Abolition of slavery commemorated in Amsterdam; Many companies give a day off
Friday is the annual commemoration of slavery and the celebration of its abolition in Amsterdam’s Oosterpark. For the first time since the first coronavirus outbreak, the public is welcome again. Over 100 organizations are giving their staff Friday off to mark the day. Radion station FunX will also pay extensive attention to Keti Koti on Friday.
Speakers at the commemoration on Friday include the President of the Nederlandsche Bank (DNB) Klaas Knot, Minister Franc Weerwind for Legal Protection, and Amsterdam mayor Femke Halsema.
Research by DNB into the bank’s role in this painful history previously showed that the central bank was deeply involved in slavery in various ways. So far, the bank has not apologized. It is not known whether that will happen. Last year Halsema apologized for the role the Dutch capital played in the slavery past. The municipalities of Rotterdam and Utrecht, and ABN Amro followed.
Today marks the 159th anniversary of slavery being abolished in Suriname and the Caribbean part of the Netherlands, though “freed” people were still forced to work on Suriname plantations until a decade later. After the commemoration, which NOS will broadcast live, the Keti Koti festival starts in the park, celebrating the abolition of slavery.
Over 100 organizations gave their staff the day off to commemorate and celebrate the abolition of slavery, FunX, the Nederland Wordt Beter foundation, and The Black Archives initiative reported. They started a petition last year to make Keti Koti, as July 1 is known, a national holiday.
Among the companies are cosmetics chain Lush, chocolate brand Tony’s Chocolonely, media company Vice Benelux, and fashion store and brand Patta. Patta experiences Keti Koti as a very important day, partly due to the founders’ Surinamese roots.
“Our store in Amsterdam will be closed that day and so will our head office. We won’t deduct the day from the holidays. We come from a Surinamese ‘heritage,’ which means we all celebrate this together. But everyone can decide for themselves whether they want to join in,” said a public relations officer for Patta, which has about 70 employees. “It’s important to celebrate the abolition of slavery because of the past, but also because slavery still has an impact. It’s about looking at the past together and how you can change it.”
ABN Amro is not going so far as to make July 1 a fixed day off. However, the bank did start an experiment in which employees can exchange holidays like Christmas, Easter, or Ascension Day for other days off. This can, for example, be the end of Ramadan, or Keti Koti, a spokesperson explained. At Unilever, employees are also free to choose which day of the year is important for them to get off, a spokeswoman said.
Employers’ organizations VNO-NCW and MKB Nederland would rather see this approach than an extra national holiday on the calendar. “There are already many options at companies for lave of your choice. And if desired, the parties can make a deal about this in the collective bargaining agreement,” the entrepreneurs’ organizations said. They also believe that the Netherlands already has many days off per year.
FNV disagrees. The Netherlands’ largest trade union points out that the Netherlands has the fewest days off in Western Europe and considers the abolition of slavery in Suriname and the Caribbean part of the Kingdom important enough to reflect nationally. The union feels the same about May 5, Liberation Day.
Youth channel FunX will focus on conversations about freedom today and the meaning of listeners’ freedom. Listers can also request songs that they associate with freedom, channel coordinator Eva Hol said on Met het oog op morgen on Thursday. “Keti Koti is about a part of our history that we’ve talked too little about for far too long,” Hol said.
FunX wants to emphasize that Keti Koti is an important day for all Netherlands residents. “It’s part of our history,” said Hol. “It is a subject that concerns all Dutch people.” The station also advocates for making July 1 a national holiday, along with several other activists and the National Coordinator for Racism and Discrimination.
Reporting by ANP