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OAS Assistant Secretary General Leads OAS Visit to National Museum of African-American History and Culture

  March 6, 2017

OAS Assistant Secretary General Leads OAS Visit to National Museum of African-American History and Culture
Photo: OAS

The Assistant Secretary General of the Organization of American States (OAS), Nestor Mendez, visited the Smithsonian National Museum of African History and Culture (NMAAHC) in Washington, DC, accompanied by a large delegation of ambassadors and representatives of eighteen member states, five permanent observer states and senior staff at the General Secretariat. The private tour, organized by the Office of the Assistant Secretary General, took place within the framework of activities planned by the OAS to commemorate the International Decade for Persons of African Descent. The NMAAHC, recently inaugurated in September 2016 and the newest addition to the Smithsonian Institutions, is devoted exclusively to the documentation of African American life, history, and culture.

At the OAS General Assembly in 2016, member states adopted the Plan of Action for the Decade for Persons of African Descent in the Americas. The Plan of Action outlines key activities and measures to be carried out to promote awareness of the situation of persons of African descent in the Americas, and to ensure their full participation in social, economic and political life. The OAS group was guided through exhibits representing centuries of history, taking in the numerous artifacts, photographs, and videos documenting not only the oppression African-Americans faced throughout time in the United States, but also their contribution to culture and the American identity. Assistant Secretary General Mendez noted that the people of African descent in the Americas are descendants of millions of Africans who were forcibly enslaved and transported as part of the inhumane transatlantic slave trade between the 15th and 19th centuries.

After the visit Ambassador Mendez said that “exploring this historic journey, beginning with the slave trade in the 16th century and leading to the present day, was a powerful, somber and inspiring experience,” adding that “the museum is a true gift for the American people and the world.”

According to reports from several international organizations, Afro-descendants represent approximately 30 percent of the population in the Americas, with Brazil being the home to the largest population of Afro-descendants outside the African continent. This initial visit to the NMAAHC also afforded the opportunity to foster collaboration between the OAS’ Art Museum of the Americas (AMA)—the premier museum of Latin American and Caribbean art in the United States—and the Smithsonian Institutions. AMA representatives who joined the tour agreed to explore opportunities to collaborate with the NMAAHC in the curation of joint art exhibits celebrating the rich artistic history of African descendants in the Hemisphere.

Reference: FNE-21199