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Pathways to Modern Slavery

 

by Michelle Palmer

 

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The reality is that most victims of modern slavery and human trafficking are not abducted or kidnapped. That can happen, and people should exercise reasonable precautions to keep themselves and their loved ones safe, but there are factors that create higher risk, or vulnerabilities, to enslavement. Many of these factors can only be fully alleviated by ending global inequality and extreme poverty, but don’t let that discourage you. While ending global inequality and extreme poverty is a noble pursuit that will take years, understanding these vulnerabilities will help us to understand more ways to fight back against traffickers in the meantime. These factors intersect and overlap and several can be present at once, but because each one can be tackled in different ways, each deserves its own look.

Poverty

“A bonded laborer named Haresh in West Bengal, India, once described to me how he took a loan of approximately $110 from the local landowner to get married to his beloved wife, Sarika. Two decades later, Haresh told me, ‘My entire family is still in debt to the landowner.  Sarika and I work in the fields, my sons and their wives work at the brick kilns.  One day my grandchildren will work for the landowner.  There is no way to repay these debts.  We will only be free when we die.’” – Siddharth Kara, CNN Freedom Project

Poverty overlaps with almost all of the other risk factors. Debt bondage, or bonded labor, is when a person exchanges their labor for a loan but ends up trapped by the employer, coerced into working long hours to pay off unreasonable interest rates. Often, the employer will provide minimal food and shelter and add these costs to the worker’s debt, resulting in a never ending cycle. 

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What happened to Haresh is not wholly uncommon in South Asia. Kara estimates “18.5 to 22.5 million debt bondage slaves in the world today, almost 90% of whom are in South Asia.” The ILO gives a more conservative estimate: 11.7 million slaves in the region, most of whom are bonded laborers. This form of debt bondage is illegal, but extreme poverty leads people to fall prey to these dubious lenders in times of desperation. Many of my examples are from developing regions, but this isn’t something that only happens “over there.” There are people in extreme poverty in the West, and their desperation could lead to situations of enslavement and various forms of forced labor.

Lack of Opportunity

“Nartey is the oldest of 10 siblings. His mother, Maria, is disabled. She cannot work in farming, the traditional and predominant occupation of the family’s indigenous people in a village in the Central Tongu District of Ghana. She had no way to provide for her children and could not afford school fees, so Nartey had to abandon his education at just 13. That is when Nartey was trafficked to a fishing community along Lake Volta.” – Anna Bengel, Free the Slaves

Thankfully, Nartey’s story doesn’t end with his enslavement. Because of Free the Slaves’ efforts alongside partners in Ghana, Maria learned about slavery and is working towards learning a trade so she can be financially independent despite her disability.

In 2015, I worked as a volunteer on a literature review for Free the Slaves on sex trafficking in Nepal. One of the recurring themes I came across was the lack of opportunity for women and girls in rural areas. Their desperation led them to seek work outside of their villages, and in some cases, women were trapped in sexual exploitation in Kathmandu or trafficked into India.   

rgq8JnWhen I was in grad school, I quoted Captain Jack Sparrow at the start of a paper on the concept of freedom. It was risky, I know, but I don’t regret it. In the first film, he tells Elizabeth Swann, “Wherever we want to go, we go. That’s what a ship is, you know. It’s not just a keel and a hull and sails; that’s what a ship needs. Not what a ship is. What the Black Pearl really is, is freedom.”  You see, if the Black Pearl is freedom, then a keel and a hull and sails are the tools needed to escape poverty and desperation. One of the primary tools people need for freedom is opportunity.

Lack of Access to Healthcare

“Impoverished and faced with impossible challenges, Setsofia’s sick mother arranged for him to be trafficked to a fishing village along Lake Volta. It was a desperate bid to get money for treatment for her protracted illness.” – Anna Bengel & Theodore Atsu Ameme, Free the Slaves

Stethoscope

As I said, many of these factors overlap. Anna and Theodore (quoted above) tell a story about Setsofia (spoiler: it has a happy ending!), and it sounds really similar to the story about Nartey. Nartey’s mother didn’t have opportunity because of her disability, and Setsofia’s mom was bedridden due to a sudden illness. The difference is that access to quality healthcare may not have helped Nartey’s mom, but it would certainly have made a difference for Setsofia and his family.

Lack of access to healthcare can also lead to debt bondage. “Lenders” prey on those who can’t afford a life-saving procedure or treatment for a loved one, and family members can become trapped by the debts obtained paying for medical expenses.

Violence/Lack of Law Enforcement

Millions of the world’s poor are trapped in slavery, because there’s no one there to protect them. In many places, the laws against slavery simply aren’t enforced by the police and courts—so slave owners and traffickers know they can prey on the poor without fear of any consequences at all.” – IJM

On duty

Anti-slavery laws are on the books everywhere, but those laws must be enforced. The American anti-slavery organization, IJM (International Justice Mission), focuses its efforts on this particular weakness. In fact, IJM CEO and founder, Gary Haugen, wrote an entire book on the issue; in The Locust Effect, Haugen argues that ineffective justice systems are hindering poverty alleviation worldwide. “While the world has made encouraging strides in the fight against global poverty, there is a hidden crisis silently undermining our best efforts to help the poor. It is a plague of everyday violence.” In regards to slavery in particular, whether law enforcement officers are not trained to spot human trafficking or they’re being bribed by the traffickers, effective law enforcement is a key component of ending the practice altogether.

War and Unrest

“Armed conflict and a weak government allow slavery to flourish in eastern Congo. Forced labor and sex slavery are widespread in mining regions—as is forced marriage.” Free the Slaves, Congo

121123110824-congo-crowds-fleeing-horizontal-large-galleryWar and unrest in a region create vulnerabilities to modern slavery in a number of ways. In Democratic Republic of Congo, which is remarkably rich in natural resources that are used in our modern technologies, men and children are forced to mine for these resources by groups of armed militants to fund their war. In other regions, children are forcibly recruited into the conflict. (See Channon’s post on Child Soldiers.) Refugees are also at a higher risk of being trafficked, simply because of the desperation of their situation. Without a home, seeking asylum, people may come to rely on traffickers to help them escape to what they hope will be a better, safer life.  

