editors 

About International Slavery Museum 

The International Slavery Museum opened in August 2007. It is situated on the third floor of the Merseyside Maritime Museum at the Royal Albert Dock. It is the only national museum in the world to cover the transatlantic slave trade and its legacies as well as contemporary forms of slavery and enslavement. It is also an international hub for resources on human rights issues and campaigning. In February 2020, it was shortlisted for the NLHF Heritage Horizon Awards for the transformational project of Igniting Ideas and Action. 

About our Keynote speakers 

Professor Stephen Small, PhD is a Liverpool born Black, raised in Liverpool 8, and a Professor of African Diaspora Studies at the University of California, Berkeley (since 1995). He has taught at universities in England, the United States, and the Netherlands, and directed international programmes in Zimbabwe, Brazil, France and Spain. He has mentored and advised students and community researchers from Black community organisations across several nations. His most recent book is 20 Questions and Answers on Black Europe, 2018.  He is currently researching legacies of imperialism in Black Europe, with an emphasis on England in general and Liverpool in particular. 

Zita Holbourne is an award-winning human rights campaigner, community and trade union activist, public speaker, visual artist, performance poet, writer, curator and vocalist. She campaigns for equality, freedom & justice through arts and activism in the UK and Internationally. Zita is the co-founder and National Chair of BARAC UK, which celebrated its ten-year anniversary in June 2020, campaigning against racism, injustice and the impact of austerity on black communities. She is the National Vice President of the Public and Commercial Services Union, Joint National Chair of Artists' Union England and sits on the Trades Union Congress Race Relations Committee and the Women's Committee and on the General Federation of Trade Unions National Executive Committee. 

She is part of the UNESCO Coalition of Artists for the General History of Africa, the author of Striving for Equality Freedom and Justice, a book fusing the poetical with the political. She is one of 13 British women featured in the award-winning book, Here We Stand, Women Changing the World. Zita is the curator of the Roots Culture Identity art exhibition established to showcase young black artists in memory of Stephen Lawrence. She is the winner of the National Diversity Awards, Positive Role Model for Race 2012 and the Legacy Awards Equality Champion Award and has been nominated in 2020 by the BLAC Awards for an Honour of Extinction for community campaigning and for theTällberg /Eluasson Global Leadership Prize.