It’s an ancient abuse. But it persists throughout the world today. Slavery remains one of the greatest human rights challenges of history.

Modern-day slavery looks different than the sailing ships and shackles we learned about in high school history class. Today, it’s largely hidden from sight. People now are trapped by different forces — less visible, but just as powerful.

The Free the Slaves team exposes what slavery looks like today in a gripping new video, now online on YouTube or Vimeo. It’s an important primer that reveals the magnitude of the problem during Human Trafficking Awareness Month.

In the film, FTS country directors from India, Nepal, Haiti, Congo and Ghana explain how slavery affects their nations. It’s about “separation and exploitation,” says FTS Haiti Country Director Smith Maxime. “You question, is this really happening,” says FTS Ghana Country Director Joha Braimah.

The film also examines how FTS assists people in slavery to break free.

“We help them to get organized,” says FTS Nepal Country Director Neelam Sharma. “We involve the communities themselves to find a solution,” says FTS Country Director Jack Kahorha.

FTS South Asia Director notes in the film that the FTS model for change is working.

“Wherever we have approached,’ she says, “after a few years we see that area has become slavery-free.”

Brooklyn hosts two important anti-slavery events next weekend that will shine a light on trafficking and the innovative methods FTS has developed to fight it.

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SATURDAY, JANUARY 11:  Plymouth Church will be hosting a benefit concert for Free the Slaves. Join an all-star lineup, including The Impressions, Naiomi Shelton, members of The Dap-Kings, The Gospel Queens and the Inspirational Voices of the Abyssinian Baptist Church. Plymouth Church has a long history of involvement in the abolition and civil rights movements. It was once known as “Grand Central Station” of the Underground Railroad. Abraham Lincoln attended service there. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. preached there. The historic venue will again be filled with the sounds of freedom at the Let Freedom Ring concert.

FRIDAY, JANUARY 10: Free the Slaves experts will be speaking at the Brooklyn Historical Society at a free event called “Fighting Modern-Day Slavery.” The event will feature a sneak peak at a new exhibit that chronicles unsung heroes of the abolition movement: “Brooklyn Abolitionists in Pursuit of Freedom.”

The panelists include:

  • Tina Frundt, a sex trafficking survivor from Chicago who now rescues young people from slavery on the streets of Washington, D.C. She runs a telephone hotline and recovery shelter staffed by survivors like herself. Tina’s personal experiences provide special insight for providing rescue and rehabilitation services for trafficking victims.
  • Timothy Patrick McCarthy, a lecturer on history, literature and public policy, and director of the Human Rights and Social Movements Program at the Carr Center for Human Rights Policy at the Harvard University Kennedy School. He is a historian of social movements who specializes in slavery and abolition, media culture and communications, and the politics of race, gender, and sexuality in American culture.
  • Maurice I. Middleberg, executive director of Free the Slaves, who oversees the organization’s wide range of innovative anti-trafficking initiatives around the globe. These include frontline community-based projects in hotspot countries to liberate slaves and transform the economic, political and social systems that allow slavery to persist – as well as guiding the group’s policy advocacy, corporate engagement and awareness-raising programs inside the United States.
  • Moderator: Loretta E. Lynch, United States Attorney for the Eastern District of New York

Our thanks to Plymouth Church and the Brooklyn Historical Society for making these events possible.

jan calendarWhat can you do to end modern-day slavery? Take action in January by spreading the word that slavery can be overcome. Here are some ideas for how you can help:

Tell your relatives, coworkers, classmates, colleagues and neighbors. Play a Free the Slaves video at your place of worship. Pick a Free the Slaves book for your book club. Write to your local newspaper editor to request more coverage of human trafficking. Write to your local, state and federal elected representatives and ask them to support funding for projects that prosecute traffickers and assist slavery survivors. Visit the Free the Slaves Facebook page and Twitter feed, then like us, share our posts and tweets, follow us and join the conversation. And raise funds for the movement any way you can: see our Fundraiser and House Party Preparation Guide for easy-to-follow tips.

If you’re in New York City or South Florida, there are major events planned for January.

On January 10th Free the Slaves experts will be speaking at the Brooklyn Historical Society at a free event called “Fighting Modern-Day Slavery.” The event will feature a sneak peak at a new exhibit that chronicles unsung heroes of the abolition movement: Brooklyn Abolitionists in Pursuit of Freedom.

On January 11th Plymouth Church in Brooklyn will be hosting a benefit concert for Free the Slaves.  The Impressions, Naiomi Shelton, members of The Dap-Kings, The Gospel Queens and the Inspirational Voices of the Abyssinian Baptist Church are scheduled to perform.

On January 30th Broward College in Fort Lauderdale will host a day-long event entitled “Human Trafficking: Exposing the Crisis, Devising Strategies and Solutions.” The event will feature political, economic, academic and human rights experts who will examine how law enforcement and multinational businesses can help eradicate slavery in the U.S., Caribbean and Latin America.

Mark your calendars!

New Year’s Message of Hope

It’s been quite a year at Free the Slaves, especially for Executive Director Maurice Middleberg. He has spent much of 2013 on the road visiting our front line programs in Asia, Africa and the Caribbean. His meetings with slavery survivors and activists have led to an important insight.

“Slaveholders and traffickers are astonishingly vulnerable, while their intended victims can be amazingly powerful,” Maurice says. “This is our great discovery.”

You can see Maurice’s New Year’s video message now online.

“Education, organization, advocacy and protection. These are the tools that tumble the walls of slavery,” Maurice says. “Our goal is to deploy these tools far and wide.”

As 2013 comes to an end, and 2014 begins with Slavery Awareness Month in January, our thanks to all friends of Free the Slaves for your dedicated support.

Happy New Year!

Brazil’s elite anti-slavery police on a raid | FTS photo/Romano

They’re committed. They’re armed. And they’re successful. Very successful. Like 46,000 slaves freed since 1995 successful.

They’re the labor department’s mobile inspection units in Brazil. They swoop down on farms, ranches, mines, quarries, logging camps and factories to free slaves and prosecute slaveholders.

Many of the tips that set the squads in motion come from FTS front line partner CPT (Pastoral Land Commission).

This week the squads will be featured in a special half-hour BBC World Service radio documentary. The program is called “Assignment.”  It premieres at 00:32 GMT on December 26 (that’s 7:32 p.m. Christmas day in Washington or New York.) It will repeat several times on global radio in the following 24 hours. Or you can listen online here after the broadcast.

The BBC team accompanied a squad on a raid, interviewing the officers, people freed from slavery, and CPT’s anti-slavery leader and former FTS board member Xavier Plassat.

Cheers to the BBC for not only shining a light on global slavery, but for showcasing one of the world’s most inspiring anti-slavery stories during this holiday season.

BBC team interviews Xavier Plassat | CPT photo

BBC team interviews Xavier Plassat | CPT photo