The project honors the millions of African people killed during the transatlantic slave trade. The first aspect of the project saw a monument lowered onto the floor of the Atlantic Ocean 427 kilometers from New York Harbor on July 3.
The sculpture faces Africa and between 2000 and 2005 will be accompanied by replicas to be placed on land in the six regions of the world where the slave trade occurred, namely Africa, the Caribbean, Central America, Europe, North America and South America.
The International Humanitarian Medal, awarded only 12 times in its 36-year history, is administered by the Institut International de Promotion et de Prestige, based in Switzerland. The award recognizes individuals and organizations who have made international contributions.
According to the IIPP, the Middle Passage Project was considered because it is "ambitious, educational, universal, humanitarian, courageous and relevant to a large field of people."
James, president of the Homeward Bound Foundation, is the youngest person to have won the award. He will get to choose where the award ceremony, set for spring 2000, will be held.
"We are considering the United Nations Building in New York; El Mina Castle in Ghana, the 1482-built Portuguese castle from which estimated millions of African people were shipped to the Americas during the 400 years of the transatlantic slave trade; Government House in the United States Virgin Islands . . . and the newly opened Kurahulanda Museum of African History, located on the island of Curacao in the Netherlands Antilles. All of the sites posses special significance," James said.
The International Humanitarian Medal is the Homeward Bound Foundations second major award in its two-year history. In October of 1998, James and actress Debbie Allen received the Beacon of Freedom Award for their work in preserving African history, culture and heritage.
Other IIPP winners include NASA, the Jacques Cousteau Oceanographic Institute of Monaco, and the Albert Einstein Institute for Advanced Studies at Princeton University.
Meanwhile, the Homeward Bound Foundation is releasing a CD to raise funds for the Middle Passage Project. The CD, "If the Ocean Had a Voice" features a variety of hip-hop, rap, reggae, gospel, Latin and Afro-Cuban artists.
Proceeds from the CD sales will be used to construct the six monuments in the areas of the world touched by the transatlantic slave trade.
For more information on the Middle Passage Project,click here.