Be the Response

Big thanks to all who attended our anti-trafficking event this week!

If you were there, I’d love to hear from you: What did you think of the film? What did you learn from the guest speaker? What questions were left unanswered? Share your thoughts in the comments!

The event is over, but of course the work of abolishing slavery continues. So the question is, what’s next? (Not in the President Bartlet, that’s-over-so-let’s-move-on kind of way, but rather the how-do-we-keep-this-going kind of way.)

Or, as Call + Response writer, director and producer, Justin Dillon, asks in the film’s climax:

This is an open source movement. The platform is written, everybody simply needs to write their code on top. What are you good at? What do you care about? Has this issue touched you? What is your response going to be?

What is our Response going to be?

Even if you weren’t able to be at Wednesday’s event, you can sill be part of the Response to modern-day slavery – both globally and locally.

You can:
Fund Care for Local Trafficking Victims: Here is an order form for gift cards to be given to Anne’s House. Giving gift cards provides needed food and clothes for girls rescued from sex slavery – girls now receiving vital care in the Chicago area. Orders due next Sunday, Feb. 26.

Chose an Action: The Call + Response website offers ways to be an abolitionist, including telling companies you want them to produce their products without using slave labor.

Learn More: Learn about the PROMISE program in general and Anne’s House in particular.

Those response options aren’t moving you? Or perhaps you’re not in the Chicago area? Check out my updated Abolitionist blogroll for all kinds of other options.

While I would of course love to have you support the efforts I highlighted here, there are plenty of avenues you can take. Just as long as you take one.

Be the response. Be an abolitionist.

My church makes the news

Ok, so it was for TribLocal and we wrote the story ourselves. But it was the featured story for a while! That counts for something, right?

Anyway, it looks a little something like this:

Did you know there are as many as 27 million slaves in the world right now?


Woodridge United Methodist Church is trying to change that. Will you join us?

The statistics are shocking. There are more slaves in bondage today than ever before. In 2007, slave traders made more money than the combined profits of corporate giants Google, Nike and Starbucks. CALL+RESPONSE is a critically acclaimed, theatrically released, feature rockumentary that shines the spotlight on slavery in the 21st century.

Actors and activists Julia Ormond, Ashley Judd, Daryl Hannah along with prominent luminaries Dr. Cornel West, former U.S. Secretary of State Madeleine Albright, New York Times’ journalist Nicholas Kristof and many others offer first hand accounts of the modern day slave trade. Throughout the documentary, these cultural figures share the frightening facts about slavery today.

Lending their voices and songs to the cause are award-winning musicians such as Moby, Natasha Bedingfield, Five For Fighting, Cold War Kids, Matisyahu, Emmanuel Jal, Imogen Heap, Talib Kweli, members of Nickel Creek and Rocco DeLuca, whose musical performances are perfectly in sync with the film’s important message. Dr. West makes the connection between music and slavery, noting that during slavery in America, the only two things a slave had were their bodies and voices.

First time filmmaker/musician Justin Dillon learned about modern day slavery while touring in Russia. His translator, a young girl, told him about an exciting job opportunity in the west. The job offer sounded a “little too good to be true,” and Dillon decided to investigate the offer on his own, discovering the job was indeed an attempt to trick the young girl into a form of slavery. Upon his return to the United States, Dillon decided to act, “I was infuriated that here in the 21st century, there are people living as slaves, with no hope, no options and no future. I knew in my heart that it was up to me to make a difference, to take a stand and actually do something to put an end to this abominable business.” Dillon reached out to politicians and advocates along with musicians, he put out the call and they responded.

Join Woodridge United Methodist Church on Wednesday, February 15 at 7:00pm for a screening event of CALL+RESPONSE. After the screening, the Director of The Salvation Army PROMISE program and Founder of Anne’s House, will present ways modern-day slavery is being fought in the Chicago area. The screening is free and childcare is offered.
Be part of a film experience that has enlisted over 350,000 activists around the world to demand change.

