OAS National Office Promoting Inter-American Week for People of African Descent

By VOICE Reporter
OAS National Representative Lilly G. Ching Soto.
OAS National Representative Lilly G. Ching Soto.

The Organisation of American States (OAS) National Office in Saint Lucia has announced that Saint Lucia and other fellow member-states of the hemispheric organisation are in the middle of a week of activities observing People of African Descent across the Caribbean and Latin America.

OAS National Representative Lilly G. Ching Soto says the week started Monday March 21, when Secretary General Luis Almagro and Assistant Secretary General Nestor Mendez launched the 2022 Inter-American Week for People of African Descent in the Americas.

March 21 is observed annually by the United Nations as the International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination and March 25 is also observed as International Day of Remembrance of the Victims of Slavery and the Trans-Atlantic Slave Trade.

According to Ms Soto, the annual event “provides an annual opportunity for OAS member-states to reflect on issues affecting Persons of African Descent” and “to commemorate their significant contributions to the development of societies in the Americas.”

This year’s theme is: Stories of Courage in the Americas: Resistance to Slavery and Unity against Racism.

Established through a Permanent Council resolution adopted by member-states in February 2018, the OAS has dedicated the week, every year, to remembering the legacy of Slavery and the Slave Trade.

According to the OAS National Office Representative, “The week also focuses on the consequences of Slavery and the Slave Trade on the lives of Afro-descendants across the Americas and the Caribbean, who continue to confront numerous challenges that impede their full enjoyment of human rights and social inclusion.”

“These topics,” she said, “will be addressed in the many wide-ranging activities that will focus on this year’s theme.”

Resolution 1093, which established the annual week, mandates the OAS member-states to mark the Inter-American Week with activities that foster greater awareness and respect for the diversity of the heritage and culture of people of African descent.

This year’s activities are being observed at OAS headquarters, as well as in member-states, via the national offices.

The week’s activities include a virtual exhibition by the Art Museum of the Americas, of artwork depicting the daily lives of Afro-descendants, their culture and heritage, being displayed on the OAS website and social media.

Also included in this week’s activities are short films aired virtually and at the Art Museum of the Americas, showcasing the fortitude of Afro-descendants.

The Reading Corner, described by Ms Ching Soto as “an initiative that promotes the literary wealth of the Hemisphere and highlight the stories of Afro-descendants by compiling and disseminating literary works submitted by member states and OAS workforce members,” is also on display on the website.

On Friday (March 25), the OAS Permanent Council will also hold a special meeting to commemorate the International Day of Remembrance of the Victims of Slavery and the Transatlantic Slave Trade.

In addition, according to Ms Ching Soto, “The OAS will also on Friday broadcast a new podcast series on stories from various people in the hemisphere examining the shared heritage of slavery and the continuing struggle against racism.”

The United Nations observes March 25 every year as International Day of Remembrance of the Victims of Slavery and the Trans-Atlantic Slave Trade, which is also observed by OAS Member-states.

Also carded for Friday (from 2pm) is A Chat with the OAS, a virtual conversation featuring the Prime Minister of St. Vincent and the Grenadines Ralph Gonsalves and OAS Assistant Secretary General Nestor Mendez, which will focus on The Case for Reparations in the Americas.

Meanwhile, The Saint Lucia National Reparations Committee (NRC) has also joined the OAS National Office in appealing to members and Saint Lucians generally to tune-in and follow the events on the OAS Website.

NRC Chair Earl Bousquet also urges Saint Lucians to “tune in and follow Friday’s online presentation by Prime Minister Dr Ralph Gonsalves on The Case for Reparations in the Americas.”

According to Bousquet: “Prime Minister Gonsalves was the prime mover of the Caribbean Community (CARICOM) movement for Reparations launched in St. Vincent & The Grenadines in 2013 and the case he will make will also be of much relevance to Saint Lucia s to every other OAS member-state that experienced Slavery and Native Genocide.”

The NRC Chair also says, “The OAS’ annual week is one to be observed annually and as of this year, the NRC has engaged with the OAS National Office to ensure the issues of the week are also remembered between the annual weeks, on an ongoing basis.”

According to Bousquet, “We (the NRC) are happy to engage with the OAS National Office and look forward to continuing the cooperation between the 5th and 6th OAS Weeks in observance of People of African Descent in the Caribbean and Latin America.”

Dr Gonsalves presentation and all the other activities can be followed on the OAS Website and Social Media.

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