Djimon Hounsou’s breakout role was Amistad, a moving drama centered around the transatlantic slave trade. Now, the actor is focusing, again on the diaspora through an initiative powered by his foundation.
The now 58-year-old, who is of Benin descent, recently told The Washington Post that the 1997 film led him to gain a deeper understanding and education of African history. Particularly, he learned how the slave trade led to the loss of African birth records and lineage documentation.
This “aha” moment led the famed actor to The Djimon Hounsou Foundation in 2019 on Dec. 2, which commemorates the United Nations’ International Day for the Abolition of Slavery. One of the foundational elements of Housou’s organization is bridging the gap between descendants of slaves and their ancestral stories. The foundation also aims to fight modern slavery and human trafficking.
In September, Hounsou’s foundation hosted the inaugural Run Richmond 16.19 which spanned three continents – Richmond, Virginia, Liverpool, England, and Ouidah, Benin, which represents pivotal locations in the transatlantic slave trade.
“I thought, what brings a mass of people from a diverse world together?” Hounsou said. “And I realized, it’s only around sports and music that you can bring people from different backgrounds together.”
The run kicked off the foundation’s initiative, which was created to increase awareness of African ancestry “and each other”. The 16.19 kilometer distance route is marked with interactive historical landmarks along the way. When connected through straight lines, the landmarks replicate the Triangle of the Transatlantic Slave Trade and the Triangle of Hope.
”Hopefully it will bring a certain journey of experiencing 400 years of Black history, where you can touch and feel.”