Slavery is probably not something you associate with MTV. But think again. MTV has been running an awareness-raising project about slavery: MTV EXIT. The network is helping combat human trafficking through innovative campaigns to inform young people.

The newest initiative is in India, a country with the highest estimated population of people in slavery in the world today (14 million). MTV EXIT has released a docudrama series to expose injustices endured by these trafficking victims. It’s called TRAFFIC: STOP.THINK.ACT.

MTV_EXIT

By using real-life case studies, MTV EXIT is targeting India’s educated urban youth “to inspire them to take a moment from their lives, open their eyes and look around and question the injustice.” The goal is to mobilize young people to stand up and say “no” to modern-day slavery.

The program features five episodes, each on a different form of trafficking. “These are stories from our neighborhood and our cities and happening in homes, beauty parlors and factories near us,” says series presenter Anurag Kashyap. “These are stories happening behind the closed doors and walls around us. We are a part of these stories because we are the consumers who demand cheap labor and cheap sex.”

Promotional videos about several episodes are available online: Goa Mizo’s story about sex trafficking, Harimati’s story about forced marriage, and Namita’s story about domestic servitude.

 

 

 

 

Former Free the Slaves fellow and Indian trafficking expert Vithika Yadav worked with MTV on the series to ensure the stories reflect the reality of slavery in India today. You can visit the Free the Slaves India webpage to learn more about slavery in India, our projects to end it, and how you can help.

Free the Slaves is excited to announce the opening of an exclusive auction that benefits FTS frontline work!Gillian Anderson

Gillian Anderson, who appeared most notably in X-Files and Last King of Scotland, is generously auctioning off the chance to meet her on the set of THE FALL in Belfast!

Anderson is starring in SOLD, a new feature film adaptation of the globally acclaimed novel by Patricia McCormick.

The film is based on true stories that illustrate the brutality of child trafficking. Anderson learned about Free the Slaves through her character, who was based on real life photographer and friend of FTS, Lisa Kristine. When doing research for the part, she visited Lisa’s website and saw that her work was inspired by the photos Lisa took at Free the Slaves programs around the world and decided that she would donate one auction item for FTS.

You can bid on the auction through ebay here!  One hundred percent of the auction sale will go to Free the Slaves.

It ends on March 30, 2014, so make sure to tell your friends and get your bids in now!

 

 

12 years posterLast night’s best picture Oscar win for 12 Years a Slave was more that a tribute to powerful filmmaking. And the evening’s final acceptance speeches were more than ritual thanks to Hollywood insiders. The highpoint of the Oscar telecast became an awareness-raising mega-moment, alerting tens of millions of viewers that slavery didn’t end with the Civil War.

“I am dedicating this award to all the people who have endured slavery,” said 12 Years a Slave director Steve McQueen, “and the 21 million people who still suffer slavery today.”

“Everyone deserves not just to survive, but to live,” he said. “This is the most important legacy of Solomon Northup.”

12 Years a Slave is the true story of a free African-American in New York who was tricked in the 1840s into taking a job away from home, then trafficked to slavery in the South. Solomon Northop was freed more than a decade later with help from anti-slavery activists.

“It’s been an absolute privilege to work on Solomon’s story,” said Brad Pitt, accepting the Oscar with McQueen. Pitt was one of the film’s producers, and he played the Canadian abolitionist who helped Northup break free.

McQueen also thanked historian Sue Eakin, who rescued Northup’s story from obscurity. His original manuscript was a bestseller in 1853 and helped America move closer to outlawing slavery. But it had been lost to history until Eakin rescued one of the few remaining copies and restored it in 1968.

“She gave her life’s work to preserving this book,” McQueen noted.

With three Oscar wins — best picture, best adapted screenplay and best supporting actress — 12 Years a Slave hits store shelves this week as a DVD and digital download. If you and your friends haven’t seen it, consider hosting a house party to screen the film and discuss how slavery has managed to persist in the world today. You can download the Free the Slaves house party guide for tips about how to get organized. Download our slavery fact sheet for some eye-opening statistics.

History can shape the future. Let your community know that helping people to overcome slavery isn’t just a thing of the past.

