Google celebrates ex-Nigerian slave's 272nd birthday (image)

Sad memories of slavery 
The hall was silent. The atmosphere was tense. Screams and wailings of children, women and men filled the air. Heads bowed in deep reflection. Some raised their eyes upwards looking at the ceiling. Many tried hard to fight back tears.

It was no funeral wake but screening of a film, entitled - The Slave Route: The Soul of Resistance.
The 36-minute documentary showed the sufferings of the era, focused on the transatlantic slave trade. It reconciled the history, influences and rationale behind the various characters involved in the era.

The screening was part of the activities marking this year’s International Day of Remembrance of the Victims of Slavery and the Transatlantic slave trade organised by the United Nations Information Centre (UNIC), Lagos, in collaboration with African Anti-Slavery Coalition (ASLAC).

This year’s theme: Forever Free: Celebrating Emancipations reechoed the age-long advocacy for freedom, especially by the victims of slavery.

As guests walked into the lecture hall, they were first confronted with the pictures and stories of some of the heroes of emancipation like Phillis Wheatley, Harriet Tubman, John Brown, Olaudah Equiano (an ex-lbo slave who was kidnapped from Isseke Village in present-day Anambra State), Frederick Douglas and more.

But nothing prepared them for what they saw in the film.

According to the organisers, the screening was meant to involve the young generation in the campaign against slavery. UNIC Officer in-charge, Mrs Olajumoke Araba, who read the UN chief’s speech, said: “The film paints an apt picture. And we can see that there are lessons for everybody learn from what happened during the period, especially the pupils. It is hoped that involving the young ones would ignite in them the need to carry on the fight against all forms of racism and slavery. Even though the programme fell during their examination period and when many schools are on holiday, we were glad for the ones that came. Each watched with deep concentration and I’m sure it has improved their knowledge of history.”

The era, sad as it was, produced great minds like Wheatley who became one of the most accomplished writers, it was learnt. She published her first poem at age 12. Born in Senegambia in 1753, she was sold into slavery at the age of 7 and transported to North America. She was purchased by the Wheatley family of Boston, who taught her to read and write, and encouraged her poetry when they saw her talent.

Despite the rare opportunities she had as a slave, she probably would have preferred to be free.

Advocating through film 
The film’s heartbreaking scenes of sufferings and maltreatment of African slaves not only painted a vivid picture and degradation of the era, but also buttressed Mr Olufemi Phillips, a human rights activist’s lecture on the theme at a forum before the screening.

The celebrations of emancipation 
In the same vein, this year’s celebration was particularly unique as it marked several global milestones in the eradication of slavery. They include the 150th year anniversary of Abraham Lincoln issuing the Emancipation Proclamation, freeing millions of African-Americans from enslavement; the 180th anniversary of the Slavery Abolition Act of 1833 in the British Empire; also in 1833, slavery ended in Canada, the British West Indies and the Cape of Good Hope. Others include the Indian Slavery Act of 1843 signed some 170 years ago; in France, slavery was abolished 165 years ago; Argentina (160 years ago) and the former Dutch colonies (150 years ago), among others.