For more information about CALL+RESPONSE, please visit

For more information about the CALL+RESPONSE screening, please visit–response

If you’re in the Chicago area, will you join us? Come on Wednesday. Watch the film. Listen to the speaker. Be moved. Be inspired. Let your heart be broken by injustice that breaks God’s heart. Ask questions. Take action. Bring a friend. Be an abolitionist.

Well said! – Abolitionist edition

8-year-old me: “Dad, why is there a Mother’s Day and a Father’s Day, but no Kid’s day?”

My Dad: “Because every day is Kid’s day.”

It’s an old joke, and it’s just true enough to be a little funny. It can never be more than a little funny though, because, for the estimated 13-15 million kids trapped in slavery (at this very moment!), no day is Kid’s day.

Forgive me the somewhat mawkish intro there. I was thinking about that long-ago exchange with my dad because today is February 1. Meaning National Human Trafficking Prevention Month is over. But, of course, (say it with me now) every day needs to be Human Trafficking Prevention Day. To that end…

The CNN Freedom Project has excellent coverage of child labor slavery in the chocolate industry. There’s even some good news: The Hersey company is finally addressing the issue:

The Hershey company, one of the United States’ leading chocolate producers, says it’s pledged $10 million over the next five years to educate West African cocoa farmers on improving their trade and combating child labor.

The company said in a press release that chocolate consumers will later this year be able to purchase a new version of Hershey’s Bliss brand, which will be 100% made from Rain Forest Alliance-certified farms mostly in Ivory Coast and Ghana.

“It’s a start,” said Judy Gearhart, executive director of the International Labor Rights Forum. “We see this as a welcome first step toward accountability.”

End Demand IL reports another victory: a conviction!

Sex trafficking is a local problem, and today Alex Campbell was convicted in a federal trial for selling women and girls out of a massage parlor in the Chicago suburb of Mt. Prospect. The Chicago Alliance Against Sexual Exploitation applauds this victory and urges the community to hold purchasers (johns) accountable for buying sex and fueling the sex trade. Campbell recruited and prostituted women using force, fraud and coercion and had his name tattooed on their bodies to claim his ownership.

Sojourner’s offers a rundown of their anti-trafficking work in 2011:

When, as is true today, the richest 10 percent own 85 percent of the world’s wealth and the poorest 50 percent live off the crumbs of 1 percent of the total global wealth, you’ve created a market where slavery will thrive.

What will it take to shut down “Satan’s marketplace,” the global slave trade? Every weapon in the arsenal of nonviolence.

Texas churches rescuing sex slaves, according to Associated Baptist Press:

Faith-based and other organizations are using a variety of methods to discover and “rescue” trafficking victims. By using a private investigator, Traffick911 recently rescued two girls from traffickers, including one who was sold as “Thanksgiving dessert.” Groups like Traffick911 and TraffickStop are training individuals to recognize signs that indicate a person is being trafficked.

Next, groups like Refuge of Light and Traffick911 are attempting to build safe houses where rescued individuals can recover, a costly process that requires a safe environment. Safe houses are rare across the country. For a group like Traffick911 that discovers trafficking victims each month, that must change.

And, of course, my church (Woodridge UMC) will host a screening of Call + Response on Feb. 15 with discussion and action opportunities to follow.

Along with the film’s creators, we believe “the end of modern-day slavery will come from individuals who gather together to push on businesses, media, and governments to support their existing values for human rights. We believe that this is a bottom-up movement that needs dynamic information, sustained inspiration, and most importantly, tactile activation.”

Share your abolitionist activities so we can learn from each other.

#EndDemand in order to #EndSlavery

“I’m not seeing a lot of cases where there’s not coercion,” she added. “The average age where a girl is forced into prostitution is 12 to 14. And most of these 16- or 17 year-olds are being run by pretty vicious pimps.”