Migration

“‘I’d seen a lot of women in my village go abroad. I thought I could earn enough money and do something with it.’ Instead, for attempting to access the basic human right to a decent job, Seema was trapped as a domestic slave for more than two years.” – Survivor Stories, Free the Slaves

This particular vulnerability is closely connected to poverty, lack of opportunity, and war and unrest. Not all immigrants are vulnerable to trafficking. For example, Channon and I both immigrated to the UK for our studies. The difference is that we chose to leave our homes to study, not to escape a desperate economic situation or violence in our home countries. Migrant workers are particularly vulnerable to being trafficked.migration1-537x350.png

I took the quote above from Seema’s and Kamala’s Survivor Story from Free the Slaves (another happy ending!). It’s a story I’ve come across all too often in my research (but not always with a happy ending):  No opportunity at home. Recruited for a job overseas. Arrive in a foreign country. Passports and visas taken by employers. Trapped and abused as a domestic slave. (Or a construction worker. Or a farmworker.)  

Runaway and Homeless Youth

“…people who may not be financially stable because of homelessness or a lack of job opportunities may be susceptible to manipulation by traffickers who promise safety, stability, a job, or a better life. Runaway and homeless youth, as well as victims of domestic violence, sexual assault, past violence or abuse, or social discrimination are also frequently targeted by traffickers.” –  Stay Safe, Polaris Project

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Many of the examples used previously have been about factors that are more common in, but not confined to, developing regions. However, this particular issue affects young people both at home and abroad, particularly those identifying as LGBTQ. According to Covenant House, “40% of homeless and runaway youth in the U.S. identify as gay or transgender.” If they are rejected by their families after coming out, LGBTQ youth may end up on the streets and be targeted for sexual exploitation. To a slightly lesser extent, this is true for other homeless and runaway youth as well. Without a home or a family, there is a desperation for stability and belonging.

I’m ending this section with another quote because it’s incredibly important in combating this particular risk factor.

“Sociological research shows that what makes people most vulnerable to being victims of trafficking is the same thing that makes people most vulnerable to being perpetrators of trafficking: an extreme need for belonging. Actual, sustainable trafficking prevention at its most foundational is, therefore, loving yourself, being yourself, loving others, and encouraging others to be themselves. Creating community and being connected is the safest way forward.” – Zhaleh Boyd

Lack of Rights Awareness

“In the Congo, for example, we support the broadcasting of anti-slavery messages over a network of community radio stations. In Nepal, we explain the risks of labor trafficking and how to migrate safely. We work with communities to organize anti-slavery committees that act as a neighborhood watch against slavery and as a bridge to the police and other authorities.” – Free the Slaves FAQs

00532006701_20150525Simply put, people just don’t know their rights or the dangers of modern slavery. Many who are trapped in debt bondage don’t realize that the lenders are violating the law. Seema and Kamala, whose story I mentioned earlier, now work to educate other Nepalese women about the dangers of migrating for work and help them determine if they are being tricked by recruiters. Rights education is an essential component of prevention.

 

This is by no means an exhaustive list of the causes of modern slavery, but I hope it sheds some light on the ways in which traffickers prey on people in desperate situations. By tackling these areas of vulnerability, we can begin to prevent slavery before it happens.


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When They Get the Story Wrong: Muslims, Ideology & Terrorism

The truth is that nobody knows what actually causes terrorism to a point where we can generalize the motivations of all terrorists. There are different levels of explanation – social, individual, structural or political motivations – and whilst each may play a part, the dominant narrative takes a religious ideological approach as fact without any demonstrated scientific basis.

Guest Post by Tom Pettinger

“Religion had nothing to do with this. We watched films. We were shown videos with images of the war in Iraq. We were told we must do something big.”

– failed 7/21/05 London Underground bomber, Hussein Omar

ad67f2_ade1bfe5d3b947eebf8b2466c0ac3ff5-mv2How well do we as a society really understand the causes of terrorism? Since 9/11, and especially 7/7 in London, we’ve been fed the line that Islamic ideology, rather than politics, causes extremism, each new ‘Islamist’ attack apparently proving the theory. And because the theory that terrorists are mentally deranged has no scientific basis, what really drives individuals to engage in this kind of socially deviant and devastating behaviour, sometimes even to a point of killing themselves as well? Is it primarily religious ideology? Is it politics? What is the effect of choosing one narrative over the other?

Following a ‘jihadist’ attack, news coverage hysterically focuses on how individuals were radicalized by an increasingly fanatical Islamic ideology (white-supremacist attacks, conversely, receive far less attention), often with a backdrop of a failed personal life or a lack of integration into modern Western society. The actual motivations for the attacks are rarely investigated. 9/11, the Boston bombing, 7/7 in London, the Brussels attacks, Paris, Florida, Madrid are frequently implied by media and politicians to have no aims other than instilling senseless terror on the basis of a warped interpretation of Islam. 7ZPVBUXU6FFVHFUFFB7FYW3WDQIt is often ignored that such atrocities attempt to accomplish a goal or communicate a political message. All definitions of terrorism have at their core some political or social aim, but aside from passing comments, we don’t hear about these in news coverage. There is a growing body of literature (see here, here and here) that suggests this direction has been encouraged by governments to silence dissent over their foreign policy; it is in Western governments’ interests to ascribe the attackers’ motivations to reasons other than their military interventions and the so-called ‘War on Terror’. It’s a natural defence mechanism to place the blame for attacks like 9/11 on anything but their own actions (be it invasions, drone strikes, or Guantanamo).

George W. Bush notoriously claimed, “They hate our freedoms: our freedom of religion, our freedom of speech, our freedom to vote and assemble and disagree with each other.” This has become commonly accepted; the media and politicians incessantly bombard us with this idea. However, The Defense Science Board, a Federal Advisory Committee established to provide independent advice to the US Secretary of Defense, wrote in 2004 that,

Muslims do not “hate our freedom,” but rather, they hate our policies. The overwhelming majority voice their objections to what they see as one-sided support in favor of Israel and against Palestinian rights, and the longstanding, even increasing support for what Muslims collectively see as tyrannies, most notably Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Jordan, Pakistan, and the Gulf states.

As well as politics appearing central to acts of terrorism, further problems with taking religious ideology as the principal driver of terrorism are that:

  • Most basically, there are people who possess what society deems as ‘radical ideologies’ yet don’t engage in violence;
  • To take ‘religious ideology’ as equivalent to brainwashing is misguided when a group’s beliefs are debated to a point where they sometimes split apart;syria-war-anniversary-body-image-1426292826
  • Radicalization scholars have found an ideology is only acquired following incorporation within a group;
  • Studies have consistently found “no empirical support” for many ideologically-focussed approaches to de-radicalization or countering terrorism, suggesting it plays little part in their radicalization;
  • And above all, there is nowhere near enough scientific research into individuals’ motivations to cast generalizations (and where studies have occurred, they often find social interactions play the most important role).

