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Edinburgh marks the International Day of Remembrance of the Victims of Slavery and the Transatlantic Slave Trade

From left to right: Culture and Communities Convener Val Walker, Dr Debora Kayembe, ̳ Robert Aldridge, Sir Geoff Palmer, Council Leader Cammy Day, ESCLRIG Chair Irene Mosota, Foysol Choudhury MSP and Depute ̳ Lezley Marion Cameron.
From left to right: Culture and Communities Convener Val Walker, Dr Debora Kayembe, ̳ Robert Aldridge, Sir Geoff Palmer, Council Leader Cammy Day, ESCLRIG Chair Irene Mosota, Foysol Choudhury MSP and Depute ̳ Lezley Marion Cameron.

A service took place to mark the International Day of Remembrance of the Victims of Slavery and the Transatlantic Slave Trade in Edinburgh today (March 25).

The UN designatedin 2007. March 25 also marks the date in 1807 , outlawing the slave trade in Britain, Ireland and the wider British Empire.

During the event at the Melville Monument in St Andrew Square there were speeches from the ̳ Robert Aldridge, Council Leader Cammy Day, Chair of the Edinburgh Slavery and Colonialism Legacy Review Implementation Group (ESCLRIG) Irene Mosota, and Chair of the Edinburgh Slavery and Colonialism Legacy Review Group, Sir Geoff Palmer. They were joined by faith leaders, community members and other key stakeholders and invited guests.

The ̳ Robert Aldridge said:

It was an honour to speak this morning at a solemn gathering to mark the UN day and 217 years since the barbaric practise of slavery was outlawed in Britain.

As ̳ I reiterated the apology I gave in 2022 on behalf of the city, and we’ll keep a focus on our shared history which continues to influence our city to this day.

Coming to terms with the past and recognising the detriment our ancestors wrought through colonialism and slavery, remains very difficult for us all, to grapple with.  However, we can ensure, as far as we can, that such degrading exploitation, and related economic benefit, is not repeated in our Capital, now and forever.

Edinburgh today is a welcoming, inclusive, and respectful place, and we are a safe space for multiculturalism to prosper, to enrich our community, and to reach others around the globe.

Council Leader Cammy Day said:

Today’s service was a moving one where we honoured and remembered those victims of those who died as a consequence of the slave trade.

It’s no coincidence that we gathered today in St Andrew Square, in the shadow of the Melville Monument. This was constructed in the 19th century as a tribute to the politician and businessman Viscount Henry Dundas. In 2020 it was decided by Council that a plaque should be installed here to provide greater historical context to Dundas’s role in sustaining slavery and colonialism here in Edinburgh and beyond. I’m pleased that despite some difficulties a plaque remains on the monument.

I’m also proud that here in Edinburgh, we’re having these difficult conversations and forging the foundations for a more tolerant, just, and equal capital city. It’s only through properly acknowledging and addressing our collective past that we can address the challenges of the present and to shape a better future.

Going forward I’m confident that Irene Mosota and ESCLRIG will continue to drive forward the remaining recommendations of our independent review. They have my full support and I look forward to working closely with them in the future.

ESCLRIG Chair Irene Mosota said:

It was inspiring to see so many people from different walks of life turn out today to recognise and pay tribute to those who tragically lost their lives due to the slave trade. By acknowledging the horrors of the transatlantic slave trade, we confront the uncomfortable truths of our history. We recognize the profound injustices perpetrated in the name of profit and power. And we commit ourselves to the ongoing work of reconciliation, restitution, and justice.

We are committed to concrete action in addressing the legacies of slavery and colonialism that persist to this day. This means confronting systemic racism, dismantling structures of oppression, and amplifying the voices of those who have been marginalized and silenced. It means reckoning with the uncomfortable truths of our past and committing ourselves to building a more just and equitable future for all. It means recognizing that the struggle for freedom, equality, and human dignity is far from over, and that we all have a role to play in realizing a world where every individual is treated with the respect and dignity they deserve.

Today, we remembered all the victims of the transatlantic slave trade. Let us honour their memory by rededicating ourselves to the pursuit of justice and equality. And let us strive to build a world where the horrors of the past are truly behind us, and where all people can live free from fear, oppression, and discrimination.

This is a very exciting time for ESCLRIG as we now look towards implementing the recommendations of the independent review. I’d like to thank the ̳, Council Leader and other colleagues and partners for their ongoing support.

We possess the power to heal and forge a path towards a more equal future, and it is our obligation to ensure that all voices are heard, and all people are valued, not just for our own sake, but for the sake of future generations.

 

Published: March 25th 2024