Category Archives: Somebodies

Some Things Cost More Than We Realize

radiohead

An excellent video from Radiohead for MTV’s EXIT campaign.

FEATURED! Causecast

Causecast is the social network for social good.

“People want to do good, want to be inspired, and want to inspire others to join them in giving back,” the site says. “Causecast makes this easy by providing users with means to connect with people, leaders, charities, nonprofit organizations, and brands that inspire them.”

In How To Helo Human Trafficking, the Causecast blog gives the following suggestions:

  • Step One: Educate Yourself

    Human trafficking takes on many different forms, sometimes using new methods to disguise itself. The best way to begin to fight against human trafficking is to educate yourself about the problem’s complexities. You can’t fix a problem if you don’t understand it and you can’t spread the word if you can’t explain it.

  • Step Two: Spread the Word

    While it’s really important to understand about all the different types of human trafficking, it’s easier to make a tangible difference when you focus on one specific aspect of the problem at a time.

  • Step Three: Dollah Dollah Bills, Ya’ll

    Of course, money is always an integral part of campaigning for any cause, and human trafficking is no exception.

  • Step Four: Time to Act

    Giving money is great, but it’s only a part of the solution. Check out the Polaris Project Action Center for some hands-on ways you can help. For example, Polaris is pushing Congress to allocate federal funding for human trafficking victims. Call your senators and representatives to let them know how you feel about this issue.

  • Step Five: Keep It Up!

    Remember, technology is your friend. Even the most dedicated of us can’t always keep up with our causes 24/7. So sometimes, it’s a good idea to bring the cause to you.

249 Mile Run in Chains for For Human Trafficking Awareness

Today in British Columbia, singer Eric Proffitt began his 249 mile run from the Lincoln Memorial in Washington, D.C., to the Statue of Liberty in New York City to bring awareness to human trafficking. Proffitt is doing this in chains to illustrate the bonds of silence under which many suffer in our world today.

He is joined by Rev. Marcia L. Dyson, Georgetown University Center for Social Justice, who recently ended a 22-day fast for Darfur, Haiti and for awareness of the gun violence in her home town of Chicago; Theresa Flores, who as a teenager was forced into a relationship of sexual prostitution by an older boy at her school and who now works to help rescue others victimized by human trafficking.

Proffitt is also joined by Ken Morris, the great, grandson of slave abolitionist, Frederick Douglass and educator, Booker T. Washington. Ken gave up his marketing business in Las Vegas to partner the Frederick Douglass Family Foundation on this global human crisis that is human trafficking.

Members of the organizations, Innocents at Risk, which spear-headed Trafficking of Persons (TIP) awareness among flight attendants and The Sanctuary of Moses, which houses, feeds, and educates child victims of trafficking in Benin, as well as several United States congressmen, are in attendance at the Lincoln Memorial kick-off.

This run, called “Run 4 The Rescue” will help raise money and to bring attention to human trafficking and slavery.

This grassroots campaign is spreading like wild-fire across the nation and will reach an apex on September 27, 2009, with the flagship Stop Child Trafficking Wake-Rescue a Child with Your Sole in New York City and simultaneous events in 40 cities nationwide. Individuals and teams across the country will walk to raise money for this cause.

The Run 4 The Rescue will continue with Eric Proffitt tracking an additional 250 miles in the United Kingdom, where slavery was first abolished by colonists.

Learn more or get involved at Run4TheRescue.com

Founder of Not For Sale Shares Views

This Examiner interview offers an interesting look at David Batstone, the founder and President of Not for Sale, one of the biggest organizations in the US fighting to abolish modern slavery.

What compelled you initially to become involved in the anti-slavery movement? How did it all begin?

There were two parts, really: the personal and the immediate. Personally, there was my faith, which asked me to think about others. What am I called to do? That answer was to advocate for those who are vulnerable. In my 20’s, I was involved in Central America, intervening for those in need. That work set me up for what I’m doing now.

The immediate happened when I discovered that my favorite restaurant in San Francisco used slaves. One thing led to another. I then took a year off, traveled the globe, and investigated slavery.

