fts lock logo no nameThere is great news to share with you today. I am pleased to announce that three remarkable individuals will be joining Free the Slaves. Two have been elected to our board of directors, Gary Gold-Moritz and Gregory Haile. The third, Mark Allen Trozzi, will assist the board as an advisor.

Gary Gold-Moritz has been the chief operating officer at the organization Public Justice since October 2010. Previously, he was COO at the Children’s Law Center in Washington. After graduating law school at the University of California, Berkeley, Gary studied environmental law and sustainable development in India, practiced corporate law at O’Melveny & Myers, served as general counsel for small technology companies and owned and operated a home repair business. Gary was the first COO at the Children’s Law Center, and oversaw significant growth, implemented strategic planning, and ensured smooth operations. At Public Justice, where he is also the first COO, Gary oversees all finance and administration operations along with the communications and development departments, and works closely with the group’s executive director.

Gregory A. Haile is the general counsel and vice president for public policy and government affairs for Broward College in Ft. Lauderdale, Florida. He was educated at the Columbia University School of Law, where he was a Harlan Fiske Stone Scholar and served as Editor-in-Chief of the National Black Law Journal; and Arizona State University, where he graduated magna cum laude and was selected as the most outstanding undergraduate in his college. Gregory joined Broward College in 2011 after working at several law firms including, most recently, Berger Singerman. He oversees broad-ranging legal issues relating to tax, immigration, employment, labor, copyright, real estate, construction and tenure. Further, he oversees all local, statewide, and federal government affairs, including advocating before local, state and congressional leaders to enhance their understanding of higher education issues. Gregory spends significant time serving the community-at-large.

Mark Allen Trozzi is an independent management consultant based in Chadds Ford, Pennsylvania. He provides project management support and analysis for a wide range of for-profit and nonprofit organizations, as well as filling-in as chief operating officer or chief financial officer when needed. Mark has served in executive positions at Engender Health, Spree.com, Planned Parenthood Federation of America, Amnesty International USA, and The Sherwin-Williams Co., among others. He earned a Masters of Science in Management from the Sloan School at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Mark will advise FTS as a member of our board’s finance and audit committee.

This month’s additions to the board come as we bid a grateful farewell to long-term board member Franka Jordan. She has served two terms, the maximum allowed. Franka helped usher FTS through an intensive period of transition and growth. Her expertise in organizational development has been a key to the success of our organization. On behalf of the Free the Slaves staff and board, I’d like to extend our heartfelt thanks to Franka for her extraordinary dedication and service. She will continue to help FTS as volunteer advisor to the board’s programs committee.

12 Years a Slave book coverIf you haven’t heard about the story of Solomon Northup, you will hear about it soon.

It’s about to become a major motion picture featuring Brad Pitt, Alfre Woodard, Paul Giamatti and Chiwetel Ejiofor.

If you’re not the movie-going type, you can experience Northup’s spellbinding story on audio book, performed by actor and humanitarian Louis Gossett Jr.

Free the Slaves will receive 20 percent of the proceeds if you enter FREETHESLAVES into the promo code window when downloading the audio book from Downpour.com.

Originally published in 1853, Northup’s autobiography was an immediate bombshell in the national debate over slavery leading up to the Civil War.

He was born free, but was kidnapped and sold into slavery.

solomon northup tightHe toiled in bondage for a dozen years before his rescue.

Northup’s true story validated Harriett Beecher Stowe’s fictional account of Southern slavery in Uncle Tom’s Cabin, which had significantly changed public opinion in favor of abolition.

Frederick Douglass said this about Twelve Years a Slave: “Its truth is far greater than fiction.”

The audio book is receiving praise as well.

“Gossett infuses the words with a quiet, seething power,” says AudioFile Magazine.

Twelve Years a Slave was lost to history by the early 20th century, when it could not be located by libraries, stores or catalogues. Then a 12-year-old avid reader in central Louisiana ‐ the future Sue Eakin, Ph.D. ‐ reached upon the library shelf of a planation home and discovered a dusty copy of the book. Eakin went on to write her master’s thesis about Solomon Northup’s story, and after decades of research, produced the first authenticated edition of the book in 1968.

jtip breifing wideIt isn’t often that all five FTS country directors are in the same place at the same time.

