France’s Caribbean territory of Martinique continues to build upon its efforts in support of the United Nations Decade for People of African Descent (2015-2024), welcoming American civil rights activist and Baptist minister, the Rev. Jesse Jackson, for an official visit.
The Martinique Promotion Bureau in New York said on Tuesday that Rev. Jackson addressed a meeting of the Martinique Regional Council on Monday during his two-day visit.
Prior to addressing the meeting, Jackson paid his respects at the gravesite of fellow civil rights crusader and Martinican statesman, Aimé Césaire, who died in April 2008 at 94. Jackson later visited the Aimé Césaire Museum in downtown Fort-de-France.
“Among the islands of the Caribbean, Martinique holds a unique position in the area of civil rights,” said Muriel Wiltord, director Americas of the Martinique Promotion Bureau. The name Césaire is cherished in the hearts and minds of people throughout the Francophone world, as Dr. (Martin Luther) King and Malcolm X are in America.
“For us, Rev. Jackson’s visit is a particularly proud occasion that highlights the similarities of our past while also pointing ahead to a bright future,” she added.
Wiltord said Jackson’s visit further builds on the island’s efforts in support of The United Nations Decade for People of African Descent, a 10-year program designed to promote respect, protection and fulfillment of all human rights and fundamental freedoms for people of African descent, as recognized in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.
In this regard, Wiltord said the Martinique Regional Council has pledged monetary support toward the construction of the UN permanent memorial for the victims of slavery and the transatlantic slave trade (The Ark of Return) and hosted a delegation of 12 representatives of The Greater Harlem Chamber of Commerce over Emancipation Weekend (May 20-24, 2015).
Notably, Wiltord said Martinique was also selected by The Toni Morrison Society as the 10th location worldwide to be included in its Bench by the Road Project, a memorial history initiative established by the Society to honor an individual, place or event of great importance in the history of Black people.
The Toni Morrison Bench by the Road in Martinique was installed in June 2013, as part of a yearlong celebration marking the centennial celebration of the birth of Aimé Césaire.
While visiting the French Overseas Territories, Jackson also toured the “Memorial ACTe,” the world’s largest museum dedicated to the memory and history of slavery from the early seventeenth century to present day, according to the Guadeloupe Islands Tourism Board.
The “Memorial ACTe” in Guadeloupe is also called the “Pompidou Center” or the “MuCEM” of the Caribbean for its impressive architecture and interactive content, the Board said.
It said Rev. Jackson’s visit to the Memorial ACTe comes just two months after its inauguration, which was attended by French President François Hollande and 19 heads of states from Africa and the Caribbean.
“This is the most phenomenal museum of its kind in the whole world,” Jackson said. “I have been to museums in numerous cities across the world, we are now building a significant one in Washington DC, but this is the most complete museum of ours in the world, and this is not the last one. It is the signal we need more museums to tell us about our story,” he added.