A letter from the Frederick Douglas Family Foundation

December 1, 2010

The Dangers of a Little Knowledge

Ask the 50 million or so U.S. students that have already attended the 6th grade, “Who freed the slaves in the United States” and most will proudly respond correctly, Abraham Lincoln. As one of the defining moments in U.S. history, the Abolition of slavery is a cornerstone of the American self-image as defenders of freedom. But the freedom of many, right here in these United States, is being threatened every day. Modern forms of slavery are alive and well and it may be our little bit of knowledge that keeps us from responding appropriately.

I wonder how many Americans, for instance, would answer true or false to the following statements:
There are Aliens living on Earth.
Ghosts live among us.

Slavery still exists.
First of all, the existence of Aliens and Ghosts has never been conclusively proven or disproven. With a preponderance of sightings, articles and TV shows, however, there’s enough reasonable doubt to make some people check true on statements 1 and 2. On the other hand, most adults, like those 50 million students, know only that Abraham Lincoln freed the slaves in 1800 something and slavery is over. No “reasonable doubt”, everyone knows slavery ended with the Emancipation Proclamation. No matter how ridiculous the analogy, I’m afraid number 3 would score the highest percentage of “false” answers.

What makes this scenario so scary is that it would be hard to find actual victims of either Aliens or Ghosts, whereas the victims of human trafficking are all around us. And, even though the evidence is in our faces, we’re unable to understand it because of that little piece of knowledge we possess. How can these headlines be true if I already know that no one can legally buy and sell people?

“Two N.Y. men charged with Human Trafficking”
“Brazilian Police Dismantle Human Trafficking Ring”
“Feds Break-up Human Trafficking Ring in Minnesota”

In fact, the buying and selling of people is the second most profitable illegal industry in the world today. Those that operate this industry rely on our ignorance in order to succeed. Which brings me back to those 50 million students.

The Frederick Douglass Family Foundation is working to create programs in schools to educate young people about human trafficking, modern-day slavery and the many forms of human exploitation happening right now in cities and towns in varying degrees all over the world. We do this not only to help students protect themselves from becoming victims of human trafficking but so they’ll grow-up being able to answer “True” to question number 3. Why is that important? Because, once the general public better understands the threat of human trafficking, we’ll be in a position to address it.

Recognizing December 2nd each year as the “International Day for the Abolition of Slavery” is a good start. The United Nations commemorates this day as a means of remembering the heroes that helped end institutionalized slavery around the world. We hope that this day also reminds people how millions around the world still suffer at the hands of “slave masters” in conditions as bad or worse than slaves endured in this country for hundreds of years.

In addition, we ask that you contact your local member of congress asking them to sponsor House Resolution 929. H. Res. 929 would have the House recognize the “International Day for the Abolition of Slavery” each year on December 2nd. In the Resolution, Congresswoman Richardson (D-CA) highlights the work of Frederick Douglass, other great Abolitionists and even the Frederick Douglass Family Foundation in addressing the issue of modern-day slavery.

Join us in commemorating the “International Day for the Abolition of Slavery” and add a little more knowledge and understanding to the fight to defend individual freedom.

December 2nd

President, Ken Morris, and I will be in San Francisco and Oakland, California on December 2nd speaking with children from Emilio Zapata Street Academy.

In Freedom,

Robert J. Benz
Executive Vice President
Frederick Douglass Family Foundation

Freedom Center Opens World’s First Permanent Museum Exhibition on Modern-Day Slavery and Human Trafficking

CINCINNATI, Oct. 12 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ — The National Underground Railroad Freedom Center in Cincinnati has opened the world’s first permanent, museum-quality exhibition on modern-day slavery and human trafficking.

The exhibition, entitled Invisible: Slavery Today opened on October 9, and will be a permanent installation on the Freedom Center’s third floor east pavilion.

“This is a groundbreaking exhibition, but one entirely in keeping with our Mission of making the historic struggle for freedom relevant and meaningful for today’s audiences,” said Freedom Center CEO Don Murphy. “It would be comforting to say that slavery had been completely abolished at the end of the Civil War in 1865,” Murphy added. “But slavery exists today on a global scale, in many forms, and more people than ever are being exploited. Invisible tells this story in a way that will shock visitors but ultimately inspire them to become modern abolitionists.”

Invisible: Slavery Today was produced with several antislavery organizations, which provided content and guidance. The partners are Free the Slaves, Goodweave, International Justice Mission and Polaris Project. Underwriting of the exhibition came from The Skirball Foundation and Lois and Richard Rosenthal.

The exhibition consists of three main exhibition areas: one (the first) exploring the many forms of modern-day slavery; the second, which details the scope and causes of modern-day slavery; and a final section that provides information on global efforts to combat trafficking and slavery abuses. The five most common forms of slavery – bonded labor, sex trafficking, child labor, domestic servitude, and forced labor – are explained through the life experiences of real individuals from across the globe.

The new exhibition was designed by Seattle-based Touch Worldwide.

With the opening of Invisible, the Freedom Center also announced that it had appointed Paul Bernish, the museum’s Chief Communications Officer for the past six years, as its Director of Antislavery and Human Trafficking Initiatives – a new position and most likely the first in the museum field. Bernish will oversee the Freedom Center’s engagement in anti-trafficking efforts and lead the development of a curriculum on modern forms of slavery targeted to junior high and high school students.

SOURCE National Underground Railroad Freedom Center

I would love to hear back from you the reader.

Some food for thought: The International Labor Organization estimates that every year 1.8 million children are forced into prostitution or pornography every year. Now there are two estimates regarding the issue of child labor trafficking. UNICEF estimates that there are over 158 million children exploited for labor. The International Labor Organization estimates 200 million.

Sex trafficking in my opinion is a heinous, dehumanizing and perverted crime. The damaged that is caused to these children is heartbreaking. No child deserves to be raped or abused!

Now what I am about to say may upset people or may lead people to think that I do not care about sex trafficking, which believe me I do care very much about this issue. However as a true human rights activist, it hurts me to see that child labor trafficking is ignored. Many people believe that these children do not suffer. My question is have you ever met a child labor trafficking victim and heard their story?

Most people do not understand the type of working conditions that these children are forced to work in. The children work in unsanitary and deplorable conditions. Many of these children are beaten, branded, starved, raped and even killed. Many of these children are exposed to harmful pesticides, chemicals and other elements that can cause problems both internally and externally.

I want to bring this up to show that even thought I speak more on the issue of sex trafficking, I myself cannot ignore labor trafficking either. And honestly, it wasn’t until I started meeting the labor trafficking victims that I finally understood how they too can suffer. I learned a great deal from them. This changed my outlook on the issue.

My question to you is why do you think so many of us ignore the issue of child labor trafficking? Sex trafficking is horrible, but with the sheer number of children being exploited for labor, should we do more to advocate for them?

Let me know what you think. I want to open up the lines of discussion on this issue as I feel as though this would be a good opportunity to learn from each other.

Welcome to FCAHT’s New Blog

We’re happy to announce the publishing of our new blog here at “FCAHT’s Blog”. We’ll be sharing news, information and resources about all types of Human Trafficking. Please feel free to share your comments and to send in news articles and information about human trafficking. We are looking forward to bringing more awareness to this important issue through our new blog!