Governments totally ignore the attackers’ motivations in explaining terrorism; look up basically any attack on the West – what do the attackers say? Political grievances and aims are always central. Boston Marathon BombingWhat did the Boston bomber scrawl on the inside of the boat? It wasn’t challenging freedom and democracy, but US foreign affairs and the deaths America has caused. What did the Woolwich attacker say in the street when he was standing over Fusilier Lee Rigby? It wasn’t about creating an Islamic State, but lamenting the suffering Western invasions have brought to other parts of the world. What motivations did the failed US underwear bomber Abdulmutallab give during his court case? Not the rewards from martyrdom, but US tyranny and its oppression of Muslims. As an aside, it should also be remembered that those most affected by ‘Islamic’ terrorism are other Muslims. (Stats can be found here, here, and here.)

The truth is that nobody knows what actually causes terrorism to a point where we can generalize the motivations of all terrorists. There are different levels of explanation –  social, individual, structural or political motivations – and whilst each may play a part, the dominant narrative takes a religious ideological approach as fact without any demonstrated scientific basis. If that perspective only seems like common sense, it’s because it has been constantly emphasized by politicians and the media over time. hassan_reutersNo study has had anywhere near sufficient access to terrorists to show any causation. However, these unfounded assumptions cause us to view certain communities (those perceived to be Muslims) as suspicious, based purely on correlations with widely-publicized attacks that have previously taken place. In Britain for example, following the IRA Birmingham pub bombings, those with Irish accents were viewed with suspicion and hostility; similarly, the now-suspect ‘Muslim community’ is placed under constant suspicion of being a potential threat following jihadi attacks. Studies into the creation of suspect communities show they are treated with disdain and blamed for attacks, that they experience negative interactions with the police, racism and discrimination at work, and feel unsafe walking around and like second-class citizens.

“We are constantly demonized, all through the media. I used to go to the cinema every weekend…I’ve given up because every time I would go…there’s at least one hint somewhere [that Muslims are terrorists or cause terrorism] – and in newspapers and the media as a whole, constantly we’re demonized.”

– Anonymous audience member, Evening with Arun Kundnani, YouTube

The West spends billions on domestic counter-terrorism efforts taking this unproven and highly presumptuous ideology-based explanation to minimize the threat from suspect communities. Desktop6-005A frightening consequence of this drive is that particularly within the US, in borrowing predictive principles from the widely-criticized British Prevent Strategy, a network of 15,000 informants has developed to target Muslims, and the practice of entrapment (“tricking someone into committing a crime in order to secure their prosecution”) has escalated. The FBI has even killed Americans on American soil based on opportunities the agency itself has provided to ‘vulnerable’ Muslims. (A recap of the events can be found here, but Arun Kundnani goes into more detail in his book, The Muslims Are Coming.)  Judges have repeatedly noted that these entrapped individuals would not otherwise have engaged in such deviant activities had the FBI not placed them in the ‘wrong place’ at the ‘wrong time’. Judge McMahon, sentencing the Newburgh Four, said,

Only the government could have made a terrorist out of Mr Cromitie, a man whose buffoonery is positively Shakespearean in its scope… I believe beyond a shadow of a doubt that there would have been no crime here except [that] the government instigated it, planned it, and brought it to fruition.

Activists Demonstrate Against Recent Rhetoric Against Muslims And Refugees Near Trump Tower

Governments have gradually diluted the threshold for ‘terrorism’ charges: in the UK, non-violent extremism is now a criminal offence, and thousands of children as young as four have gone through the British de-radicalization program. Umm Ahmed, a British Muslim, was jailed for 12 months for the possession of Inspire Magazine which she had obtained to keep updated with her brother’s trial (apparently reading the magazine online does not land you in jail, but possessing it on a USB stick does!). In sentencing her the judge said that Umm posed no threat, that she had no intent to harm, that she was not a terrorist – and even that she was a good Muslim – but that he had to imprison her based on her possession of the magazine.

The idea of a distinct and definable ‘Muslim community’, separate from the rest of the population, has been encouraged by the provision of cohesion funding that targets places with a certain number of Muslims, and by politicians calling for this apparently distinct community to condemn the latest attacks as though they were in some way collectively responsible. David Cameron in his (in)famous multiculturalism speech called for moderate Muslims to condemn the radical ones, and Trump similarly called on Muslims to “report when they see something going on”. cariprotestnwexpy4This leads to Muslims being seen collectively as a threat, and advancing the perception of them as separate to ‘the rest of us’. In turn, like after the recent Manchester bombing, we see a rise in hate crimes against those perceived to be Muslims, who are often approached in public and told, “shame on you… for what you did”. People have been killed as a result of anti-Muslim attacks, although like other right-wing extremist attacks, they get far less attention than what is considered ‘Islamist’ violence.

We have become obsessed by denouncing those engaging in political violence as deluded Islamist ideologues, when in fact, by their own testimony, the attacks they carry out seem much more like retaliations for Western policy decisions, like invasions and occupations, support for Israel (which is taken as definitional support for the oppression of Palestinians), Guantanamo, drone strikes, and so on. Claims that ideology is the overriding explanation are wholly unfounded and exist to minimize Western governments’ responsibility in motivating the attacks. However, because of these narratives being endlessly repeated, we have succeeded in separating Muslims from non-Muslims, and non-Muslims from Muslims, allowing totally irrational fear and distinction, rather than unity, to triumph.

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#BlackHairProblems

As other posts on this blog have discussed time and again, there is deep-rooted systemic racism at play here, even down to the trivial things such as a person’s hair…the hair that they were born with. So no, the issue is not just about hair, but about the continuous racism directed towards black people and the constant effort to try and dehumanize us and make us feel “less than” in every aspect of society and life.

by Channon Oyeniran

afro2#BlackHairProblems – It’s a humorous hashtag on Twitter, but one of the big “problems” with black hair isn’t funny at all. The number of articles, news clips and stories I’ve seen and heard recently concerning black girls’ and women’s natural hair is both surprising and ridiculous. Are we really making such a big issue out of a person’s hair as to ask them to change it or “get it done” or suggest that they are breaking the school dress code…in 2017?! Seriously?! I must admit, the controversy surrounding this topic is puzzling to me in the sense that something so trivial as a person’s hair – the black person’s hair –  is creating such a stir.

