On the Atlantic shores of Benin, West Africa, a monumental arch towers above wide, sandy beaches: the infamous Gate of No Return. This UNESCO World Heritage site marks the place from where 1.2 Million Africans were shipped into slavery. The arched gate represents the fate of those who stood in the spot centuries ago. The decorated frieze facing the ocean depicts lines of chained deportees crossing the sands to board a ship with an unknown destination. The backside of the gate shows illustrations of their native towns that provide a last glimpse of the ancestral homes they would never see again.

Once the slaves crossed this gate, they essentially lost their identity, their freedom.

The Gate of No Return Marathon & Event Series organized by the Djimon Hounsou Foundation (DHF) aims to symbolically reverse the direction of the slave trade and celebrate homecoming. Our running events will follow symbolic courses along the coasts of West Africa, the Americas, and Europe, the continents that predominantly participated in the Transatlantic Slave Trade.

Our running events will be accompanied by 2-day festivals that celebrate African culture and identity. There, the countries of the African Diaspora – such as Brazil, Colombia, Dominican Republic, Haiti, France, United States – will share their musical and culinary heritage, their arts and crafts.

Our Event Goals

This is what we strive to achieve. Fingers crossed.

1

Commemorate +400 years of the Transatlantic Slave Trade (1619) by contributing to a better understanding of the causes, stakes and consequences of slavery.

2

Create a cultural movement to preserve Africa’s intergenerational identity and reconnect the countries of the diaspora with their motherland.

3

Celebrate pluralism, freedom and equality in an attempt to heal the wounds that slavery left behind.

4

Help people discover their own family roots and create awareness that we are one people.

5

Organize the event as a non-profit endeavor and raise funds to fight modern-day slavery and human trafficking.

6

Collaborate with locals in the execution of the event as much as possible / feasible and transfer know-how and expertise to Africa.

Welcome to the Gate of No Return

An introduction by Djimon Hounsou.

Note: Our event date for the Gate of No Return Marathon & Festival in Benin will be communicated in line with the progress being made in the fight against COVID-19.
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