Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Why am I an activist?

This a repost of a blog that I wrote for another blog site.  I wrote this a few months ago and I have added to it...

As a black American, I grew up learning about an institution that is part of my heritage...slavery.  My ancestors, which I'm doing research on, were slaves.  American slaves toiled on plantations in America, working as servants and farm laborers.  I've read countless novels, history books, and watched many, many movies about the plight of the American slave and the Transatlantic slave trade.  In America, slavery was abolished and every one lived happily ever after, right?  Well, not quite, the effects of that time period are still felt today in the culture of America in the still present cultural and racial division between blacks and whites.  This has been part of my life growing up here, especially being a product of a mixed-race family.  Up until 2 years ago, I had assumed that slavery was something from the past, not something going on today and if it was going on today, it certainly wasn't happening anywhere that had anything to do with me!  I have found out that slavery most definitely does exist today AND it is going on right here in America, but not just in America, in my neck of the woods.
Florida is the #2 or #3 destination State for human trafficking!  When I read that, I was floored!  I learned about agricultural slavery because of my research into organic food due to my soy allergy and I learned about agricultural slavery going on right here in my state.  The Coalition of Immokalee Workers has a lot of information about slavery on Florida farms.  Migrant workers are trafficked into Florida and forced to pick tomatoes and other produce.  They are not paid enough to live on, they are often in debt bondage, they are kept in substandard living conditions, the women and girls are often raped and sexually abused, and there are travelling brothels, with sex trafficked girls, that travel around the state to the farm workers.  The workers are subjected to massive amounts of the pesticides that are used on conventional produce and even though organic  farm workers are not subjected to the dangerous pesticides, there are no labor laws to protect them and they are not paid properly or have unions to help them.  The Organic Consumers Association works to raise awareness for the need to protect farm workers, here in America, and Whole Foods Market is also joining the fight for fair labor laws for organic farm workers around the world.

People in America are being tricked, coerced, and/or forced to work as strippers, prostitutes, housekeepers, janitors, nannies, in construction, in nail salons and massage parlors, in pornography, among other "jobs".  Children are a big part of slavery, 50% of slaves are under the age of 18.  All over the world, men, women, and children are living as slaves.  They are beaten and whipped, paid very little or not at all, they are raped and sexually abused, they are living in awful conditions, and receive little to no medical care.  What good is the American dream if it is brought to us on the backs of slaves?  Everywhere I look since I've become aware of this, I see the blood, tears, and pain of children abused, women beaten, and men broken by the needs of a society that has to have things cheap and convenient.  It is estimated that 14,500 to 18,000 men, women, and children are trafficked into the United States every year.  90% of the women and children are used in the sex industry and the average age of entry into the sex industry is 14.  There are 300,000 American children in the United States that are at risk for being trafficked into sexual slavery.  These numbers have been changing since I became aware of what is going on.  Authorities don't know the extent of trafficking victims because it is such a hidden crime and so many people don't know anything about it.  A lot of victims don't even know that they are trafficking victims and they don't know their rights.  In some cases, police will arrest the victims or deport them and their trafficker is never brought to justice.  In the case of foreign victims, their trafficker/pimp will take their documentation papers, visas, and passports so they cannot go the authorities and their papers will expire.  They are told lies by their "masters" and believe that no one will help them if they try to leave.

One misconception here in America is about prostitution.  It is not a victimless crime and the pimp is a trafficker and making money off of sexually abusing children.  The "johns" that utilize prostitutes are really pedophiles and abusers of women because a lot of girls are not there by choice or they have been beaten and raped so many times that it has become the only thing that they know.  I watched a documentary a few weeks ago called Very Young Girls and it was really an eye-opener for me about what American children go through when they are victimized by a pimp.  The girls in the documentary were as young as 12 when a pimp forced them to sell their bodies for money.  Gems is the foundation that made the documentary and has been providing services to sex trafficking victims in New York City.

 There is a great website called End Slavery Now that has combined all of the organizations and individuals that are working to abolish slavery worldwide.  They have tons of resources, movies, books, and pictures that tell the story of the modern-day slave.  The Polaris Project has more information about the extent of trafficking and slavery worldwide.  We can each play a part to end trafficking and slavery.  We can take a look at some of the wonderful abolitionist foundations out there in the world to see what they are doing to fight this.  We can tell everyone we know about what is going on.  We can keep our eyes open to the signs of slavery and refer them to authorities.  We can donate money, join a non-profit or start your own group.  Write a blog, get on twitter, talk about it on Facebook.  Social Networking is a great tool for raising awareness.  We have a job to do.  Jesus asks us to take care of those who can't take care of themselves, the poor, the downtrodden, the abused, the castaways, the helpless...the list goes on.   Now that you know, you should do something about it.

Much love,

Libby Mahoney
January is Human Trafficking Awareness Month and January 11th is Human Trafficking Awareness Day.

1 comment:

  1. Hopefully through this blog and through the Cooking Activist, God will open more eyes and people will begin to release what a epidemic this is. Blessings to you Libby!