Grammy-winning singer-songwriter Jason Mraz headlined a historic concert last year for 70,000 fans to show the power of music at MTV Exit’s unprecedented anti-trafficking concert in Myanmar.
You can now see part of Jason’s performance online: The Freedom Song. It has touched the hearts of thousands of people fighting to end slavery.
“We’ve got some life to bring” Jason sang, while wearing a FTS “Slavery Sucks” T-shirt.
“My mission is simple: It’s to shine a light through music, which can easily be applied to why I sing these songs,” Jason tells MTV Exit.
In 2010, Jason traveled to Ghana to accompany Free the Slaves on a child slavery rescue mission. To his surprise, he was greeted by 20 former child slaves singing the Freedom Song. Jason’s tearful account of meeting slavery survivors was captured in the FTS video “The Journey of The Freedom Song.”
Jason encourages others to tell kids of all ages: “Being part of a movement is cool. That it is the coolest thing you can do. That it feels good. That it is real, and it feels real good.”
You can also see Jason’s FTS public service announcement video here.
When you think of the Discovery Channel, you probably think of documentaries about sharks, bears and fishermen. But Discovery has teamed up with others to produce a series of short video segments highlighting barriers to education for girls and women in sub-Saharan Africa, specifically in the most underserved communities of Ghana, Nigeria and Kenya.
One of these segments will feature a former child slave in Ghana, Mabel, 15, who now can attend school after being rescued by FTS frontline partner Challenging Heights.
“It was an incredible privilege to work with Mabel, she is such a friendly and confident young woman who can talk really eloquently about the challenges she has faced and overcome in her life,” the video segment producer, Chris Morgan, tells us. “Even more inspiring is her positive view on her future and her determination to change her life through education.”
After her mother died and her father left the family, Mabel and her siblings went to live with relatives. There, Mabel was forced to work around the clock. She would wake up early in the mornings to collect wood and help cook maize porridge. By afternoon she was making lunch for everyone on the fishing boats, and in the evening she started prepping for dinner. Late at night she was sent out fishing, and was forced to wake up early the next morning to repeat this full day of work.
“I hardly slept at all,” said Mabel. “Every evening I hoped that there would be a storm, so I wouldn’t have to go out on the lake.”
Her relatives had children of their own who were allowed to go to school, but Mabel and her siblings were not.
One day, two case workers from Challenging Heights came to visit. They told Mabel’s relatives that the law states that children have to go to school and that they wanted to take Mabel and her siblings with them. When her relatives refused to let them go, the challenging Heights team came back with police to free them.
Mabel and her siblings now live in a Challenging Heights safe house and go to school. Mabel is delighted to be receiving an education, and says: “I want to become a nurse so I can prove to my family that I can make it in life.”
The Discovery Learning Alliance video segments will be used in classroom and community settings in Ghana, Nigeria and Kenya to help teach the importance of education.
Congratulations to Lisa Kristine, who was honored last night at Carnegie Hall in New York as the 2013 Humanitarian Photographer of the Year!
The awards are presented by the Lucie Foundation, honoring the world’s top photographers in a range of categories, including fashion, fine art, humanitarianism, photojournalism and documentary.
“Lisa has gained broad recognition for her collaboration with the NGO Free the Slaves,” the foundation notes on its website, calling her 2010 book Slavery (published by Free the Slaves) a “breathtaking body of work.”
Lisa traveled to the front lines of slavery with FTS activists to capture images that reveal the pain of slavery and the hope of freedom.
Calling Lisa “a master storyteller,” the Lucie foundation says her photographs instinctively identify “the universal human dignity in all of us.”
“Awakening compassion and igniting action in a worldwide audience with powerful, broad-sweeping images of courage and tender intimate portrayals, Lisa elevates significant social causes – such as the elimination of human slavery and the unification of humanity – to missions. Her work resonates in the hearts of us all and moves us to act,” the foundation says.
If you haven’t seen Lisa’s TEDX talk about her journey to photograph slavery, you should!
More than 1.1 million people already have.
And you should consider helping Free the Slaves by buying the book Slavery, for yourself, for a friend, for a local library or school, or for your office.