Robin in Ghana

Robin filming child fishing slavery rescue in Ghana | Photo: FTS/Callahan

One of the founding principles of Free the Slaves is that we must show the world that slavery still exists. That has meant traveling to distant and dangerous places to film the brutality of slavery today, as well as to showcase innovative ways to end it.

Over the years, FTS has been fortunate to work with one of the world’s best photographers, Robin Romano.

Whether it was hundreds of feet below ground inside illegal gold mines, or hundreds of miles upcountry at fishing camps or in rebel conflict zones, Robin did what it took to present visual proof of slavery’s reality to the world.

Robin died late last year, and fellow activists in the Child Labor Coalition are gathering over the next few days in New York and Washington, D.C. to celebrate the life of an exemplary activist, gadfly, award-winning human rights photographer and filmmaker, artist and friend.

  • New York: Saturday, February 8th at 1 p.m., St. Mark’s Church in-the-Bowery, 131 East 10th Street.
  • Washington: Thursday, February 13th at 4:30 p.m. at the National Education Association, 1201 16th Street, NW. Register here.

You can see some of Robin’s amazing FTS work about rehabilitating child soldier slaves in Uganda and the rescue of child fishing slaves in Ghana on the FTS Vimeo page. His own website is here.

The Free the Slaves staff will miss Robin, and our thoughts are with his family. Others who have worked with him will miss Robin, too:

“You were far more than just a photographer/videographer, but I want to say just a word about that aspect of your amazing life. I have thousands of your photos in boxes at home, the remnants of many projects we worked on together. I have looked again at many of these photos since you died, and recall vividly how you had an amazing knack for seeing in your subjects, mostly children, the spark of dignity and humanity that had often been almost crushed by their life circumstances. And you had an uncanny ability to encourage these subjects to show that spark.” –Pharis Harvey on Media Voices for Children blog.

“Robin was always covered in cameras. He was a one man show. He shot stills, video, took sound, did interviews. He filled every vacuum. He didn’t know how to delegate. He hated sharing. He wanted everything perfect and was willing to pay the price of doing it all himself. The price was physical exhaustion, illness, a candle burning at both ends. He was one of the finest natural light videographers I have known in forty years as a director-editor. And still his photographs are among the best the world has ever seen. This was the Robin I knew, working to take the perfect picture that would tell the story of a child’s life, and of our world’s indifference in one frozen second.” –Len Morris on Media Voices for Children blog.

A child is rescued by Brazil’s elite anti-slavery police | FTS Photo/Romano

12_Years_a_Slave_film_posterOscar-nominated screenwriter John Ridley is concerned that moviegoers might miss a key lesson from the poignant script he wrote for the hit movie 12 Years a Slave.

“As beautiful as this film is, one of the dangers is people will go in and say thank God we’re not like that anymore. The fact of the matter is,” Ridley said, “it is going on right now.”

Speaking Friday night on HBO’s Real Time with Bill Maher, Ridley noted that millions are tricked into slavery today, just as Solomon Northop was in 12 Years a Slave.

The film is based on a true story — Northop was a free African-American in New York who thought he was joining a traveling musical group in the 1840s. He was trafficked to a plantation in the South until activists helped him assert his legal rights to return home.

“It can happen, it can happen here,” Ridley said about trafficking today. “Whether it’s forced labor, whether it’s sex trafficking, if there are individuals that cannot have their right of self determination, then it’s slavery.”

“There are literally tens of thousands of people here in this country right now, where it’s happening,” Ridley noted. “The places where it can happen will shock you.”

“Slavery is not just a thing of the past,” Maher said.

Ridely has been nominated for a best adapted screenplay Oscar. He transformed Northop’s original book about his ordeal in slavery into the story now being seen by millions in theaters.

Northop’s book was a best seller in the 1850s and helped propel the United States toward abolition. Learn more about the book here. The film has already won this year’s Golden Globe for best drama, and is up for nine Oscars, including best picture, on March 2nd.

Learn more about the state of slavery in the world today on the downloadable Free the Slaves Trafficking and Slavery Fact Sheet.