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Black activists demand Obama address racism

Published Mar 27, 2009 11:42 PM

The following statement was issued by members of the December 12th Movement, who held a press conference on March 21 in Harlem on the U.S. government’s refusal to attend the United Nations World Conference against Racism-Durban Review in April.

D12 member Attorney Roger Wareham
speaks at March 21 news conference.
Photo: Omowale Clay

As we mark this International Day for the Elimination of Racism, Black human rights activists across the country are holding simultaneous press conferences to protest President Barack Obama’s threat to boycott the United Nations World Conference against Racism-Durban Review being held in Geneva, Switzerland, next month. U.S. State Department officials have demanded any reference to African slave reparations in U.N. official documents must be removed in order for them to participate.

The first World Conference against Racism met in Durban, South Africa, in September 2001 and its final Declaration “acknowledge(d) that slavery and the slave trade, including the transatlantic slave trade, were appalling tragedies in the history of humanity not only because of their abhorrent barbarism but also in terms of their magnitude, organized nature and especially their negation of the essence of the victims, and further acknowledge that slavery and the slave trade are a crime against humanity and should always have been so, especially the transatlantic slave trade.”

This declaration that the transatlantic slave trade was a crime against humanity was a culmination of centuries of work and suffering by our people to establish that the attack on our humanity by European nations was a crime. A crime of such proportions that time cannot protect or shield its perpetrators from facing justice and its victims from obtaining reparations.

Now, eight years later, this April 20 through 24, at the United Nations in Geneva, Switzerland, the Durban II Review of the historic World Conference against Racism takes place. It is an international effort to review what progress has taken place and remains to be done to obtain justice, compensation and reconciliation for the victims of racism in general and the transatlantic slave trade in particular.

Once again, even with the first Black President of the United States, Barack Obama, at the helm, the United States and its European allies are attempting to derail the process and reverse the “correct verdicts” of the 2001 World Conference.

Black human and civil rights activists are letting their voices be heard today [March 21] nationwide, including in Philadelphia, Houston, Chicago, Atlanta, Charleston, St. Louis, Memphis, Washington D.C., Dayton, Kansas City and Fort Lauderdale.

We demand the full and unconditional participation of the United States in the conference. The U.S. was built on brutal racism and the exploitation of enslaved African peoples’ labor. Systemic and institutional racism continues to this very day. We will continue to fight for justice for the crimes against humanity suffered by our people. They stole us, they sold us, they owe us! Reparations Now!