Black women can do almost anything with our hair because it is so versatile. We can make it straight, curly, wavy, we can braid it, twist it, put it in a ponytail, cut it and style and so much more! We can also do all of this with our natural hair or with aides such as extensions, weaves, hot combs, curling irons, etc. Desktop6-008Many are now taking issue with black women choosing to wear their hair in its natural state, a trend that is growing in popularity, rather than trying to make it into some idealized view of beauty that the media and white majority have portrayed. For so long black women were told that our hair must be long, straight and flowing for us to be considered beautiful. Whether a woman chooses to go natural or not is not the issue. It is up to each individual and what she wants. The real problem is the pressure put on so many black women, from their workplaces, schools, and society, to “fit in” and conform to mainstream society.

This uproar is not a new phenomenon. Twisted views on beauty have been forced upon black women since they were taken from their homes in Africa more than 400 years ago. womenslaveThe black woman then had the western view beauty thrust upon her, internalized and then carried out among black communities. Black women who were lighter in complexion or of mixed race and had features that resembled white women were seen as “better,” and thus treated differently, than black women whose darker complexion and features were viewed “inferior.” This treatment extended to these women’s hair; in the eyes of the slave traders and owners, having long, straight, flowing hair was beautiful while having curly, short and wool-like hair was considered masculine, and unattractive. From the days of slavery, black people have had their value determined by their appearance and its proximity to whiteness. The more “white” you appeared, the more valuable you were.  This has led to an enduring pressure to conform to the styles, mannerisms and culture of the white majority.

As a black woman who has worn my hair proudly in its natural state for many years (e.g. no relaxers, weaves, or extensions in my hair) and for the past two and half years worn what are called “sisterlocks” in my hair (a trademarked locking technique where the hair is parted in a precise grid, utilizing a special tool that places the hair in a locking pattern: see photo), I have taken pride in being able to just wear my hair as it is and not fill the pockets business owners, many of whom are not black, who profit very well from black people coming into their stores and spending hundreds of dollars at a time on hair care products, weaves, extensions, etc. I, too, like many other black women used to relax, aka “straighten”, my hair so that it was bone straight like white women’s hair or add weave to my hair so that I would have the hair length like a white woman. Desktop6-001But after much money spent, and educating myself more on my history, who I am, where my ancestors came from, I came to the realization that my hair is nothing to be ashamed of or to hide or to change. My hair is beautiful, naturally curly…characteristics that many women wish they had. I also decided to not care what the media portrays to be beautiful or acceptable. The media doesn’t determine who I am or if I am beautiful or not (which I am!). Although this issue doesn’t only affect women, I will focus on three stories, from three different countries, that highlight the discrimination black women, in particular, have faced for wearing traditionally black hairstyles.

USA:

“Twin sisters Deanna and Mya Cook are being punished by Mystic Valley Regional Charter School in Boston….[…] because of their hair.”

-Kayla Greaves (HuffPost Canada)

Just this past week, the story broke that fifteen-year-old twins from Boston, Deanna and Mya, have had to serve multiple suspensions since April, could potentially be suspended again for wearing box braids and were banned from school activities. According to Mystic Valley Regional Charter School’s administration, the girls’ box braids violate the school’s dress code because the code prohibits extensions, and says hair cannot be “more than 2 inches in thickness or height.” deanna-mya-cook(This rule would insinuate a black student wearing their hair in an afro style would be in violation of the dress code.) Both girls are intelligent and active in school, so what’s the problem? Well, according to another parent whose daughter also wore the box braid style and was suspended, white children at the school have “coloured hair and you are not supposed to colour your hair, and they walk around like it’s nothing.” Many feel, and I agree, that these facts point to discrimination against black students who cannot simply wear their hair in a style that represents their culture, heritage and identity.

Thankfully, I came across a follow-up article to this story, which reports that the state attorney general sent a letter demanding that the school “[…] immediately stop punishing black and biracial students for wearing hairstyles the school said violate its dress code.” These are rules that the attorney general thinks are both discriminatory and unfairly enforced amongst students at the school. It’s a happy ending to this particular story as the Cook twins are again allowed to participate in their extra-curricular activities, as well as maintain their hairstyles, which represent who they are. However, these stories, which are all too common, continue to occur around the world.

Canada

“Cree Ballah models the hairstyle she was wearing the day she says two managers at the Zara store she works at tried to change her hair in full view of other employees.”

                                                                          -Philip Lee-Shanok (CBC News; Toronto)

Desktop6-002.jpgIn March 2016, in Scarborough, just outside of Toronto, Zara store employee, Cree Ballah, went into work with box braids and was asked by her manager to first take her braids out of the ponytail they were in and then along with another manager tried to fix her hair to fit the so called “professional look” that Zara was trying to maintain. Not only was this experience unprofessional and discriminatory, it was also humiliating for Cree as her managers tried to fix her hair in front of the store in a busy mall and in front of her co-workers. When this happened, Cree said she would likely quit her job as well as file a complaint with the Ontario Human Rights Commission. This is yet another common example of discrimination against black women and their hair. (See this story from BBC News, ‘Wear a weave at work – your afro hair is unprofessional’.)

South Africa

“High-School Girls in South Africa Are Protesting for the Right to Wear Their Natural Hair”

-Claire Landsbaum (The Cut; NY magazine)

29-pretoria-girls-high-school-protests.w710.h473On August 29th, 2016, students at Pretoria Girls High School in South Africa, protested against the school’s hair policy that many students and parents deemed to be racist. The policy indicates that natural hair is “messy” and suspends students for wearing their hair natural. In response to the school’s policy, a petition with close to 18,000 signatures was signed along with the protest by the students and support pouring in for them via social media. The students even had the support of Arts and Culture Minister Nathi Mthethwa, who tweeted, “Schools should not be used as a platform to discourage students from embracing their African identity.” The protest, petition and support appeared to work as the high school suspended the rules about the hair policies a few days after the protest. Another triumph, but a bittersweet one, as these situations expose the deep rooted racism against people of colour across the world.

Why the Double Standard?

Justine-Skye-purple-natural-hair-vs-Katy-Perry-purple-hair.jpgIn another article, written by Elle on Black Girl with Long Hair, the author does a comparison of the inconsistency between black and white women who colour their hair and how it is seen by the general public. It is seen as “hood and ghetto” when black women colour their hair and “creative and cute” when white women do it. This issue, along with black women’s natural hair, goes deeper than just the issue of hair. As other posts on this blog have discussed time and time and time and time again, there is deep-rooted systemic racism at play here, even down to the trivial things such as a person’s hair…the hair that they were born with.

So no, the issue is not just about hair, but about the continuous racism directed towards black people and the constant effort to try and dehumanize us and make us feel “less than” in every aspect of society and life.