National Human Trafficking Prevention Month is winding down, but the actual work of preventing human trafficking continues. Two terrific posts yesterday – one national, one local – demonstrate the need for action and offer ways to meet that need.

Abolitionist and New York Times columnist, Nick Kristof, calls out for helping pimps trafficking girls. That’s not a euphemism, I mean girls. As the quote above from Lauren Hersh, “the ace prosecutor in Brooklyn who leads the sex-trafficking unit there,” demonstrates.

Kristof tells the story of a 13 year-old, whom he calls Babyface, who managed to escape from her pimp (read: trafficker). But not before “she was bleeding vaginally…her pimp had recently kicked her down a stairwell for trying to flee.”

Why does Backpage need to shut down its adult services section?

Babyface had run away from home in September. Kendale Judge [the man who became her pimp] allegedly found her on the street, bought food for her and told her that she was beautiful. Within a few days, he had posted her photo on Backpage and was selling her five to nine times a day, prosecutors say. When she didn’t earn enough money, he beat her with a belt, they add. (emphasis added)

Further Kristof writes, Backpage “is a godsend to pimps, allowing customers to order a girl online as if she were a pizza.”

It was that line that caught Kristin Claes’ attention over at the Chicago Alliance Against Sexual Exploitation (CAASE):

That’s not the first time we’ve heard that comparison, and [Kristof’s] sadly very right: When Rachel Durchslag, CAASE’s executive director, interviewed 113 johns in Chicago, one purchaser said: “I usually call for a girl, you know, like a pizza.” There are so many disturbing things happening there–a girl being a commodity, available to order–it’s important to know that johns are a driving force as much as pimps are.

I know it’s easier to avert our eyes from this sort of atrocity. But we must not. Girls like Babyface aren’t just in New York or Mumbai. They are here too. Fortunately, the news isn’t all bad:

we [in the Chicago area] are fortunate locally that Cook County State’s Attorney Anita Alvarez and Sheriff Tom Dart are embracing the End Demand approach. We’ve seen signs of progress in Illinois, with local stings that led to the arrests of more than 10 traffickers and 27 johns.

Please read Kristof’s and Claes’ full posts. Then pick an action they suggest and take it.

Want a different option? Come to Woodridge United Methodist Church on Wednesday, February 15 at 7:00pm as we screen and discuss the anti-trafficking documentary Call + Response. The event is free, we have plenty of parking, we’ll provide some snacks, and child care is available.

Whatever else you do, be a modern-day abolitionist.

“Rise up, early” to #endslavery

I’m in the midst of planning a screening of the documentary, Call + Response, at my church. National Human Trafficking Prevention Month will be over by the time we show the film on February 15. But, at risk of being cliché, any time is a good time to fight slavery.

While exact figures are exceedingly difficult to determine, our best guess is that there are between 27-30 million slaves in the world today. Human trafficking exists because there is money to be made at it. Lots and lots of money. Human trafficking makes more money than Nike, Google and Starbucks combined. By all accounts, it is the second most lucrative criminal enterprise (equal to or ahead of gun trafficking and behind only drug trafficking).

Given all that we’re up against in the pursuit of justice for today’s slaves, it is easy to get discouraged. And that’s where Call + Response comes in. I found it an absolutely inspiring film. Watching it re-energized my desire to be an abolitionist. That’s why I want to show it to as many people as possible on Feb. 15.

Go check out all the trailers, see if you aren’t intrigued. Also, take a listen to this haunting song which appears in the film. (In the movie, the band was under the working name The Scrolls. They’ve since changed it to Works Progress Administration.)

Does any of this move you? What will your response be? Will you become an abolitionist?

#NHTAD in the midst of #NHTPM

There are as many as 27-30 million slaves in the world today. Yes, today.

