About the Author: Emily Spencer is the Education Program Officer with the Office of UN Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization in the Bureau of International Organization Affairs.
Last week, the world marked the International Day of Remembrance of Victims of Slavery and the Transatlantic Slave Trade. Students and teachers from four continents engaged via the UN Cyberschoolbus to discuss the theme: "Expressing our Freedom through Culture." United Nations Headquarters in New York organized the event which gathered approximately 500 students in the audience and linked via video conference to students in Cuba, Ghana, The Gambia, Trinidad and Tobago, Jamaica, and the United Kingdom.
Students from schools participating in the UN Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) Associated Schools Project Network (ASPNet) each prepared presentations including songs, dances, poems and readings to address this year's "Expressing Our Freedom Through Culture." ASPnet is a network of over 8,500 educational institutions around the globe committed to promoting the mission of UNESCO. These schools work on programs related to human rights, sustainable development, intercultural dialogue, and other flagship programs. The ASPnet has a flagship program called, "Breaking the Silence: the Transatlantic Slave Trade Education Project."
These students shared an energetic, thoughtful and creative discussion moderated by Dr. Sheila Walker, a cultural anthropologist and Executive Director of Afrodiaspora, Inc. Kiyo Akasaka, Under-Secretary General for Communication, welcomed all of the students, while Dr. Walker opened the discussion and stressed the importance of looking at the history of Africa to understand the history of America.
At the UN Headquarters, it was really quite amazing to see schools from different countries, linked together for a couple hours to share presentations by and for students to ask questions of one another and seek different perspectives on the transatlantic slave trade. Two large video screens provided the New York-based participants with a close view of the other school students. Students were provided with a study guide for the event so they came prepared and teachers held discussions with their classes in the context of their regular school schedule. In addition to the schools participating via teleconference, other schools were able to follow the event on a live webcast and submit questions in real time.
There are over 35 schools in the U.S. that participate in the UNESCO ASPNet. This year, over 75 students and teachers traveled to UN Headquarters to participate in this event. If your school might be interested in becoming part of this network, please visit us at the U.S. National Commission for UNESCO webpage.