But it happened last week in Washington, as our overseas staff briefed the U.S. State Department’s “J/TIP” anti-trafficking team.

The presentation was called “Innovations on the Front Lines of Slavery.”

The briefing began with DRC Country Director Jack Kahorha, who described how FTS conducts field research in order to develop anti-trafficking programs that are customized for each country.

The research goal is to uncover the “types, nature and scale of slavery,” he explained, and then “analyze the characteristics of vulnerability” that cause people to become enslaved.

FTS Congo Country Direc tor Jack Kahorha

FTS Congo Country Director Jack Kahorha (right)

Ghana County director Joha Braimah came next, explaining that Free the Slaves approaches the challenge of changing local acceptance of slavery by awakening community members to the fact that slavery is illegal and can be overcome through collective action. “The FTS model is not to dole out money,” he said, “but we strive to find committed individuals in the community who want to act as agents of change.”

Haiti Country Director Smith Maximé picked up on this theme, outlining how raising community awareness of child slavery causes parents to shift their thinking about sending children away from home to be domestic servants. “Community members start to think of children as rights holders to protect and respect,” he said.

In India, explained FTS South Asia Director Supriya Awasthi, the model of “psychological empowerment” is working. Not only do villagers take action to free themselves, but they begin to work toward freeing others in neighboring villages as well. “Once they become organized, the freedom becomes contagious,” she said. “They are not just sustaining their own freedom, but they’re also freeing others.”

supriya jtip tight

FTS South Asia Director Supriya Awasthi

Nepal Country Director Neelam Sharma concluded by noting that the FTS community empowerment model not only helps people in slavery to break free. It also helps prevent others from taking their place. By providing schooling for children and vocational training for adults, people “gain power,” she said. “There is less risk to be enslaved.”

FTS Executive Director Maurice Middleberg explained that the  various elements fit together into a comprehensive approach to combat slavery directly on the front lines: “There is a change process at the community level that is at the heart of the model.”

The State Dept. provides vital funding for FTS projects in several countries, and the department’s top anti-trafficking official, Ambassador Luis CdeBaca, thanked the country directors for their in-person updates. He noted that portraits of great abolitionists in history hang on the walls of his office, and that he sees the work of anti-slavery activists today as following in their footsteps. This is a “universal and timeless struggle,” he said.

report covers side by sideTwo new FTS field investigations are now available on our website in both French and English.

The two reports break new ground in understanding the scope and impact of slavery in the Democratic Republic of the Congo.

Congo’s Mining Slaves provides new evidence of widespread slavery at mining sites in Congo’s South Kivu Province.

Wives in Slavery uncovers the impact of forced-marriage slavery on girls and women in eastern Congo, through the firsthand accounts of forced marriage victims and survivors.

The two reports provide important research findings for those working to improve human rights in eastern Congo’s conflict zone, as well as presenting recommendations to confront and overcome slavery in the DRC.

Both reports are available on the Free the Slaves Congo webpage.

A Thank You to End It Campaign

END_IT_logo 2We received terrific news today from our friends at the End It Movement, as they wrap up their campaign.

From January 1 through April 9, young activists mobilized across the country to shine a light on modern-day slavery.  They raised awareness on a large scale and helped generate significant resources to support the anti-slavery movement.  The results achieved in only a few months are remarkable.

A video about the End It campaign can be found here.

The End It campaign is a wonderful example of solidarity and partnership across the anti-slavery movement.  Working together, we can all do more to eradicate slavery.

The campaign is also a testament to faith – faith that people of good will can and will join hands to protect and liberate the most vulnerable.

Once again, I am reminded that though the problem of slavery is shocking, the work of freedom is joyous. The building of a global coalition against slavery – of which the End It campaign is symbol – is heartening and inspiring.

What the campaign organizers have accomplished – and all those who volunteered and donated – is truly remarkable.

You can add your voice by going to the Free the Slaves donation page.