It’s available on Lisa’s website. A portion of the proceeds benefit FTS anti-trafficking programs around the world.
Millions of Americans will soon see the poignant story of a man who was ripped from his family in the 1800s and brutalized by a vicious slaveholder before finally breaking free. It’s important to remember that the events depicted in 12 Years a Slave are still happening today.
Slavery didn’t end with the Civil War or the Emancipation Proclamation. It was outlawed, but not ended. There are 21-30 million people trapped in various forms of modern slavery around the world today, about 60,000 of them right here in the United States. Human trafficking is the modern-day slave trade.
If you see the film 12 Years a Slave, as the closing credits roll and you’re walking out of the theater, please remember that today’s slavery victims need a helping hand just as Solomon Northup did more than a century ago.
The movie is based on a real story. Northup was a literate, free African-American living in upstate New York. He was tricked by a slaver who had promised good work, then kidnapped and trafficked to the South. Northup returned to freedom with the assistance of anti-slavery activists who helped his family assert his legal rights.
Anti-slavery groups like Free the Slaves are doing the same thing today. There are millions of impoverished men, women and children who are easy prey for traffickers. They take risks that frequently lead to enslavement: such as traveling far from home to find a job, or borrowing money for a family emergency and promising to work the loan off at a farm, mine, brick kiln, logging camp or factory.
Although slavery is illegal everywhere today, many in slavery do not know how to stand up for their rights. With community awareness and organizing projects, vulnerable villagers can break free, stay free, and prevent others from falling into slavery in the future. The Free the Slaves model of building community resistance to slavery is succeeding in some of the world’s hottest hotspots for trafficking: Haiti, India, Nepal, Ghana, Congo and Brazil. You can see how our programs work on the frontline partners page of the Free the Slaves website.
The resonance of 12 Years a Slave is that Northop went on to write his own story when he returned to freedom. His book became a bestseller in 1853, and helped build the case for abolition. It proved that the fictional depiction of southern slavery in Uncle Tom’s Cabin was accurate.
Frederick Douglass said this about 12 Years A Slave: “Its truth is far greater than fiction.” (Historical footnote: Northup’s manuscript was actually lost, until it was recovered by historian Sue Eakin.)
Today, slavery survivors are also at the forefront of the modern abolition movement. You can read interview transcripts with modern slavery survivors, and watch videos about survivors who have become anti-slavery activists, on the Free the Slaves website.
If you’re not a movie-watching type, you can download the audiobook of 12 Years a Slave, narrated by Louis Gossett Jr. Free the Slaves receives 20 percent of the proceeds from audio book downloads.
If you see the 12 Years a Slave movie, or listen to the audio book, complete the experience by making a commitment to do something. Help us finish what Solomon Northup, Frederick Douglass, Abraham Lincoln and the abolitionists of the 1800s started. Let’s actually end slavery. Finally. Forever. For everyone, everywhere.
What do you get when you combine the world-class photography of Lisa Kristine, the innovative frontline anti-slavery projects of Free the Slaves, and a vivacious 9-year-old California girl who has decided she wants to help end child slavery?
You get a powerful feature-length documentary to spread the message that slavery still exists but can be overcome.
The film is called “#standwithme.” It chronicles how artistry and activism can build bridges to freedom for millions trapped in slavery around the world. The film is currently being shot by Portland, Oregon-based Stillmotion, and it’s expected to be released in 2014.
It will tell the story of Lisa Kristine’s heart-stopping photographs of slavery hotspots where Free the Slaves works. (Purchase Lisa’s prints and book here – proceeds benefit Free the Slaves.)
A California family saw Lisa’s slavery photos in her gallery – and decided to snap into action. Vivienne Harr raised thousands of dollars for the anti-slavery movement by selling lemonade. Her family has started bottling the recipe and selling it online and in small grocery stores. Free the Slaves is one of several organizations that will benefit from Make A Stand Lemon-Aid sales.
The Stillmotion team was in Washington this week to film an extended interview with our executive director, Maurice Middleberg. They’ll be heading to the frontlines of slavery soon to photograph how the Free the Slaves model helps people break free and stay free.
Stay tuned – we’ll keep you posted when the film is ready!