Actor Djimon Hounsou has decided to launch a new program to help descendants of Africa to trace their roots.
The idea came to him after his last visit to his home Benin in West Africa as he reflected on how it was a significant part of the transatlantic slave trade. During a recent interview, Hounsou talked about his role in the 1997 Steven Spielberg film, “Amistad”, which focuses on the Spanish slave ship whose captors were able to take control of the boat. He also revealed how this role helped him learn more about the history of African people.
“We are talking about a severe identity issue,” he said. “If you don’t know where you come from, you sure don’t know who you are.” Under his foundation, the Djimon Hounsou Foundation, the actor was able to launch the first-ever “Run Richmond 16:19” which took place in Richmond, Virginia, Ouidah, West Africa, and Liverpool, England.
The event consisted of running and a concert with the goal to “celebrate diversity while connecting the past to the present and future,” as reported by The Root. The participants had a choice to run either 6.19 miles or a 16.19-kilometer distance which included interactive historical landmarks on both routes.
Monroe Harris, the board president and acting executive director of the Black History Museum and Cultural Center of Virginia said in a statement, “In Richmond, we are fortunate to have a number of African American landmarks or landmarks related to African American history and culture.”
He continued, “But the people that are coming together probably would not be doing so if it weren’t for an event such as this. You are educating people who may not be aware of some of the accomplishments of Black people in culture and history- it increases our awareness and understanding of each other, which if we have that, it makes the world a better place.”
Hounsou, who also ran the 6.19 mile said, “I’m hoping it will bring a certain journey of experiencing 400 years of Black history, where you can touch and feel. We are trying to champion the idea of unity in diversity.”
He added, “The purpose is all about healing. We’re at a historical moment in time to acknowledge that Black History is American history. It’s about the Afro-descendants of this world to feel the power of their history and to have a bit of knowledge about who they are, what they mean in this world, and what accomplished over time.”