“What’s past is prologue,” said Neumann University professor Dr. Sam Lemon, kicking off the evening’s presentation on January 30 at the Media Municipal Building on “Slavery Then and Now” by quoting a line from Shakespeare’s The Tempest. “And that means that what happened the year that slavery occurred [in early America] doesn’t matter. It’s the impact that matters.”
Dr. Lemon, whose ancestor, Martha Jane, had escaped the bonds of slavery in the 1860s, noticed a connection between slavery in the early nineteenth century and today.
Martha Jane, he said, was a “breeding woman” in the early 1860s, meaning that she would bear children for her owner, who would then sell the children to other traders.
“The part that’s not often discussed is sexual exploitation,” noted Dr. Lemon. “Americans have a strange disconnect when it comes to real life tragedies…when we see real horror…We need to overcome this and learn to face the monster.”
A part of Dr. Lemon’s plan to combat human trafficking involved simply gaining more awareness on the issue and sharing the knowledge with others. He said, “We can’t do much for Martha Jane, but we can do something about human slavery today.”
Carol Metzker, author of Facing the Monster: How One Person Can Fight Child Slavery, was up next with her talk on Jaya, a powerful woman who escaped the chains of slavery in India in 2011.
Jaya, born into a family nearing the point of starvation in a small village in India, fell victim to her trafficker, who had captured her with promises of a better life. Locked in a dark room for two days, she experienced unspeakable horrors.
However, in time, Jaya was able to escape imprisonment and was accepted into an ashram that was supported by Pennsylvania Quakers and Rotaries. There, she was given the chance to read and write.
“When you are illiterate, you may not know that you have certain human rights that you are entitled to,” said Metzker.
Given a second chance, Jaya soon grew to become the first female tailor in the area; she also began developing more efficient ways of producing rice, and all of this was accomplished in 2011, when she was only 17 years old.
Slaves…work unpaid, unable to leave, held by violence or threat of harm to themselves or their families.
Today, India and Africa remain as the two biggest locations of human trafficking. However, in the United States, itself, there are over 100,000 slaves, and it is predicted that by 2013, the number will double.
In fact, just last year Detective Mark Bucci of the Delaware County Criminal Investigations Division and Pearl Kim of the Delaware County Courthouse caught a sex trafficking case in the area.
Metzker went on to name the four main components that enable human trafficking:
- Vulnerable People: “When you are illiterate, you are vulnerable to being deceived.” Individuals that do not have access to proper education and resources are most prone to exploitation. Solution: Donate to organizations, like Dawn’s Place to support vulnerable people
- Traffickers: “Historically and today, traffickers are hard to talk about,” especially because they are difficult to identify. Solution: Learn to recognize the signs of human trafficking and report any suspicious behavior to the hotline (1-888-3737-888)
- Apathy/Helplessness Feeling in Society: This is the destructive sense that the problem is too big to be handled; one way to overcome this feeling is by further education on the topic. Solution: Start by reading Metzker’s own book: Facing the Monster: How One Person Can Fight Child Slavery
- Consumers: “I don’t want just the deal, I want the steal.” Metzker asked us to contemplate on what exactly it was that we were “stealing.” If it looked too good to be true, then it probably was; there was a human cost to everything. Solution: Switch to fair trade products, which can be identified by any of these symbols:
Following the presentation, we (the Fair Trade TrailBlazers of Penn State Brandywine’s Laboratory for Civic Engagement) had set up a table with the Media Fair Trade Committee to distribute more information on fair trade!
Want to Learn More?
a) First, start by calculating the number of slaves that work to maintain your lifestyle by visiting slaveryfootpring.org;
b) Help us spread awareness about SB75, a senate bill proposed to extensively revise laws on human trafficking;
c) Lastly, check out the Fair Trade Federation to learn more about the fair trade movement!
Contributed by Labanya Mookerjee, Fair Trade Intern