Month: January 2018

An Eye-Opening Discussion: A Community Conversation: Modern Slavery—Global to Local

I have been researching and attending events related to human trafficking ever since writing and publishing my novel True Mercy. Still, when I attended a discussion entitled “A Community Conversation: Modern Slavery—Global to Local” at Seton Hall University, I gathered a great deal of new information. Slavery/human trafficking concerns everyone whether we realize it or not. It is occurring throughout the world, but many are surprised to find out it is also happening in cities and suburbs across the United States.

Before I relate the eye-opening information, first I would like to list the event’s speakers.

U.S. Rep. Chris Smith (Hamilton, NJ) is serving his 19th term in the House of Representatives and is the author of the comprehensive legislation, “ The Trafficking Victims Protection Act of 2000 (PL 106-386).” This is a federal, multi-agency approach to prevent slavery, protect victims, and punish traffickers to the full extent of the law. He gave his talk through telephone conferencing.

Ingrid Johnson is a registered nurse and a member of the New Jersey Coalition Against Human Trafficking. She has worked tirelessly in the cause of human trafficking awareness ever since she rescued her daughter from the clutches of human traffickers fourteen years ago.

Dr. Bernard Freamon is a professor of legal philosophy specializing in Islamic Jurisprudence and Islamic Legal History. He teaches at Seton Hall School of Law. He has written extensively on human trafficking/slavery in Asia and Africa. Dr. Freamon is currently working on his latest book, Possessed by The Right Hand: The Problem of Slavery in Islamic Law and Muslim Cultures.

Kate Lee is the Administrator of the NJ Coalition Against Human Trafficking and Co-Chair of the NJ Governor’s Advisory Council Against Sexual Violence. She has organized numerous conferences and workshops to raise awareness.

Robert Boneberg is the Coordinator of the Slave-Free Community Project and is the Co-Chair of the Slave-Free Commerce Committee of the NJ Coalition Against Human Trafficking.

The five speakers made the following points:

  • There are an estimated 21 to 46 million slaves in the world. There are many different forms of slavery. They include slavery, human trafficking, forced labor, sex trafficking, and debt bondage.
  • Approximatley 15,000-18,000 slaves are imported in the U.S. annually. They comprise of sex slaves (50%), and others, including slaves in domestic service, business enterprises, and agriculture.
  • In regards to slavery around the Indian Ocean in Asia and near Africa, human trafficking is a continuation of what has been happening there for the last 3-4,000 years. Efforts to eradicate slavery in this part of the world have been a failure.
  • There are three reasons slavery is still happening in the world: 1.) Migration-People are migrating around the world in a manner never seen before. Criminals take advantage of this by trafficking people escaping their countries. 2.) Climate disasters— Traffickers again take advantage of people escaping natural disasters like earthquakes and tsunamis. 3.) Conflict—Militant Muslim groups like ISIS take slaves.
  • Women from Mexico and African countries have been trafficked in various parts of New Jersey, according to arrest documents .
  • One way to eradicate slavery is to pay attention to the products we buy. The US Dept of Labor has identified the following products that are often made by child or forced labor. Among them are coffee, fruit, nuts, cotton, chocolate, rice, gold, and footwear.
  • Red Flag: If one sees a young person getting gifts that are inappropriate, that may be a sign that a person may be trying to lure them into trafficking.
  • Slaves are very cheap now because of migration. They are considered disposable people. It is more expensive to fly to Haiti than to buy a slave in Haiti.
  • There are more slaves today than ever before in history.
  • Approximately one quarter of them are children.
  • Approximately one fifth are in sex slavery.
  • Approximately 15 million people are in forced marriages.
  • There are approximately 58,000 slaves in the U.S.
  • Traffickers make approximately $150,000,000,000 from slavery per year.

The meeting concluded with speakers telling audience members that only when people work together can slavery finally be eradicated once and for all.

If you suspect slavery/human trafficking is taking place, do not attempt to rescue that person yourself. You may be putting that person in even more danger. It is best to call the following number:

National 24 hour hotline 1-888-373-7888

or Text INFO or HELP to BE FREE (233733)

Join in the fight to prevent slavery!

Website:  https://slavefreecommunityproject.com

Facebook:  https://www.facebook.com/slavefreecommunityproject/

Instagram:  https://www.instagram.com/slavefreecommunityproject/

YouTube Channel:  ow.ly/xF4M30hAlZX

Twitter:  https://twitter.com/SlaveFreeCP

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My Three Favorite Books of 2017

  1. The Heart’s Invisible Furies By John Boyne

The author of The Boy in Striped Pajamas wrote another tour de force that tugs at your heartstrings, forcing readers to examine their own values and judgements. A man who was adopted by upper-class yet eccentric parents discovers he is a homosexual in post-World War II Ireland. At this time homosexuality was forbidden and punishable by hard labor. The man must navigate his way through life with his secret while struggling to find stability and happiness.

  1. A Gentleman in Moscow By Amor Towles

A Russian aristocrat who is now declared a “non-person” by the new Soviet Communist regime becomes a prisoner in the famed Metropol Hotel in Moscow. The life experiences, personal character and wisdom he imparts upon his readers made this novel a runaway hit with readers. I always felt joy when I had the chance to read it and despite almost 500 pages, was disappointed when it ended. A man that was used to the best life had to offer is now relegated to a small room and the freedom and luxuries he once enjoyed severely curtailed. The gentleman handles his reduced circumstances with grace, wit and courage.

  1. Grant by Ron Chernow

Historian Ron Chernow, author of the much celebrated Alexander Hamilton, triumphs yet again with an account of the 18th President of the United States, Ulysses S. Grant. Grant was moral and upright but not a particularly ambitious man who nevertheless rose from impoverished businessman to army general and then President for two terms. He fought a life-long battle with alcoholism and although astute in battle, he was naive in his judgment of character. As President, many people surrounding him took advantage of his trusting nature, which led him to make several poor decisions while in office. Still, his support of the newly-freed black slaves was unwavering and admirable.

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Progress!

I was so pleased to read that the efforts of human trafficking prevention groups have yielded success! For years now, pimps have been forcing young girls and women into sexual relations with strangers in hotel rooms while hotel owners and staff would often look away. Krista Torralva of the Orlando Sentinel reported that a  bill is being prepared for the Florida Legislature to approve that would allow human trafficking victims to sue hotel workers who ignore these crimes.

Another bill would require hotel staff members to receive training in recognizing the signs of human trafficking. If these bills pass, it would greatly impact the 400 hotels in Orlando and the many more in the surrounding areas.

A similar bill was already passed in Pennsylvania in 2014 when a human trafficking victim was able to sue a Philadelphia motel when staff members ignored her travail when she was forced to sleep with hundreds of men.

According to The Polaris Project, an anti-human trafficking organization, Orlando, Florida is ranked number three in calls per capita to the National Human Trafficking Hotline.

Let’s hope to see more progress throughout the world in combatting the proliferation of human trafficking. It is everyone’s responsibility to spot the warning signs and act to prevent this crime.

To learn more about The Polaris Project, log onto https://polarisproject.org. The phone number of the National Human Trafficking Hotline is 1-888-373-7888.

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