President Barack Hussein Obama White House 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue Washington, D.C. 20500
Dear President Obama:
Re: Reconsideration of the US Boycott of the UN WCAR Durban Review Process in Geneva.
Please accept our heartfelt congratulations on your elevation to highest office in the United States of America, and one of the most important political offices in the world.
As the first African American to be elected to this esteemed office, your victory is not only cause for celebration in the US, but throughout the world, especially that section of the world’s population that has experienced centuries of oppression because of race, sex, place of origin, and social and economic status.
Your victory is an indication to all humanity that there are hopes for a world where past wrongs are possible to be corrected. The opportunity for such redress was won for the first time by the descendants of enslaved Africans in the United States, Canada, the Caribbean, South and Central America, Europe and other parts of the world at the 2001 United Nations World Conference against Racism (WCAR) held in Durban, South Africa.
Coupled with the UN opportunity is, also, the fresh approach you demonstrated so eloquently during the presidential campaign in addressing sensitive and controversial race relations issues, an approach based on dialogue as opposed to unilateral action that is always divisive and has the potential for hardening differences and conflict.
Mr. President, it is an understatement to say that the race question is, and has been, the most controversial question in the United States of America for the last two and one-half centuries. The same holds true in the Caribbean, South and Central America societies that were created out of the trade in Africans as slaves, slavery, exploitation and racial genocide.
We observed with keen interest how you masterfully analysed the divisive issue of race with respect to the Reverend Wright controversy during the presidential campaign and lay the possibility for potential racial reconciliation for the first time in the history of the United States of America, and other parts of the world.
The following quotations could not be said any better and could not have come at a more opportune time in world history than on the verge of the United Nations WCAR Durban Review Conference to be held Geneva, Switzerland, April 20th to 24th. 2009. You said, “The fact is that the comments that have been made and the issues that have surfaced over the last few weeks reflect the complexities of race in this country that we’ve never really worked through –a part of our union that we have not yet made perfect. And if we walk away now, if we simply retreat into our respective corners, we will never be able to come together and solve challenges like health care, or education, or the need to find good jobs for every American.”
The above quotation holds true not only for African Americans, but for the people of Africa and African descendants living in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil; Dar- es- Salaam, Tanzania; San Jose, Costa Rica; Nairobi, Kenya; St. George’s, Grenada; Paramaribo, Suriname; Bogota, Colombia; Port-au-Prince, Haiti; Kingston, Jamaica, who are descendants of enslaved Africans and/or victims of colonial domination and exploitation.
The hopes and aspirations raised by your speeches are not only for the dispossessed in the United States of America, but for the dispossessed the world over. The principles, philosophy and moral courage you demonstrated represent fundamental changes with respect to equality and racial justice and the fulfillment of our hopes for humankind. Billions of people around the world, from all geographical regions, see you as the realization of the hope they did not think was possible in their life time.
We respectfully submit that in this context, your administration’s decision not to participate in the up-coming UN Durban Review Conference, in Geneva, is the wrong message for you to be sending to the world. You have conquered complex and challenging issues. You have made it known to the lobbyists in Washington that business will be done differently in Washington. To give in to the lobbyists and boycott the Durban Review Conference will be a violation of the core principle you have embraced.
If truth be told, we need to see you in Geneva, helping to build upon the progress that was made in Durban, South Africa and outlined in the Durban Declaration and Programme of Action.
The success of the United Nations World Conference against Racism, Racial Discrimination, Xenophobia and Related Intolerance in Durban, South Africa in 2001 was immense.
Never before had the descendants of enslaved and colonial subjugated Africans had the opportunity to see and hear the international community acknowledge their complicity in African slavery -- the worst crime against humanity, in all of world history.
You also said in your historic speech on March 18, 2008, in Philadelphia at the Constitutional Centre that “Understanding this reality (Slavery and Legalized discrimination) requires a reminder of how we arrived at this point. As William Faulkner once wrote, ‘The past isn’t dead and buried. In fact, it isn’t even past.’ We do not need to recite here the history of racial injustice in this country. But we do need to remind ourselves that so many of the disparities that exist between the African-American community and the larger American community today can be traced directly to the inequalities passed on from an earlier generation that suffered under the brutal legacy of slavery and Jim Crow.”
ABOUT THE GLOBAL AFRIKAN CONGRESS
The GAC is an international network of Pan-Afrikanist and Afrikan-centered organizations and individuals who are committed to building linkages and genuine and permanent relationships across the Afrikan world. We aim to mobilize the human, economic, political, spiritual and cultural resources of Afrika and the Afrikan Diaspora in the interest and to the benefit of Afrika and her scattered sons and daughters. The governing body of the GAC is its International Working Committee that comprises representatives from throughout the Afrikan world.
The genesis of the Global Afrikan Congress is to be found in the series of regional meetings and preparatory conferences in which hundreds of Afrikan and Afrikan Diasporan organizations participated as they prepared for the United Nations World Conference Against Racism held in Durban, South Africa, in September 2001.
In order to work effectively within the UN context, our Black organizations established an ‘Afrikan and Afrikan Descendants Caucus’, and resolved to continue beyond the Durban Conference, in order to establish a new and permanent global organization.
In pursuit of this goal, a major Afrikan and Afrikan Descendants World Conference against Racism was held in Bridgetown, Barbados in October 2002, with the support and assistance of the Government of Barbados. It was at this conference that the Global Afrikan Congress was officially established and a programme of action entitled “The Bridgetown Protocol” was adopted.
Today, as we organize to eliminate the effects of these inequalities through the Durban Conference, we would appreciate, Mr. President, your support for our struggle for justice and reparations and you using the immense influence of your office to encourage the European nations to join with you, and begin to work to correct the enduring effects of slavery. For crimes against humanity, the World Court demands reparations -- over due for the wrongs of the trade in African as slaves, slavery and colonialism.
We understand the tremendous weight of history and responsibility that rests on your shoulders; and do not wish to add to the burden. However, your administration’s support for the Durban Review Conference would be an extension of the leadership you have shown on this issue as exemplified by the outstanding discussion on race during the presidential election.
We thank you for your consideration.
Original Signed By Original Signed By
Dorothy B. Lewis
USA North American Representative
Cikiah Thomas Co-Chair Global Afrikan Congress