Read the whole thing here.

Hillary Rodham Clinton on Human Trafficking

In a piece for The Washington Post, Secretary of State Hillary Rhodam Clinton discusses the battle against slavery in the world and at home:

To some, human trafficking may seem like a problem limited to other parts of the world. In fact, it occurs in every country, including the United States, and we have a responsibility to fight it just as others do. The destructive effects of trafficking have an impact on all of us. Trafficking weakens legitimate economies, breaks up families, fuels violence, threatens public health and safety, and shreds the social fabric that is necessary for progress. It undermines our long-term efforts to promote peace and prosperity worldwide. And it is an affront to our values and our commitment to human rights.

The Obama administration views the fight against human trafficking, at home and abroad, as an important priority on our foreign policy agenda. The United States funds 140 anti-trafficking programs in nearly 70 countries, as well as 42 domestic task forces that bring state and local authorities together with nongovernmental organizations to combat trafficking. But there is so much more to do.

The problem is particularly urgent now, as local economies around the world reel from the global financial crisis. People are increasingly desperate for the chance to support their families, making them more susceptible to the tricks of ruthless criminals. Economic pressure means more incentive for unscrupulous bosses to squeeze everything they can from vulnerable workers and fewer resources for the organizations and governments trying to stop them.

The Slave Next Door

The Slave Next Door: Human Trafficking and Slavery in America Today by Kevin Bales is out.

“Ron Soodalter and I have spent the last three years looking deeply into slavery across America, at the lives touched by human trafficking, at the products of slavery that flow into our homes, and thinking carefully about how America can fulfill its promise of liberty and become slave-free,” Bales said in an e-mail message about his book.

Ron Soodalter, co-author of the book, put out an essay worth reprinting here, entitled A Blight On The Nation:

The American humorist Will Rogers once said, “It ain’t that we’re so dumb; it’s just that what we know ain’t so.”

Certain things we know to be true. We know that the South kept slaves, and the North fought a righteous war of liberation. We know that the slave trade was legal right up to the Civil War. We know that the Emancipation Proclamation freed all the slaves, and that the United States has been slavery-free ever since. These things we know – and none of them are true.

On the other hand, most of us do not know that slavery not only exists throughout the world today; it flourishes. Slavery is legal nowhere, yet it is practiced everywhere. With an estimated 27 million people in bondage worldwide, this is twice as many people as were taken in chains from Africa during the entire 350 years of the TransAtlantic Slave Trade. In seeking to place blame, we’re tempted to point to the “emerging nations” as the culprits, whereas in fact slavery exists in such “civilized” countries as England, France, Spain, Italy, Israel, Ireland, Greece, Sweden, Denmark, Japan, China…and the United States. Most Americans are clueless that slavery is alive and flourishing right here, thriving in the dark, and practiced in many forms in places you’d least expect.

As a student of history, I’d always assumed that slavery ended with the Thirteenth Amendment. Some years back, I had written nearly an entire book on the pre-Civil War slave trade when I stumbled on an account of slavery – in present-day America! My first response – a common one, as it turns out – was denial: “No way. Slavery has had no place here since the time of Lincoln.”

Only after extensive research did I discover that slavery has always existed on this continent, from the days of its European discovery right up to the present day. Christopher Columbus enslaved the Taino Indians, setting a precedent that was followed by every European power to claim land in the New World. Slavery became the social and economic order. After the Civil War, and for decades right up to the Civil Rights era of the 1960s, planters practiced a form of debt bondage known as peonage, binding workers and their families to the land in an unending cycle of slavery. For over sixty years, our own government has enabled worker abuse and slavery through the mismanagement of its “guest worker” program. And now, with the global population more than tripled since World War II, and with national borders collapsing around the world, people – in their desperate quest for a way to survive – have become easy targets for human traffickers. And once again, America is a prime destination.

