Congresswoman Barbara Lee, chair of the Appropriations Subcommittee on State and Foreign Operations and Congressional Representative to the United Nations, delivered a speech Tuesday at the United Nations General Assembly Plenary Meeting on the Commemoration the abolition of slavery and the transatlantic slave trade.
Lee is one of the few members of Congress to have delivered a speech on behalf of the United States in the General Assembly. A full video and transcript of his remarks can be found below.
Full Notes: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=T5_jHrzj7Ec
“Good morning. Thank you, Mr. President, and thank you, Mr. Secretary General.
“Mr. Mr. President, I have the unique honor to address you on this important occasion as a member of Congress and one of the United States Congressional Delegates to the United Nations General Assembly This year.
As we commemorate the abolition of slavery and the transatlantic slave trade, reflect on the profound words of Frederick Douglass, self-emancipated slave, abolitionist, orator, world leader and diplomat.
“The abolition of slavery”, he said, “has been the deepest desire and the greatest work of my life.” These words remind us of the victims and descendants of slavery and the transatlantic slave trade.
“The transatlantic slave trade forced millions of people from their homes, families, societies and countries, and subjected them to exploitation and dehumanization, creating a global enterprise of unprecedented wealth for Western nations and fueling the global economy. Chattel slavery remains an immoral and indelible stain on the history of the United States, the Western Hemisphere, and the collective chronicle of our inhumanity.
“We recognize the myriad atrocities of slavery and continue to struggle against the racial, ethnic, gender, economic, social and political hierarchies it created. And yes, we must honor the victims of slavery by dismantling its institutional vestiges, such as racism, discrimination, economic inequality, marginalization and systematic underdevelopment.
“The United States must address the multidimensional legacy of slavery with an unprecedented commitment to racial equity, justice, and inclusion within our borders and in all of our world affairs.
“We have demonstrated our national commitment through a whole-of-government approach to addressing systemic inequalities. Today, United States President Joseph R. Biden will sign the Emmett Till Antilynching Act of 2022, recently passed by the United States Congress.
“It has been over 120 years since Congress first attempted to criminalize the horrific act of lynching and yes, today it will finally become a federal hate crime.
“Members of the House and Senate have supported legislation that recognizes and addresses the remnants of our racialized past resulting from the institution of chattel slavery.
“Legislation like H. Con. Res. 19, urging the creation of a US Commission on Truth, Racial Healing, and Transformation; HR 40, a Commission to Study and Develop Remedial Proposals for African Americans; and HR 1280, the George Floyd Justice in Policing Act are all examples of how Congress grapples with the need for systemic change and reparations.
“And last year, President Biden signed the law into law, making June 19 – that is, June 19 – a national holiday. It was on this day in 1865 that Union soldiers arrived in Texas to announce that black people were free. It was two and a half years after the Emancipation Proclamation. This announcement was made in Galveston, Texas, which is the home of my grandfather and my great-grandmother.
“Now on the world stage, we have championed the establishment of the Permanent Forum on People of African Descent and supported the International Mechanism of Independent Experts to Advance Racial Justice and Equality in Law Enforcement. .
“And I, personally, fought for our part in the movement to establish the magnificent permanent memorial to honor the victims of slavery and the transatlantic slave trade right here in a prominent place at the Nations And I had the honor of witnessing the creation of the International Decade for People of African Descent.
“Despite these promising efforts, much work remains to be done to achieve full equity in the United States and around the world. And so, we must seize this momentous opportunity as a clarion call and a dynamic call to engage and to move forward.
“Thanks very much.”