Modern Day Slavery

It was not until I was in my late 50's that I became aware of the atrocity that is Human Trafficking, and Modern Day Slavery. I was introduced to Nettie Washington-Douglass, who has an extremely unique family tree that shows she is the great-granddaughter of Booker T. Washington, and the great-great granddaughter of our nations original abolitionist Frederick Douglass. Miss Washington-Douglass and her son Ken Morris created an organization the Frederick Douglass Family Initiative (FDFI.org) who's sole purpose is to shine a light on modern day slavery and attempt to abolish it in the same manner their famous ancestor (if he were alive) would try to do.

During my research for this story I found myself shaking my head in total disgust when I learned that the Metro Atlanta area in which I live is known internationally as a hotbed of human trafficking activity. According to Wikipedia between 2003 and 2007 the city of Atlanta had the largest sex trade in the country much of it includes children being involved with adults. Also massage parlors, and strip clubs contribute heavily to those numbers and this reputation. As of this writing there is no indication the metro Atlanta area has lost that distinction.

In fact those number might very well be on the upswing.

* Atlanta has the highest number of trafficked Hispanic females in the nation

* On average 100 juvenile girls are exploited each night in Georgia

* Around 65% of men who buy sex with young females do so in and around suburban and metro Atlanta with 9% near the airport.

* In the year 2007 the sex trade generated $290 million dollars in Atlanta.

These numbers just scratch the surface of the tragedy that is Modern-Day Slavery, and Human Trafficking.

So who is at risk of falling victim to this crime that happens pretty much everywhere and right under our noses? Terms like black-market servitude, forced labor, and child trafficking are words I had to go back and look up what they mean. Along with so many others, I thought the Emancipation Proclamation and the 13th amendment had done away with those ugly truths. How could I have been so wrong?Human traffickers prey upon the most vulnerable in our communities:

* Runaway teenagers

* Illegal immigrants, Male and Female

* People who are drug and alcohol dependent

* Persons who are seeking new opportunities and hoping to improve themselves

It is that last point that is particularly interesting, some are manipulated and brainwashed so severely that they don't even realize they are victims. They succumb to the promise of a good job, stardom, or an improved lifestyle. Young teenage girls and boys with low self esteem are particularly seduced by those kinds of promises. In so many cases they find themselves being controlled by a pimp, working in a massage parlor, or dancing at strip clubs.

During the 2016 school year, I taught English Language Arts at a private project based school in metro Atlanta. My classes of 7th-10th graders spent an entire semester studying and researching Human Trafficking and Modern Day Slavery. We had guest speakers including the aforementioned Nettie Washington-Douglass, and social workers who's clients are victims of this awful crime. Metro Atlanta was featured in many of the videos we watched. Many students recognized places that were in the stories. They had no idea such problems were so close to their very sheltered lives. Because this crime is so inherently underground it is very difficult to measure the impact it has on all communities. It is not something polite society even likes to discuss. It also includes a sexual content many parents did not like it being debated, or spoken about in classes, and that included the classes I taught. The end of my classes project included students creating informational posters, and other literature with information on what to look for, how to avoid becoming a victim, and what to do if they suspect someone they know is being, or has been victimized. My older students actually wrote, produced and performed in three videos bringing attention to Human Trafficking. Unfortunately to the dismay of some parents, who basically just wanted to project to end and simply go away.

Of course we all know this terrible problem has not and will not go away unless and until we recognize the corrosive effects it has and continues to have on our communities. Get involved with the many organizations that fight this organized crime. Talk to your children about it's dangers. Know and understand that the people who are cleaning your home, or cutting your grass may very well be victims of Human Trafficking and Modern Day Slavery. Know what to look for, don't be afraid to report your suspicions. Your actions may save a life.

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