THE DURBAN 400

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Dr. Conrad Worrill, Chicago Crusader

It has been 17 years since the historic United Nations World Conference Against Racism took place in Durban, South Africa. We should always remember the role the Durban 400 played in impacting the outcome of this most important event in history.

The Durban 400 was made up of the December 12th Movement International Secretariat and the National Black United Front (NBUF) that were leading participants in the United Nations World Conference Against Racism (WCAR) that was held in Durban, South Africa from August 31st through September 7, 2001. Because the United States did not agree with many of the issues being raised at this conference, particularly, the push by African people worldwide to declare that the Trans Atlantic Slave Trade and Slavery are a Crime Against Humanity and that Reparations are owed to African people in the Diaspora and on the continent of Africa, the United States withdrew their low level delegation and left only the Ambassador to South Africa to represent them.

The role of the United States and Western Europe (WEO) to subvert the agenda “provided the indisputable proof” that the issues we fought for, to be included in the Durban Declaration, went to the “heart of the World Conference Against Racism.” For over two years, representatives from the Durban 400 traveled throughout the world attending the various preparatory meetings for the WCAR, advocating our agenda that was simple and focused: 1) Declaration of the Trans Atlantic Slave Trade, Slavery, and Colonialism as Crimes Against Humanity; 2) Reparations for African people on the continent and in the Diaspora; 3) Recognition of the Economic Base of Racism.

As the (Non Governmental Organization) International Association Against Torture pointed out in their intervention at the WCAR, “From the beginning they were clear (The U.S. and the WEO Group) that a conference which addressed racism and racial discrimination could only have one outcome— to subject them to the same human rights standards which they imperiously demand that the developing world uncomplainingly submit to and to identify them as perpetrators of history’s greatest crime against humanity, the Trans Atlantic Slave Trade and Slavery.”

How mighty can the United States be without acknowledging, apologizing, and paying reparations to African people for the Greatest Crime Against Humanity they participated in, the Trans Atlantic Slave Trade, Slavery, and Colonialism?

As researched by the UNESCO Slave Trade Project, the Museum of the Atlantic Slave Trade, and the Harvard Database on Slave Voyages, 28 to 42 million African people were captured and enslaved between 1441 and 1888… Four to six million Africans, 40% of all captives and slaves, were murdered or died along the entire “way of death…”

Just as other people never forget their history and the tragedies and crimes committed against them, neither should African people. Therefore, the Durban 400 declared a victory in contributing to the final outcome of the Durban Declaration that reflects the interests of African people by citing:

“We acknowledge 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…”

Although the language of the Durban Declaration did not specifically call for reparations for African people, it is now our duty to intensify our organizing in demanding the United States Government and U.S. Corporations pay reparations. We must continue to educate the African Community of America on the continued need to organize and revitalize the Reparations Movement.

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