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Africans killed in Zong Massacre remembered

Published:Wednesday | December 23, 2015 | 2:11 PMPaul H. Williams

On December 28, 2007 a monument in memory of the 132 Africans who were killed in the Zong Massacre was unveiled in Black River, St Elizabeth. The plaque on the monument was mounted by the Institute of Jamaica and the Jamaica National Bicentenary Committee.

At the site of the monument, on Tuesday, their deaths were remembered again in a formal process under the theme, '132 reasons to apologise'. The 132 Africans were killed from November 29 to December 1, 1781. They were thrown overboard an overcrowded Liverpool slave ship named The Zong. On December 22, 1781, The Zong arrived at Black River with 208 Africans on-board. They were eventually sold in the Black River slave market for PS36 each.

Tuesday was exactly 234 years since the ship arrived at Black River, and people brought flowers to pay tribute to those who survived the journey. The monument "was built in 2007 to honour the memory of those who arrived alive and those who died on The Zong, including the 132 who were deliberately drowned by the crew", the National Commission on Reparations (NCR) told Rural Xpress.

Organised by the NCR and concerned citizens, this particular commemoration was held in light of the controversial attitude and remarks by British Prime Minister David Cameron on his September visit to the island. In the Jamaican Parliament, Cameron refused to apologise for British slavery in the Caribbean and its atrocities, but instead told reparations the Jamaican people to forget it and move on.

The NCR said we should "remember this terrible tragedy" because "slavery was a wicked system, and instead of saying sorry for the Zong Tragedy and other inhumane acts during slavery, the prime minister of the UK came to Jamaica in September 2015 and told us to forget about slavery and move on". But, the NCR is resolute.

It said, "We must never forget the Zong Tragedy and the entire history of slavery because slavery is still around today, modern-day slavery (human trafficking). We cannot allow history to be repeated again in any form. We must keep our history alive and stop all forms of modern-day slavery. We must insist that the British apologise to us and compensate us for the damage done to our ancestors and their descendants."