artworks for freedom logoLast Friday evening, I had the privilege of attending the opening of a new art exhibit in Washington, Bought and Sold, by a longtime friend of Free the Slaves who has photographed our work around the world, Kay Chernush.

Beneath the statistics about slavery and trafficking are very human, very personal stories of  individuals. Great art captures that experience.

ArtWorks for Freedom, run by Kay, helps share the slavery experience as a means of raising awareness and expanding the constituency for anti-slavery projects.

The images Kay has created are very powerful and compelling. The words accompanying each image are those of the slavery survivor whose story inspired that artwork.

Depiction of cruelty to a child: “After first time, they stitch you up. Two, three four time.”

Child cruelty: “After first time, they stitch you up. Two, three four time.”

Depiction of exploitation: "24/7, taking care of the household, the children. Never allowed to go out. I was their slave."

Exploitation: “24/7, taking care of the household, the children. Never allowed to go out. I was their slave.”

Depiction of compassion: "He was the pain in my eyes. He could see my human. He helped me escape."

Compassion: “He saw the pain in my eyes. He could see my human. He helped me escape.”

Depiction of defiance: " with this picture I reverse the voodoo onto my trafficker. I am not afraid anymore."

Defiance: “With this picture I reverse the voodoo onto my trafficker. I am not afraid anymore.”

Slavery is above all an effort to deprive people of their humanity, to render them without feature or voice, what Orlando Patterson called “the social death” that is the essence of slavery.

Images such as those portrayed here remind us that those enslaved are very much alive and very human. My hope is that they will help galvanize action and that more people will be moved to open their hearts and raise their voices for freedom.

Dance Troupe Helps Free Slaves

dancing for a difference visits fts

Sowji Kilaru, president of Dancing For A Difference, meets FTS Executive Director Maurice Middleberg | Photo: FTS/FitzPatrick

Sowji Kilaru dropped by the Free the Slaves office recently to drop off a remarkable donation. She’s president of an organization to harness the creative potential of New Yorkers to make a difference in the world. We asked Sowji to tell us about her group:

“We created Dancing  For A Difference with two different goals in mind. The first was to establish an organization that was dedicated to raising awareness and money for important social issues impacting the South Asian Community. We found that in our communities, people are often reluctant to talk about the difficult things: illness, poverty, abuse – all of which are affecting millions of South Asians around the world every day. And we wanted to shed light on these difficult topics by sharing one of the most beautiful parts of our culture – dance.

“Our vision is to create an outlet for people to express themselves and foster a community of dancers, performers, and activists who use the arts to heal both themselves and the world. We raise awareness and funds via dance classes, choreography and shows. Our first show in New York City was held on November 1st at the Helen Mills Theater. In addition to a sold-out show, donors from around the world poured in their support for our cause. The show consisted of dance groups and artists from all around the New York area, including our own Dancing For A Difference Group. Thanks to all our supporters and performers we raised approximately $7,000 and we were able to present Free the Slaves a donation of $1,000. We hope to collaborate with one another on future programs!”

Thanks to Sowji and everyone involved with Dancing For A Difference for choosing to support the work of Free the Slaves.

Unchosen, an anti-trafficking charity that organizes film campaigns to combat modern slavery in the U.K. and Ireland, is launching its 2014  Short Film Competition. The aim is “to challenge what people choose not to see.”

“The more people that know about the matter, the more likely it is to cause effective change,” says Unchosen.


Film entries from 2013 featured shorts on domestic servitude, sexual abuse and forced labor. Last year’s winner was titled “The Trip,” directed by Prano Bailey-Bond. It dramatizes the true story of Hung, a young Vietnamese man trafficked abroad on the promise of a job and a new life, only to be forced to work in a cannabis factory.

You must register by May 23 to be considered for this year’s competition, and complete your film by August 13.

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.


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!