the Caribbean: it traveled across three continents to reach the
NYU campus. Its purpose: to remember.
Angelou was one of the speakers
The Long Memory" a travelling international symposium on the slave
trade, was held for the first time in the United States, during
the week of Oct. 5 at NYU. With an internationally recognized panel
of scholars, teachers, historians, authors and performers, it brought
together more than 8,000 people to educate, relate, testify and
remember the impact of slavery on the African diaspora.
It took almost
two years to organize, according to Rosamond King, assistant program
manager of the Africana studies program. It began as an international
initiative by UNESCO to increase awareness of the trans-Atlantic
slave trade and its consequences.
and writer Jayne Cortez proposed the conference to Manthia Diawara,
who heads NYUıs Africana Studies Program and directs its Institute
of African-American Affairs. "While a collective effort, this symposium
has really been Ms. Cortezı brainchild," King said. Cortez headed
up the conferenceıs organizing committee, which included King, John
Fitzgerald Gates and Glenda Noel-Doyle.
Why NYU? What
would bring the organizers of "Slave Routes" to Greenwich Village?
"NYU has all the necessary resources including a support staff and
a wide array of influential contacts," said Gates, who is associate
director of NYUıs Africana studies program. "NYU is the perfect
place because of our location in New York City and because the Institute
of African-American Affairs is known internationally for sponsoring
programming that deals with the beauty and complexity of black peoplesı
experiences globally. It was a natural fit."
for a conference of this size and magnitude is never easy, and certainly
not in this case. "A lot of organizations donıt want to touch this
subject matter," said Noel-Doyle, who is the assistant director
of the Africana studies program. "It is some sort of collective
the touchy subject matter came logistical costs. The conference
was co-sponsored by UNESCO, within the framework of the Slave Routes
Project; the Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture; the
Anacostia Museum and Center for African-American History and Culture,
a branch of the Smithsonian Institution; along with various corporations
"We raised several
thousand dollars for the African studies scholarship fund, but more
importantly, we showcased the program and perhaps cultivated future
donors," Gates said, adding that NYU is well-known for bringing
"top-flight minds" together to discuss critical issues. In this
instance, Nobel laureate Maya Angelou and author and activist Randall
Robinson were among the many influential figures who appeared at
the opening plenary and on various panels.
No one was
willing to offer figures.
media at work
key. Word got out last May, with the leadership of Josh Plaut, a
spokesperson for NYUıs College of Arts and Science. Media outlets
such as The New York Times, ABC,
NBC and smaller outlets such as The Amsterdam
News, an African-American newspaper, and The Villager,
a downtown weekly, were notified. "You have to get it out early,"
Plaut said. "You canıt do it the night before. Itıs not like a press
conference with Barbara
In all, Gates
said, the 8,000 participants in the conference came from as far
away as California; many had learned of the event via the Internet.
In hopes of
correcting inaccuracies, healing scars, rehashing memories, as well
as refining and honing textbook educations, "Slave Routes: The Long
Memory" was a reflection of the present, as well as a journey into
forgotten times. And this is exactly what the great historian John
Hope Franklin, who was honored at the fund-raising dinner, meant
when he said, "Never let them forget."
Routes: The Long Memory" focused on:
The social, ethnic and geographical origins of slavery.
statistics on the uprooted population and routes of the slave
social, spiritual, political and artistic expressions, and
creations resulting from slavery.
economic impact of slavery on Africa, America, Europe, and
as a crime: the ethical, philosophical and legal basis of
of "Slave Routes: The Long Memory" include:
stands for United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural
Organization. It promotes peace and cultural understanding
in the world through education, science and communication.
Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture
is a national research library dedicated to collecting, preserving
and procding access to the resources documenting the experiences
of peoples of African descent throughout the world.
Anacostia Museum and Center for African-American History
is a branch of the Smithsonian Institution. Based in Washington
D.C., the museum is a community based museum devoted to increase
the the awareness of the Black experience through research,
programs, and exhibions.
Institute for African-American Affairs
at New York University is a cultural and community
center that sponsors research and special events relating
to the Afro-American experience.