Ambassador Linda Thomas-Greenfield
U.S. Representative to the United Nations
New York, New York
March 29, 2022
Good afternoon. I’m sorry I can’t be there with you in person today, but my heartfelt thanks to Ambassador Erdan for hosting this screening.
The creators of Equiano.Stories made a unique creative choice that help make this film so powerful. By choosing to tell Equiano’s story through the lens of a smartphone, the filmmakers took advantage of a perspective that’s familiar to all of us, particularly young generations who consume so much content through their phones.
And while the negative consequences of social media are well-documented, we also know that it can be a dynamic tool for exposing injustice and connecting us with the stories of people across the world. When George Floyd was murdered, the horrific video, captured on a cellphone, shocked the world into action. And as President Putin’s forces unleash senseless violence on Ukraine, the images we’re seeing and the stories we’re reading in real time have rallied the global community to stand united with the people of Ukraine. We see these same dynamics play out in brutal conflicts and under repressive regimes around the world. Activists and everyday civilians who are able to share their stories and call on others to help, and it really can make a difference.
In Olaudah Equiano’s time, they didn’t have smartphones or social media. But he used the tool he had at his disposal to share his story with the world: his words. His words were his power. And this power didn’t come easy. He only learned to read and write later in life. And when he did gain that power, he used it to help others. After buying his freedom, he dedicated himself to the work of abolition, and he played a meaningful role in the United Kingdom’s eventual abolition of slavery. His story is a testament to the power of a brave, persistent voice.
I hope Olaudah can serve as an inspiration to us all. Let us continue to use our own voices, and every tool at our disposal, to call out injustice and leave the world a better place than we found it.