Elizabeth Sands-Wise, Writer
It’s not every day that a visitor to the Georgetown College campus finds students chained together outside the cafeteria, standing in solidarity with the estimated 30 million enslaved people worldwide. But that’s exactly where sophomore Katie Sanders, co-president of a new student abolitionist organization, found herself recently. “We got some very weird looks,” Sanders said. “People were curious.”
And making people curious might be the first step of a growing world-wide movement to end the modern-day slave industry, an industry that reportedly rakes in over $32 billion dollars each year, according to David Batstone’s Not for Sale: The Return of the Global Slave Trade and How We Can Fight It.
Batstone, a professor at the University of San Francisco who will arrive on campus February 28 as part of the Stop Paying for Slavery Tour, co-founded the international Not for Sale campaign after discovering slavery in his own neighborhood. A “tragic accident” resulted in a raid of his favorite local Indian restaurant, whose owner, it was later found, had trafficked hundreds of adults and children from India into the United States.
According to Batstone, “well over one hundred thousand people live enslaved at this moment in the United States, and as many as seventeen thousand new victims are trafficked across our borders each year” (p. 3). Human trafficking, both of adults and children, is a global problem, tainting the cocoa, coffee, technology, and sex industries among others, but it has also become a local problem all over America.
Here in the Bluegrass region, a handful of dedicated and inspiring Georgetown College faculty and students are taking Batstone’s lead, working together to draw attention to the global industry of human trafficking.
And the campus is paying attention.
Psychology professor Regan Lookadoo, Education professor Alison Jackson Tabor, and Campus Minister Bryan Langlands have organized the year-long Georgetown College Modern Day Slavery Project, a series of events to educate and mobilize the Georgetown community. Thus far, the campus response to the Project’s activities has been overwhelmingly positive. Numerous faculty members turned out for a faculty forum on the topic, and have volunteered to help with events and promote the Project in their classes.
Student attendance at anti-slavery documentary screenings has been high—one hundred and thirty attended the January showing of Baht, a film about sex trafficking in Thailand, which was followed by a Q&A discussion with Tony Anderson, a filmmaker with Unearthed Pictures. Last week’s documentary, The Dark Side of Chocolate, required two classrooms to fit the outpouring of students interested in how child slavery on the Ivory Coast continues to exist in the cocoa industry. And twenty-three students showed up for the first meeting of a new student group, the Student Abolitionist Movement (SAM) in January.
Lookadoo finds encouragement in the strength and diversity of the student response. “They want to be the generation to end slavery,” she says. “Their youthful energy and dedication is inspiring.”
For example, Katie Sanders of Lexington and SAM co-president Devin Harris, a junior from Butler, KY, organized an Ultimate Frisbee tournament to raise funds for the Not for Sale campaign after attending a Global Forum on Human Trafficking in California last October. Student, faculty, and staff joined Frisbee teams and competed against groups from neighboring towns to raise $600 for the cause, despite the frigid weather. Another tournament will take place in April.
In addition to monthly documentary screenings and the Frisbee tournaments, other upcoming Modern Day Slavery Project events include the Collier Lecture by Dr. Jeffrey Barrows of Gracehaven, a shelter for girls who have been rescued from sexual exploitation. Barrows will speak in John L. Hill Chapel on Tuesday (February 15) at 11 a.m.
Fashion designer Soreyda Benedit-Begley will deliver the Jo Shoop Lecture at 7 pm on March 8 in the Chapel.
The main event of the Stop Paying for Slavery Tour, which will arrive on campus at the end of February, is a high-energy, multimedia educational presentation featuring David Batstone and other tour members, will take place at 7 p.m., Monday, February 28 in the Chapel.
During a reception in the Ensor Learning Resource Center following the presentation, banners on loan from the National Underground Railroad Freedom Center in Cincinnati will be on display in the Cochenour Gallery and local vendors will sell fair-trade goods. Day Two activities of the Stop Paying for Slavery Tour are scheduled to include an informational “mapping slavery” session in the Chapel at 11 am on March 1 and, at 3:30 pm, a supply-and-demand workshop in the Hall of Fame Room.
The wider Georgetown community is welcome to attend these events, all of which are open to the public. “We hope they will come and bring their friends,” Lookadoo says. In addition to providing an opportunity for local pastors, community leaders, business people, and vendors to meet with Batstone during the Tour events, Lookadoo and Jackson Tabor are reaching out to the community in other ways. Local churches have been encouraged, for example, to join in the campaign by participating in Freedom Sunday on March 13, a Sunday set aside internationally to address modern-day slavery.
Motivating the Modern Day Slavery Project at Georgetown is the belief that ending the global slave trade can only begin with education. As Jackson Tabor says, “People have to become aware of the issues before determining to take action.”
And taking action is really the purpose of the Project, as well as of the Not for Sale campaign on an international level. Providing opportunities for both campus and community members to examine their consumption patterns more critically, to ask how they can take tangible steps to work toward ending human trafficking, and then to take those steps: this is what Lookadoo, Jackson Tabor, Sanders, and Harris are working toward. Look at the research, they say. Buy certified fair trade goods. Find out where your clothes, shoes, cell phone, and food came from. This is how you make a difference.
All four are optimistic about the potential of the Modern Day Slavery Project in the Georgetown community. As Sanders says, “compassionate action will always beat complacent living.”
The Not for Sale campaign maintains that mobilized people can bring about the end of slavery around the globe today, within this lifetime. In the concluding chapter of Not for Sale, Batstone writes, “I believe in the power of individuals to save the world. Social movements take root and blossom when enough individuals take personal action. When you tell yourself that there is nothing you can do to arrest the global slave trade, you underestimate your own potential and abandon hope for those trapped in captivity” (p. 255).
The Modern Day Slavery Project at Georgetown College provides the campus – and the wider Georgetown community – with opportunities to learn, to mobilize, and to act. Though it often might feel like “it’s so depressing, so overwhelming,” Lookadoo says, “everyone has the capacity to do this.” Even you.
Visit the ‘Not for Sale – Georgetown College’ Facebook page to keep abreast of Modern Day Slavery Project happenings on campus. The page also provides links to other helpful websites, including resources about child trafficking, purchasing fair trade goods, and being a responsible consumer.