Trafficking In Persons Report Map 2010
Image via Wikipedia

Today, January 11, 2012, is National Human Trafficking Awareness Day. But just one day is truly not enough. And, honestly, “merely” raising awareness is just not enough. Fortunately, this year President Obama declared all of January as National Human Trafficking Prevention Month.

It seems to me that the vast problem of modern-day slavery/human trafficking has become much more visible in mainstream media. It’s certainly all over Twitter. (Just search #NHTAD.)

Heck, there’s even an anti-human trafficking opera now!

There are no so many organizations fighting trafficking, so many people engaged in this struggle to end oppression. My blog roll is in desperate need of updating to reflect all the excellent people and groups I’ve become aware of (mostly through Twitter) who are also abolitionists.

Just yesterday I watched Call + Response for the first time. It is an excellent film, mainly for raising awareness – but also for inspiration to, well, respond. Modern-day slavery is (it should almost go without saying) a blatant, disgusting, soul-numbing, mind-blowing, body-paralyzing evil. This film reminds us of that. But it manages not to get stuck in the funk. In fact, it uses the funk to inspire hope! (Trust me on this. Or, better yet, see the film yourself! We’re hosting a screening at Woodridge United Methodist Church on Feb. 15.)

My hope and prayer is that, wherever you are on the abolitionist journey, you will keep learning, sharing and acting to end slavery in our time.

A few ways to respond today, this month, always:

Learn some basics.

Watch videos from Not for Sale’s Global Forum on Human Trafficking.

Read teen author, Zach Hunter’s ideas to end slavery.

Check out retreat resources from United Methodist Women.

Read about The United Methodist Committee on Relief’s efforts in Armenia.

See how educators like Holly Boardman are inspiring – and being inspired by – their students to end slavery.

In the words of Justin Dillon, writer, director and producer of Call + Response:

This is an open source movement. The platform is written, everybody simply needs to write their code on top. What are you good at? What do you care about? Has this issue touched you? What is your response going to be?

The church is my biggest platform. I will continue to challenge the people of Woodridge UMC to fight slavery locally and globally. God dreams of a slave-free world. We long to bring that dream to life. (Plus I’ll update that blogroll.)

What is your response going to be?

Am I an abolitionist?

Hi. I’m Dave.
And I have 46 slaves working for me.

Can I still call myself an abolitionist?

Back in September, Slavery Footprint went live during the Clinton Global Initiative. The demand crashed their servers.

I remember hearing about it in September and I’m pretty sure I even started through the process of calculating my slavery footprint. Somehow I never finished it though. But today I did. It takes a few minutes, and, damn, is it shocking. I don’t want 46 slaves working for me. I don’t want any slaves working for anybody.

It seems like sex slavery gets most of the press attention and all of the movies.* But according to Free the Slaves, there are more labor slaves than sex slaves. They suggest that as many as 20 million of the 27 million slaves in the world are labor slaves. Most of them buried in the supply chains of all the stuff – food, toys, clothes, electronics – we buy.

According to the site, the things that enlarge my footprint most are our electronic gadgets, toys for our kids (especially action figures), my socks and underwear (??) and our cars. Ouch. I need all those things, don’t I?!?

Slavery Footprint grew out of Justin Dillon’s Call + Response project. (Another film I’ve wanted to see for three years now and just haven’t managed to. I think I just discovered New Year’s resolution #1 for 2012: quit stalling and buy that DVD already!) Check out their tumblr blog,** get their smartphone app, go to the website to calculate your own footprint.

But don’t despair! As was said at our Almost Christmas worship service this week: as followers of God in the way of Jesus we don’t believe in hopeless!

We can end slavery. Use all the tools available to you:

  • Spread awareness. (I know, I know. Awareness-raising seems so…lame and inactive. Yet, every time I’ve thought to myself, “Self, we’ve talked about this enough. Everyone at our church must know about it by now.” someone asks what human trafficking is. Awareness still needs to be raised. Let’s just not make it all we do.)
  • use slavery footprint’s take action methods.
  • use your smartphone.
  • screen a film
  • study a book
  • use social media

And believe it or not, Google is an ally in this fight! Slavery Footprint, International Justice Mission, Polaris Project, Not for Sale and others will receive $11.5 million in grants from Google to launch new anti-trafficking projects.