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More stories of the “problems” with natural hair:

Positive and uplifting stories:

And a few more great posts on the subject…

Slavery & Exploitation in Chocolate Supply Chains

Most of the world’s cocoa beans come from West Africa, specifically Ghana and Cote d’Ivoire. In 2015, Tulane University released a report that estimated that over 2 million children were involved in “hazardous work” in the cocoa industry in that region. Not all child labor is technically “slavery,” but “hazardous work” is one of the worst forms of child labor as outlined by the ILO. Exploitation is exploitation, and our duty to be conscientious consumers remains the same whatever form it takes.

REMEMBER: The blue underlined bits that lace all our posts (this one even more than most) are links to statistics, background information, examples, and other helpful info on the topics we cover. If you’re curious about something, click the surrounding links and dig deeper!

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Recently, a friend asked me to do a post on chocolate and slavery, a topic I wrote about years ago for my old blog. In that post, I discussed, without much research, the use of slave labor in the chocolate industry. At the time, I felt the only solution would be to boycott any chocolate unless it was certified some way as slave-free or fair trade. Over the years, as I’ve learned more about the complexities of the market, I’ve come to recognize that it’s really not that simple. Furthermore trying to avoid every item that may have been tainted by slavery or exploitative labor would be nearly impossible. I learned that slavery may have been used to build my cell phone, make my carpet and my clothes, harvest my shrimp, and mine my gold. And I also learned that “fair trade” isn’t always fair. carpet

In this post, I’m going to focus on chocolate and the complex nature of exploitation within the industry. But I will also focus on the hopeful side: what’s being done and how you can help.

Child Labor in the Cocoa Industrynino-cacao

Most of the world’s cocoa beans come from West Africa, specifically Ghana and Cote d’Ivoire. In 2015, Tulane University released a report that estimated that over 2 million children were involved in “hazardous work” in the cocoa industry in that region. Some of these children may be the children of cocoa farmers; others may have immigrated voluntarily from neighboring countries to seek work. This is where it gets complicated: Not all child labor is technically “slavery,” but “hazardous work” is one of the worst forms of child labor as outlined by the International Labour Organization (ILO). These distinctions are important when it comes to laws, law enforcement, data, and research, but exploitation is exploitation, and our duty to be conscientious consumers remains the same whatever the form of exploitation is.

What about Fair Trade?

cacao2In that years-old blog post about chocolate, I put a lot of faith into chocolate that was fair trade or otherwise certified to be made without exploitation. Unfortunately, the truth is that the ideals of fair trade are much loftier than their realities. Fair trade isn’t bad, nor is it the cure-all I thought it to be. In a review of The Fair Trade Scandal: Marketing Poverty to Benefit the Rich by Senegalese development economist, Ndongo Samba Sylla, The Economist sums up two major problems with fair trade:

“Among the problems has been a proliferation of labels and organisations that make a living from certification and licensing use of the labels. There are over 600 labels in Britain alone. This has blurred the definition of what qualifies as fair trade.

Worse, there is little evidence that fair trade has lifted many producers out of poverty, not least because most of the organisations that are certified tend to come from richer, more diversified developing countries, such as Mexico and South Africa, rather than the poorer ones that are mostly dependent on exporting one crop. […] According to Mr Sylla’s calculations, for each dollar paid by an American consumer for a fair-trade product, only three cents more are transferred to the country it came from than for the unlabelled alternative.”

chocolate-pour_wide-48aea73792ce34715bdb1ab4dd058f99a649b9a5-s900-c85Mr. Sylla goes further to explain the thesis of his book in an article for The Guardian: “The unequal distribution of the gains of Fairtrade (FT) derives in a large part from the characteristics of certification. The certification system presents a twofold bias against the poorest developing countries. First, there are considerations related to the costs of certification. These being the same everywhere, they are relatively more expensive for the most disadvantaged countries, all other things being equal. Then, due to its sliding-scale price structure, certification is less costly for large producer organisations than for smaller ones. Finally, the cost of compliance with FT standards (changes in agricultural and administrative practices that often lead to an increase in working hours) is higher for small organisations due to their lower productivity and lower economies of scale.”

(You can find another robust explanation of the flaws of fair trade, particularly in relation to coffee — but the principles carry over — in Colleen Haight’s article for the Stanford Social Innovation Review, “The Problem with Fair Trade Coffee.”)

So, what do we do?

If fair trade isn’t the answer, what is?

  • Do some research, find out which brands are committed to cleaning up their supply chains and/or operate on a direct trade (bean-to-bar) model, and share their stories. Many of them source their beans from South America; encourage them to expand their model to Africa.
  • Reach out to your favorite chocolate companies. Engage with them via social media. Hound them relentlessly about their corporate social responsibility and what they’re doing to ensure their supply chains aren’t tainted by exploitation and that they do their part to alleviate poverty in the places where they do business. Do the same with the International Cocoa Initiative and the World Cocoa Foundation. Remind them that voluntary self-regulation isn’t enough!  slavefreechocolate-300x300.png
  • Ethical Chocolate Companies, a list by Slave Free Chocolate – Some of these companies rely on certifications that may or may not be fair. Encourage them to reevaluate their methods and pursue direct trade models with more farmers in poorer countries.  
  • At the heart of the problem is poverty. Alleviating poverty and global inequality is key to ending many forms of labor exploitation. Support organizations who are working to make a difference, specifically in West Africa:

And if this seems overwhelming and you need some extra help or direction, contact me! Seriously, get in touch, and we can work on solutions together!


For More Information….

Cocoa:

Fair Trade:

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History or Hate? The Confederate Statues of New Orleans

Seeing symbols like these around my city day in and day out would be greatly offensive to me and my heritage. Knowing what my ancestors had to go through and how they were treated for centuries and then to see these monuments would be a grave insult to my sense of identity as a black woman.

by Channon Oyeniran

Removing memorials to the Confederacy…Is this a step in the right direction? A way to heal the deep-rooted pain that enslaved African-Americans and their descendants have endured for centuries? Surely this is a step in the right direction? However, not everyone thinks so. At last some steps are being taken to dismantle symbols whose histories are steeped in racism. This is what the city of New Orleans is doing by taking down four monuments built following the Civil War. However, there are have been protests, as well as counter-protests, over the last few weeks in response to the imminent removal of the monuments.  Desktop6The controversial decision to remove these monuments came in December 2015, six months after white supremacist Dylann Roof walked into a South Carolina church and shot dead nine black parishioners. These monuments were built by people who wanted to display that the Southern states should not feel any guilt for having participated in the war. While that point may be debated, it’s no secret that violent white supremacists cling to these symbols. When Roof committed his heinous crime, it sparked a debate about Confederate symbols across the southern states in America. (You may remember the moment Bree Newsome took down the Confederate flag that flew above the South Carolina capital only 10 days after Roof’s attack.) Many see these Confederate symbols as disrespectful, inconsiderate and extremely racist to millions of African Americans and their ancestors who were forced to endure enslavement at the hands of white men and women for centuries.  

