Challenges Ahead for UN Slavery Memorial

Jamaica's ambassador is determined to build a tribute despite some setbacks.


But the more pressing matter is money. At the close of last year, the trust fund for the memorial was just over $1 million. At least $3.5 million more is needed to complete the project. Countries such as India, Australia and Turkey have donated but the United States has not. The money has to be appropriated by Congress. Rep. Gregory Meeks (D-N.Y.) is working toward this goal but said it’s “not an easy sell during a fiscal crisis.” Still, Meeks, who can trace his mother’s roots to slaves from Sierra Leone, is confident he can persuade enough members of Congress to appropriate some funding for the project.

“It is extremely important that there is a memorial to those individuals who suffered,” he said. “Through their perseverance, hopes and dreams, we could have a Barack Obama as president of the United States.”

Corporate sponsors are also being sought, but so far none have signed on. To make sure the memorial has the support it needs to move forward, UNESCO, the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization, was brought on as a partner as well. Meanwhile, a design artist is expected to be selected this year with the project possibly breaking ground in 2014.

Ambassador Wolfe said he would never entertain talk of halting the project because of funding. “It may be scaled down somewhat but we have no intention of scrapping it. This would be an insult to the international community and an insult to our ancestors if we were simply to, because of challenges, scrap the project.”

Julie Walker is a New York-based freelance journalist. Follow her on Twitter @jwalkreporter.

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