Perhaps the most important observance in South Florida of the International Year for People of African Descent will take place at 5:30 p.m. Tuesday, Nov. 22, on the campus of the University of Miami in Coral Gables. Dr. Verene Shepherd, a professor of social history at the University of the West Indies in Jamaica, will deliver the keynote address, which will be followed by a panel discussion.

The United Nations designated 2011 as the year for the observance and set up an expert group charged with “studying the problems of racial discrimination faced by people of African descent living in the Diaspora and making proposals on the elimination of racial discrimination against Africans and people of African descent in all parts of the world.”

That designation in 2009 followed a U.N. conference in 2001 that finally recognized the Atlantic slave trade as “a crime against humanity for which reparations are due.”

It is obvious that very little has been done to promote the observance, hence not many people know about it. That is not surprising in an international climate in which efforts are centered almost exclusively on financial and economic matters. But another reason is the desire by former slave-owning nations, including our own, to try to bury that shameful part of their history, no doubt hoping it will eventually be forgotten.

At the same time, many citizens of those same nations seem to cling with religion-like zeal to the belief that black people are inherently racially inferior even though the institutions which perpetuated that myth have been largely dismantled. That state of mind simply will never allow some people to look on blacks as equals.

In fact, it seems that even some of us have been so brainwashed into a similar view of ourselves that we are unable to finally shake off the shackles of what Bob Marley called “mental slavery” because, as he said, none but ourselves can free our minds.

The International Year for People of African Descent is drawing to a close but the ideals on which it is founded must continue.  There can be no end to the effort to free our minds from the shackles of the past and unite with others in the Biblical mandate that, in life, we must reign. We are the righteous, let there be no doubt.