New Orleans Mayor Mitch Landrieu said this about removing the four Confederate statues:  “Symbols matter and should reflect who we are as a people. These monuments do not now, nor have they ever reflected the history, the strength, the richness, the diversity or the soul of New Orleans.” 4-confederate-monuments-up-for-removal-in-new-orleans-flickr-ap-640x480As times are slowly but surely changing, cities and states around America are attempting to do what they can to rectify the wrongdoing brought against African-Americans in the period of slavery. Last week, under the cover of darkness, masks and police protection, workers began to dismantle the first of the four statues. This is to protect themselves and their families against possible retaliation for being part of taking down what some see as a heritage site. The city plans to move forward with the removal of the remaining three monuments after the New Orleans Jazz Fest concludes on May 7th. The city of New Orleans will seek out a museum or storage area to keep them. Approximately $600,000 has been raised, in private funding, to relocate the monuments.  

To understand the controversy,  we must first understand the history of these monuments, why they were erected in the first place, and what they represent.

Liberty Monument:

LANORbattle_ks03The first monument that was taken down was Liberty Monument. Built in 1891, the Liberty Monument was built to commemorate an uprising by white Democrats, who opposed racially integrating the police force and the Republicans who governed the state of Louisiana. Author Clint Smith commented on the importance of the monument on Twitter. (You can read the entire thread here.) He said, “The New Orleans government then erected the monument to commemorate the battle’s role in establishing white political dominance in Louisiana. All to say, the monument served both a symbolic & literal commemoration to white supremacy. It should have been taken down long ago.” If the history of the monument isn’t enough to convince you, consider this:  the inscription on a plaque that was on the monument from 1932 up until 1993 read in part: “[…] the national election of November 1876 recognized white supremacy in the South and gave us our state.” In 1993, a vote was taken to remove the statue, but instead a new inscription replaced the old one that said: “In honor of those Americans on both sides who died in the Battle of Liberty Place” and called it “a conflict of the past that should teach us lessons for the future.”

Statue of General Robert E. Lee:

A monument to Confederate General Robert E. Lee towers over a traffic circle in New Orleans

After raising the funds needed to build this monument, the statue of General Robert E. Lee was erected in 1884 in New Orleans Business District. Robert E. Lee was a general in the Civil War and was known for commanding the Confederate Army of Northern Virginia from 1862 until he surrendered in 1865. Although there are mixed accounts about whether Lee supported or opposed slavery in the southern states, under his command, troops were given permission to actively raid settlements during significant missions like in 1863 when his troops invaded Pennsylvania and were able to freely capture free blacks and put them back into the institution of slavery. New Orleans native, Wynton Marsalis said it best about the erection of Lee’s statue: “Robert E. Lee betrayed his sacred oath to support and defend the Constitution and instead chose to lead an army intent on its violent overthrow — and he lost. The Civil War was a costly victory for democracy, but long after it had been decided, the backwards thinking leadership of this city erected monuments to Confederate generals who had committed treason against the United States — and lost. Lee’s monument was erected to proclaim this arrogance across the ages, and reclaim as a victory what was lost on the battlefield.”

Equestrian statue of General P.G.T. Beauregard:

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Like Robert E. Lee, P.G.T. Beauregard was a General in the Civil War. In fact, it was Beauregard who ordered the first shots of the war. Beauregard was first selected to be in charge of Charleston, South Carolina’s defenses during the Civil war and then was appointed the first Confederate general officer. He was then appointed to be a brigadier general in the Provisional Army of the Confederate States in March 1861 and then in July of the same year was promoted to full general in the Confederate Army. After the war, and perhaps surprisingly, Beauregard supported equal rights and unification. The statue, however, depicts Beauregard the Confederate general, not Beauregard the proponent of civil rights.”

Statue of Jefferson DavisStatue of Jefferson Davis:

Jefferson Davis was the President of the Confederate States of America during the Civil War. He was also a Democratic U.S. Representative and Senator from Mississippi, as well as the 23rd U.S. Secretary of War. But most importantly. and why the statute is controversial, is that Davis was a plantation owner who owned slaves and financially prospered from the institution of slavery.

Protests:

Although these statues clearly represent racism and white supremacist views to many, there are still those who believe these monuments are a cultural legacy and that they are about heritage and not hate. Harcourt Fuller, assistant professor of history at Georgia State University in Atlanta, said, “Supporters of the monuments see them as part of their ‘historical and cultural legacy’ that needs to be maintained and protected.” In a city that is predominantly African-American, these statues represent a time in American history where their ancestors were treated as less than human, as “property” and nothing more. Activistsconfederate_statues_new_orleans_44962-jpg-24013_83555476ae21103051ffca63afef3369-nbcnews-ux-2880-1000 opposed to the removal of the monuments have had vigils, written articles opposing the removal, been vocal on social media platforms and had intense public meetings to argue against taking down these statues. Things have been so intense that a car of one of the employees hired to take down the monuments was set on fire. As mentioned before, those taking down the statues have had to mask their identity for fear of reprisal against them and their families for their part in this.

Symbols like these statues, which cause emotional trauma to some, should be kept in museums, so that they are not forgotten, but also not in public for all to see. Taking down the statues doesn’t erase what happened, but it makes clear that what happened is not to be celebrated or memorialized with monuments in honor of “the traitors who fought against the United States to uphold slavery.” 

battle-of-liberty-place-monument-afcc3caf84bc7bc4jpg-75f3cf0dac746f00As a black woman, I totally understand why the people of New Orleans would want symbols such as these to be taken down and placed elsewhere (for those who still want to view them and who see them as cultural reminders). Seeing symbols like these around my city day in and day out would be greatly offensive to me and my heritage. Knowing what my ancestors had to go through and how they were treated for centuries and then to see these monuments would be a grave insult to my sense of identity as a black woman. It would be a constant reminder that I as a person am not valued or respected. It would feel like the leaders in my city didn’t acknowledge or care about me, my family, my ancestors and the contributions they made to build that city where we live. I applaud those in New Orleans who have worked so tirelessly to ensure these statues are removed, and I hope other cities soon follow suit. 