My name is Dave. I have 46 slaves working for me.
But I have hope that will change. I won’t stop striving to be an abolitionist until that number is zero. For me, for you, for everybody.

No person should be for sale.

*Taken chief among them. I didn’t manage to see The Whistleblower. It comes out on DVD January 24. I will see it then.

**Evidence #2368 that I’m old: I don’t really get tumblr. But I know it’s there. That’s something, right? Right?!?

Minding the gap

That was one of my key take-aways (gotta love conference attendee parlance, right?) from the Leadership Institute at the United Methodist Church of the Resurrection in Kansas City last week: minding the gap.

In one of his plenary addresses, Church of the Resurrection Senior Pastor, Adam Hamilton, used that phrase – minding the gap – to describe strategic planning in the church. It was one of those moments when something you already know is presented in a different way enabling you to hear the idea anew, with clarity and power.

Hamilton said look around you, around your community and even around the globe. Ask where the world isn’t as it should be. See the gap between the world as it is and the world as it should be. Our task as the church is to make the world as it is more like the world as it should be. Our task is to mind the gap.

The gap isn’t hard to find.

  • An estimated 925 million people suffer from hunger.*
  • An estimated 1.4 billion people in developing countries lived in extreme poverty, or on less than $1.25 a day. (The good news is that’s down from 1.9 billion in 1981.)*
  • An estimated 800 million people don’t have access to clean, safe drinking water.**
  • In the U.S.A., 14.6 % of households struggle to put food on the table.***
  • In the U.S.A. nearly 25% of children are at risk of hunger, that’s over 16 million children.***
  • In the U.S.A. 13% of our population lives in poverty.***
  • An estimated 27 million people are trapped in some form of modern-day slavery.

We’ve been talking about one way to mind the gap on the modern-day slavery front: by telling our members of Congress to pass the Trafficking Victims Protection Reauthorization Act (TVPRA).

This legislation authorizes assistance programs for victims, establishes key components of the U.S. government’s efforts to stop trafficking, including the State Department Office to Monitor and Combat Trafficking in Persons and the annual Trafficking in Persons Report. Passing the TVPRA will extend this law for another three years. Together we can demonstrate to our policy-makers that their constituents care about ending human trafficking at home and around the world.

What’s the status of the bill?

Holly Burkhalter, Vice President of Government Relations for International Justice Mission, reports, “The House Foreign Affairs Committee reviewed the bill (HR.2830) [this week] and passed it unanimously out of the committee.”

However, “Representative Chris Smith (R-NJ), the principal sponsor of the TVPRA, explained that in order to secure Committee action on the TVPRA and support from House leadership for the measure, he had to trim off some of bill’s most important features.” The reason? Cost.

“Two Senators in particular, Senator Dr. Tom Coburn (R-OK) and Senator Chuck Grassley (R-IA) raised concerns about spending.” [Read the whole post.]

It’s not too late. Being in contact with your members of Congress can still make a difference.

Together we will mind the gap. Together we will abolition slavery.

*Bread for the World, Global Faces of Hunger

**Charity:Water, What is the water crisis?

***Bread for the World, US Faces of Hunger

IL Forum to Combat Human Trafficking

I was quite encouraged by the crowd present for Monday’s Illinois Forum to Combat Human Trafficking. There were several hundred people there of diverse ages and races. The speakers were passionate and informative. Opportunities to take action to combat trafficking were offered, actions that could be taken right then and there.

