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Rolf Bartolo - A man of integrity

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On March 25, 1807, par­lia­ment in Lon­don, Eng­land, passed a law for­mal­ly abol­ish­ing the slave trade in the British Em­pire. How­ev­er, slav­ery didn't end then free­dom for ex­ist­ing slaves did not come in the British ter­ri­to­ries un­til 1838.

In de­scrib­ing the Slave Route Project, www.un­ ar­tic­u­lat­ed the fol­low­ing: "Ig­no­rance or con­ceal­ment of ma­jor his­tor­i­cal events con­sti­tutes an ob­sta­cle to mu­tu­al un­der­stand­ing, rec­on­cil­i­a­tion and co­op­er­a­tion among peo­ples."

UN­ESCO (Unit­ed Na­tions Ed­u­ca­tion­al, Sci­en­tif­ic and Cul­tur­al Or­gan­i­sa­tion) has thus de­cid­ed to break the si­lence sur­round­ing the slave trade and slav­ery that have con­cerned all con­ti­nents and caused the great up­heavals that have shaped our mod­ern so­ci­eties.

Launched in 1994 in Ouidah, Benin, on a pro­pos­al from Haiti, the "Slave Route Project: Re­sis­tance, Lib­er­ty, Her­itage”, pur­sues the fol­low­ing ob­jec­tives:

- Con­tribute to a bet­ter un­der­stand­ing of the caus­es, forms of op­er­a­tion, stakes and con­se­quences of slav­ery in the world (Africa, Eu­rope, the Amer­i­c­as, the Caribbean, the In­di­an Ocean, Mid­dle East and Asia);

- High­light the glob­al trans­for­ma­tions and cul­tur­al in­ter­ac­tions that have re­sult­ed from this his­to­ry;

- Con­tribute to a cul­ture of peace by pro­mot­ing re­flec­tion on cul­tur­al plu­ral­ism, in­ter­cul­tur­al di­a­logue and the con­struc­tion of new iden­ti­ties and cit­i­zen­ships.

Un­der the guid­ance of an In­ter­na­tion­al Sci­en­tif­ic Com­mit­tee, the project con­tin­ues its ac­tions as to en­cour­age new re­search in ne­glect­ed re­gions, to de­fine new ap­proach­es for the teach­ing of this his­to­ry, to elab­o­rate new guides for the iden­ti­fi­ca­tion, preser­va­tion and pro­mo­tion of sites and itin­er­aries of mem­o­ry re­lat­ed to the slave trade and slav­ery, to pro­mote the con­tri­bu­tions of peo­ple of African de­scent to the con­struc­tion of con­tem­po­rary so­ci­eties and fi­nal­ly to pre­serve writ­ten archives and in­tan­gi­ble her­itage re­lat­ed to this his­to­ry.

Since 2012, new con­cep­tu­al ori­en­ta­tions have been de­vel­oped for the project and pre­sent­ed to the mem­ber states, as to take in­to ac­count the new in­ter­na­tion­al con­text. They de­fine the prin­ci­pal do­mains of ac­tion of the project in re­sponse to the ma­jor stakes of the in­ter­na­tion­al agen­da and in par­tic­u­lar the ac­tion plan of the in­ter­na­tion­al decade for peo­ple of African De­scent (2015-2024), such as:

- A mem­o­ry shared his­to­ry and her­itage;

- In­ter­cul­tur­al­i­ty, tran­scul­tur­al­i­ty and new forms of iden­ti­ty and cit­i­zen­ship;

- Hu­man rights fight against racism and dis­crim­i­na­tion, new sol­i­dar­i­ties and new hu­man­ism;

- Africa and its di­as­po­ras past and present;

- Liv­ing cul­tures and con­tem­po­rary artis­tic cre­ation (de­pic­tion and stag­ing of slav­ery);

- In­ter­cul­tur­al ed­u­ca­tion, the cul­ture of peace and in­ter­cul­tur­al di­a­logue.

There is a re­luc­tance (and that may be an over­ly eu­phemistic de­scrip­tion) to dis­cuss slav­ery, eman­ci­pa­tion, repa­tri­a­tion, abo­li­tion. In the con­text of not on­ly T&T but the British Em­pire.

Slav­ery and in­den­tured labour along with Colo­nial­ism is an as­pect of T&T his­to­ry that ought not to be shunned.

To move past slav­ery and re­lease our­selves from the men­tal, emo­tion­al and psy­cho­log­i­cal shack­les the fear - if that is what it is - of ex­am­in­ing our his­to­ry should be re­moved.

Sport in T&T has been im­pact­ed by the coun­try's his­to­ry, to what ex­tent, is a good con­ver­sa­tion to have. Such a con­ver­sa­tion may very well help iden­ti­fy the in­tan­gi­ble fac­tors hold­ing lo­cal sports back from re­al­is­ing its full po­ten­tial.

Ed­i­tor's Note:

Bri­an Lewis is the Pres­i­dent of the T&TOC Com­mit­tee and the views ex­pressed are not those of the or­gan­i­sa­tion.