“After Hurricane Katrina, the support we received from people all over the world clearly demonstrated their appreciation of our culture and our character. The intensity of this love was demonstrated with unprecedented assistance of all kinds. We should transform the current Lee Circle into an inviting space that celebrates the communal intentions of the international community that helped us survive Katrina. This place would fill the heart of our city with something uplifting for us all and for all times. That, and not the stubborn echo of a shameful period of our history, should be the mythology we strive to teach to our kids and leave for our descendants.”

– Wynton Marsalis


For more information…

Racism in America & The Danger of Color Blindness

“While white parents’ intention is to convey to their children the belief that race shouldn’t matter, the message their children receive is that race, in fact, doesn’t matter. The intent and aim are noble, but in order for race not to matter in the long run, we have to acknowledge that, currently, it does matter a great deal. If white parents want their children to contribute to […] a ‘racially just America’ in which race does not unjustly influence one’s life opportunities, their children will need to learn awareness and skills that they cannot acquire through silence and omission.”

by Michelle Palmer

Not long ago a story went viral about a little girl named Sophia, who went to Target with her mom to pick out a prize for learning to potty. She picked out a doll who was a doctor. The girl was white, and the doll was black. The cashier asked the little girl if she wanted to pick out a different doll because that doll didn’t look like her. But the little girl said, “Yes, she does. She’s a doctor like I’m a doctor. And I’m a pretty girl and she’s a pretty girl. See her pretty hair? And see her stethoscope?”

Desktop6The USA Today article I used to get the exact wording said this, “This account of a ‘color blind’ [sic] kid reminds us of Lydia Rosebush’s son, [Jax] who in February wanted to shave his head to look like his African American friend [Reddy].” (You may have seen that story too.) Both moms who shared these interactions had similar takeaways:

  • This experience just confirmed my belief that we aren’t born with the idea that color matters. Skin comes in different colors just like hair and eyes and every shade is beautiful.”
  • If this isn’t proof that hate and prejudice is something that is taught I don’t know what is.”

My first reaction to both of these stories was to be all heart-melty and happy. But within a minute or so, I sort of got uneasy. The beauty of these stories is that these kids aren’t seeing skin color as something that determines a substantive difference or decreased value to a person. That’s wonderful and beautiful and a good lesson for them at their ages and level of understanding. But the problem is that we, as adults, act as if these stories reveal to us that color blindness is the way forward. We praise them as if they are the pinnacle of racial understanding. But it just doesn’t work that way. Because while Sophia’s mom is half-right and every shade of skin really is beautiful, in our world, color does matter.

Systemic Racism & White Privilege

In short, the heartbreaking reality is that Reddy will have a different experience of life than Jax will. I like to assume that all of our readers are “woke,” aware that both systemic racism and white privilege are very real. But, if I’m wrong, or if y’all just need a refresher, here are some basics:

  • Black children are much more likely to go to low-income, underfunded schools than white children.
  • “…whites with the exact same résumés as their black counterparts are hired at double the rate.”original
  • “A black person with the same education and experience as a similar Caucasian, over the span of their lives, will earn significantly less.”
  • “It is a little-known fact that the average black person pays more for almost every item he or she purchases.”
  • “According to Unlocking America, if African American and Hispanics were incarcerated at the same rates of whites, today’s prison and jail populations would decline by approximately 50%.”
  • “5 times as many Whites are using drugs as African Americans, yet African Americans are sent to prison for drug offenses at 10 times the rate of Whites.”

(Sources for these stats can be found here and here.) 

Demonstrators protesting the shooting death of Philando Castile gather in front of the police department in St Anthony, MinnesotaTo further illustrate the issue, I want to point to an excellent piece I found while researching for this post. Bitsy Bentley wrote this incredibly honest account of her experiences in owning up to her own internal racism, which by the way, we all have. I encourage you read the whole thing here, A White Woman Confronts Her Racism, but I think this excerpt gets to the heart of the matter:  “Unconscious bias turns our streets into a dangerous place for black and brown people in our communities, and conflating order with safety is part of the problem. I’d like to see white people change the way we talk about policing in our communities — we need to put safety ahead of order and hold our elected officials accountable for recognizing and dismantling the systemic bias that holds black people in fear.”

Pursuing color blindness, ignoring racial realities, and refusing to stand up against racial injustices and oppression quite literally undermines the safety and wellbeing of people of color in our communities. We all have biases that we must proactively fight, and pretending they don’t exist won’t solve anything.

So, what do we do about it?

I will add a few “how to be an ally” articles to the For More Information… section of the post. But I want to focus our attention on the next generation, on the Sophias and Jaxes of the world. I wrote this particular post this week because of a conversation I had on Saturday. I was with a good friend I hadn’t seen for White silence is violence.jpgages, and we were talking about Tuesday Justice, and she told me about some of the discussions she’s had with her husband about how they will talk to their son about race. He’s only 9 months now, but it won’t be long until he, like Jax and Sophia, begins to interact with the world around him. As his parents, they want him to respect and value people of all races equally, but they also want him to understand the responsibility that comes with his privilege. 

I’m not sure I would’ve known where to begin without this article by Ali Michael and Eleonora Bartoli, What White Children Need to Know About Race. Again, I encourage you to read the whole thing, but here is the most relevant part:

“In particular, the research suggests that for fear of perpetuating racial misunderstandings, being seen as a racist, making children feel badly, or simply not knowing what to say, many white parents tend to believe that there is never a right time to initiate a conversation about race. They talk to their children about race if it becomes relevant in their lives (mostly in negative contexts). Otherwise, they tell their children that people are all the same and that they should not see race.

Civil-Rights-protest-Getty-Images“While white parents’ intention is to convey to their children the belief that race shouldn’t matter, the message their children receive is that race, in fact, doesn’t matter. The intent and aim are noble, but in order for race not to matter in the long run, we have to acknowledge that, currently, it does matter a great deal. If white parents want their children to contribute to what researchers Matthew Desmond and Mustafa Emirbayer describe as a ‘racially just America’ in which race does not unjustly influence one’s life opportunities, their children will need to learn awareness and skills that they cannot acquire through silence and omission.”

The authors go on to provide a list of content knowledge and skills that we need to develop and help our children to develop as we move forward.

  • Content Knowledge:  
    • Be clear about the meaning of “race.”
    • Understand systemic racism.
    • Learn how anti-racist action is relevant to all.
    • Understand stereotypes and their counter-narratives.
  • Skils:
    • Develop self-awareness about racist beliefs.
    • Analyze media critically.
    • Learn how to intervene.
    • Manage racial stress.
    • Develop authentic relationships with peers of color.
    • Recognize one’s racist and anti-racist identities.