International Justice Mission was the main sponsor of the event, in partnership with five Chicago-based anti-trafficking organizations: Traffick Free, Chicago Alliance Against Sexual Exploitation (CAASE), Salvation Army PROMISE Initiative, STOP-IT Initiative Against Human Trafficking, and The Dreamcatcher Foundation. Representatives from each were present to talk about the work they are doing.

So the forum was very well done. I really don’t know how it could have been better. I am proud to say that of the six forum sponsors, my church has partnered with five of them! (Dreamcatchers is the only one we haven’t connected with…yet!)

By far the most powerful part of the evening was hearing Amanda’s story.

When she was 15, Amanda was trafficked into the Chicago-area sex trade. She was held captive and abused for over two years. Hearing her describe the manner and frequency with which she was abused was truly gut-wrenching and heart-breaking. Her story is a stark and horrific reminder that modern-day slavery is all too real and all too local.

But Amanda’s story also reminds us that there is hope in the midst of this ugly evil. Amanda eventually escaped her captors. She is receiving care for the physical, sexual and emotional trauma she endured. And she is not remaining silent. Working with Dreamcatchers, Amanda is bravely telling her story, shining a light in some very dark places, inspiring people to join (or continue) the fight against human trafficking.

Ready to act?

Here (again) is a simple way to make a difference: tell your members of Congress to pass the Trafficking Victims Protection Reauthorization Act (TVPRA). This legislation authorizes assistance programs for victims, establishes key components of the U.S. government’s efforts to stop trafficking, including the State Department’s Office to Monitor and Combat Trafficking in Persons and the annual Trafficking in Persons Report. Passing the TVPRA will extend this law for another three years.

All you have to do is click here. Or here. Or here. Just pick one and raise your voice. Together we can demonstrate to our policy-makers that their constituents care about ending human trafficking at home and around the world.

One thing did disturb me though. If I understood him correctly, U.S. Representative Peter Roskam (R-IL), the Keynote Speaker at the Forum, said that the TVPRA likely will end up on a calendar of bills that are non-controversial.

Which makes sense, right? Who could possibly be for human trafficking?!?

So far, so good. Here’s the disturbing part: Rep. Roskam also said that funding for TVPRA will be hard to come by. It will have to fight for very limited funds just like every other bill. It sounded to me like Rep. Roskam doesn’t expect to find that funding. In fact, it even sounded to me like he didn’t think it should be funded.

I admit that I don’t know a lot about Rep. Roskam. I don’t live in his district so I haven’t encountered him or paid attention to him before. I do know he spoke passionately in support of IJM and in encouraging everyone at the Forum to engage in the fight against modern-day slavery. But if I heard and understood him correctly, my serious question is this:

What does it mean to be in favor of passing TVPRA but not in favor of funding it?

Maybe I’m wrong about that. Maybe I misunderstood. I hope so. Because that seems to me like a distinction without meaning. It seems to me that the only way to truly be in favor of TVPRA is to be in favor of funding it. Maybe we need to add a line about funding to those petitions.

It does no good to reauthorize the act without also funding it.

Is this salvation via consumerism or salvation for consumerism?

Honestly, I just don’t know which it is. I suspect the answer, as always, is: both/and.

As I tweeted earlier, I bought a t-shirt for a cause today. You can probably tell I’m feeling a bit ambivalent about it.

Don’t get me wrong. I love Not for Sale. They are doing amazing, important work. In fact, I was supposed to be at one of their Backyard Abolitionist Academies right now. Sadly, it was canceled due to lack of registration. And I wish I could attend their Global Forum on Human Trafficking next month.

As for Sevenly, this is the first I’ve heard of them. But theirs sure seems like a good, innovative, fun, worthy approach to helping people in need. Yet, still I wonder…how does all this play out in the grand economics-for-good scale?

Watch this video about it and let me know what you think: Does this kind of consumerist activism effect positive change? Or does the very act of buying more stuff – no matter who created said stuff or who will benefit from the sale – automatically cancel out any good intended through the transaction? Or I am I completely misunderstanding the economics at work?