So how many slaves are we talking about? According to a U.S. State Department study, some 14,500 to 17,500 foreign nationals are trafficked into the United States from at least 35 countries and enslaved each year. Some victims are smuggled into the United States across the Mexican and Canadian borders; others arrive at our major airports daily, carrying either real or forged papers. The old slave ship of the 1800s has been replaced by the Jumbo Jet. Victims come here from Africa, Asia, India, Latin America, and the former Soviet Republic. Overwhelmingly, they come on the promise of a better life, with the opportunity to work and prosper in America. Many come in the hope of earning enough money to support or send for their families. In order to afford the journey, they fork over their life savings, and go into debt to people who make promises they have no intention of keeping, and instead of opportunity, when they arrive they find bondage. They can be found – or more accurately, not found – in all 50 states, working as farmhands, domestics, sweatshop and factory laborers, gardeners, restaurant and construction workers, and victims of sexual exploitation. These people do not represent a class of poorly paid employees, working at jobs they might not like. They exist specifically to work, they are unable to leave, and are forced to live under the constant threat and reality of violence. By definition, they are slaves. Today, we may call it human trafficking, but make no mistake: It is the slave trade.

Nor are native-born Americans immune from slavers; many are stolen or enticed from the streets of their own cities and towns. Some sources, including the federal government, estimate in the hundreds of thousands of U.S. citizens – primarily children – at risk of being caught in slavery annually. Although these figures may be uncertain, even inflated, the precise number of slaves in the United States, whether trafficked in from other countries or enslaved from our own population, is simply not known. The simple truth is, we’re looking at a crime that lives in the shadows; it’s hard to count what you can’t find.

What is particularly infuriating is the fact that this is a crime that, as a rule, goes unpunished. For the moment, let’s accept the government’s estimate of about 17,000 foreign nationals trafficked into slavery in the United States per year. Coincidentally there are also about 17,000 people murdered in the US each year. The national success rate in solving murder cases is about 70%; around 11,000 murders are “cleared” annually. But according to the US government’s own numbers, the annual percentage of trafficking and slavery cases solved is less than 1%. In 2007, the Department of Justice’s Civil Rights Division obtained 103 convictions for human trafficking, with an average sentence of 9 years.

And to further complicate matters, when they are rescued, slavery survivors often deny their situation. There are several reasons for this: the language barrier, a deep sense of shame, fear for their lives and those of their families in their country of origin, and a sense of obligation to pay their debt. In addition, the traffickers work to brainwash them to fear the police and immigration officials. And in some instances, they come to identify with their keepers.

We don’t yet know how President Obama will respond to the human trafficking crisis; it’s too soon to tell. But we do know that the response under the Bush Administration was inadequate on any number of levels. In a speech on trafficking, Bush once stated, “We’re beginning to make good, substantial progress. The message is getting out: We’re serious. And when we catch you, you’ll find out we’re serious. We’re staying on the hunt.” Strong words. But the unvarnished truth is, with less than 1% of the bad guys apprehended, and less than 1% of the victims freed, the flow of human “product” into America continues practically unchecked.

Finding out about the slave next door is the kind of knowledge you can’t “unlearn”; the only question is, what do you do with the information once you have it? It’s a question we must all answer for ourselves. We tend to think of our America as the country where slavery has no place; the dire truth is, we are pretty far from freedom, and it will take a lot of work and dedication – by the government, and by us – to make it so.

Hillary Clinton Pledges to Fight Slavery During Confirmation Hearings

New York Times writer Nicholas Kristof posts some words from Hillary Clinton uttered during her confirmation hearings yesterday:

I take very seriously the function of the State department to lead our government through the Office on Human Trafficking, to do all that we can to end this modern form of slavery. We have sex slavery, we have wage slavery, and it is primarily a slavery of girls and women. So I look also forward, Senator, to reviewing your legislation and working with you as a continuing partnership on behalf of these issues we care so much about.

So we’re going to have a very active office on trafficking, we’re going to be speaking out consistently and strongly against discrimination and oppression of women, and slavery in particular. Because I think that is not only in keeping with American values, as we all recognize, but American national security interests as well.

“We’re seeing the rise of a new foreign policy agenda — side by side with the old one,” Kristof writes, “consisting of issues like human trafficking, the environment, genocide. They are every bit as important as the traditional agenda.”