One-dimensional, generic teachings are tempting. They feel easier and safer. […] But raising children who are resilient for justice and able to do their part to create an inclusive society takes more, especially now. And it’s not as hard as it might seem.”

from Are We Raising Racists? By Jennifer Harvey

While we should absolutely teach children that no skin color is more valuable, that our commonalities are greater than our melanin, that we are all in this together, we mustn’t ignore the very real differences in our experiences. For the sake of future generations, we cannot sweep racial disparities under the rug by pretending we “don’t see color.” Yes, it’s complicated, but for the sake of racial reconciliation and justice, it’s worth it.


 

For more information….

Missing Girls in D.C. – What’s going on?

Whatever the TRUTH may be about this complex issue that is happening in DC, we all must remember that lives are at stake and that there are organizations that are doing something about it, providing support and help in any way they can.

by Channon Oyeniran

A few weeks ago, a tweet claiming 14 girls had gone missing in Washington DC in 24 hours went viral. Like many of you who are reading this post, I wasn’t too sure what was going on and what the real story was behind these missing teenagers, specifically black and Latina teenage girls. I didn’t see anything on the news, but I did see stories on Facebook, and from the few articles that I did read, this issue seemed to be not only widespread, but it was problematic, surrounded by chaos and not well covered by the media. I want to share what I have learned about what is happening in the DC area, so we can be better informed and in a position to help, should we chose to do so, and the facts about the situation.

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It’s a parent’s worst nightmare when they can’t find their child, there are no traces of them and the feeling that a huge part of themselves is gone. This is what has happened to many families with black children all over America. While this happens to children everywhere from all different cultures and ethnicities, I am choosing to focus this post on black families, who haven’t had the same opportunity to voice themselves the way others do. According to the FBI, in 2015, “634,908 people were reported missing in the United States and over 40 percent of those cases involve people of color.” Washington DC alone reported 501 cases of missing youth in the first three months of 2017, with many of these youth being black and Latino. What’s so alarming about this is the fact that the public hasn’t heard very much regarding these cases. 501 missing persons cases is a lot to have from January to March 2017. One key factor in why there is so little media coverage about this issue according to a report from 2010 by the Routledge, Taylor & Francis Group, says that “African-American children made up 33.2 percent of missing persons cases that year, but they were significantly underrepresented in the media. African-American children received 19.5 percent of media coverage while non-African American children received over 80 percent.” This is a significant difference in the way missing black children in America get their stories showed in the media in comparison to missing white children.


n_reid_muted2_140630.video-260x195With a clear example of how missing cases of black teens is given so little coverage in the media, the short but powerful 2014 film, Muted, directed by Rachel Goldberg, tells of an African-American family, the Gladwells’, who struggle to get the support of media and law enforcement when their teenage daughter disappears. Meanwhile a few days after the teen’s disappearance, a white teenage girl goes missing, and an Amber Alert and reward, with extensive news coverage, are issued almost immediately. This short film is reminiscent of what has been happening for a long time to black families in America and displays larger issues of racism and discrimination. Muted also glaringly demonstrates the lack of value that is placed on black people.

“He said, she said”

I think why this issue is so upsetting for many African American families is for a few reasons: 1) the lack of media attention these missing cases have gotten, 2) the nonchalant attitude from the Washington DC police department, and 3) the assumption that missing black youth run away and are not in any “real danger.” The Metropolitan Police Department has recently started to post missing teens on their social media accounts, and while this does reach many people at a time, it does not offer the same impact that full media coverage would. There seems to be a widespread belief that the black youth who are missing in the DC area left on their own accord or voluntarily. According to NBC news in Washington, “All of the teens who have reported missing in 2017 left voluntarily, police spokeswoman Karimah Bilal said.”townhallmeetingcrowd2_1490231672291_2918928_ver1-0_640_360

However, parents of these missing teens and the community believe otherwise. In an article by Raquel Reichard in Latina magazine, Dr. Vanetta Rather, founder of the organization My Sister My Seed, said it clearly, “Sometimes when girls of color are missing they are deemed ‘runaways’ and sometimes that prevents an amber alert from being sent out, they only send out amber alerts for those who are considered snatched or kidnapped. It appears that when it’s girls of color, there’s not this urgency.” This was the cause of contention between the DC police department, parents, local pastors, activists and young people who took this issue into their own hands by holding a town hall meeting in March to discuss what can be done to cut down on the number of missing children in DC.

Whatever the TRUTH may be about this complex issue that is happening in DC, we all must remember that lives are at stake and that there are organizations that are doing something about it, providing support and help in any way they can. (More on some of these amazing organizations below.)

53150707What are the facts?

Here are some facts about missing black youth in the Washington DC as well as across America:

  • Missing child cases 2015: 2,433 in 2015
  • Missing child cases 2016: 2,242 in 2016
  • So far in 2017, the District has logged a total of 501 cases of missing youth (many of them black or Latino). Only a handful of these have been solved thus far.
  • 22 youth cases remain open as of March 24th 2017, with police having only photos for 13 out of the 22 young people.
  • People of color accounted for nearly 40 percent of national missing person entries in 2014.
  • Missing Person Statistics (Metropolitan Police Department)

Organizations who are doing something about this…

logoAs mentioned above, one of the major disadvantages in locating these missing black teenagers in the DC area, and across America for that matter, is the lack of media coverage and lackadaisical approach in searching for these young people. One of the main aims of organizations such as Black and Missing but Not Forgotten (BAMBNF), is that “every missing Black child and adult receives equal attention in the media and resources towards being safely found.” BAMBNF seeks to create relationships with various media outlets, government agencies and the public to make sure that missing African Americans receive swift attention and concern to garner the best possible outcomes in each and every case. black-and-missing

Black and Missing Incorporated “is a non-profit organization whose mission is to bring awareness to missing persons of color; provide vital resources and tools to missing person’s families and friends and to educate the minority community on personal safety.” Meanwhile for those young people who unfortunately become victims of human trafficking, the DeliverFund, “disrupts global Human Trafficking Markets by combining uniquely qualified personnel with the best technologies, and then leveraging them in new ways to reach and rescue the victims of human trafficking.”

JoyfulChildFoundationThe Joyful Child Foundation’s goal is to “[…]ensure that every child is exposed to personal safety education and opportunities to practice in order to cultivate each child’s instinctual response to recognize, avoid, and if necessary, physically resist and escape inappropriate behaviors or violence.”

These are just some of the many organizations who are raising awareness and doing all they can to prevent children, young people and adults alike from going missing and becoming the victims of human trafficking. I’m sure a Google search will help to locate a nearby organization or group who is doing something about missing persons in your community. Don’t hesitate; help them today!

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For more information: