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Josh Koepp organized the Loyola event | Photo: FTS/ Grossoehme

This week, a Free the Slaves college chapter held a candlelight vigil called “Hope Rising” to honor victims and survivors of human trafficking.

Students at Loyola University Chicago gathered in a circle on a snowy night outside the central hub of their campus.

As candles were passed around, Josh Koepp, a junior at the university and the event coordinator stressed the importance of spreading awareness on human trafficking. 

Then, guest Kathy Bryan, a sex trafficking victim, shared her story. Kathy was 16 when she began to date a man in her neighborhood.

“All the things you’d want a boyfriend to do he was doing,” she said.

But after eight months her boyfriend deceived her.

Kathy Bryan (left) and Shamere McKenzie | Photo: FTS/Grossoehme

Kathy Bryan (left) and Shamere McKenzie | Photo: FTS/Grossoehme

Under threat of harming her sister, Kathy was trafficked for sex three to five nights a week. This continued for two years.

“I tell my story not for shock value.” she said, “but so that people know there’s not one person this cannot happen to—not one person. It’s not about sex. It’s about power, control and greed.”

As Kathy’s story came to a close, the candles around the circle were lit.

A moment of silence was taken in honor of human trafficking victims and survivors around the world.

Shamere McKenzie, a senior at Loyola University and a sex trafficking survivor herself, ended the ceremony with a compelling message.

The depth of human trafficking can be depressing and overwhelming, Shamere said, but there is hope and it is our job to spread it.

Shamere McKenzie is an American survivor of modern day slavery. Hear her speak at Loyola University New Orleans tomorrow, October 4.

Shamere McKenzie is an American survivor of modern-day slavery. She gave a stirring speech at the 2010 Freedom Awards, in support of her friend and mentor Tina Frundt (a survivor of child sex trafficking, who won the Fredrick Douglass award for her tireless activism against slavery).

If you’re in the New Orleans area, you’ll get a chance to see Shamere, because she’ll be speaking at Loyola University New Orleans! The event is open to the public. If you’re interested in attending, contact Dr. Laura Murphy—who happens to be an English professor, anti-slavery activist, and Free the Slaves’ student chapter coordinator.

Here are the details about the event, titled “Human Trafficking in the U.S.”

Date: Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Time: 6:30 pm to 8:00 pm

Contact: Dr. Laura Murphy · lmurphy@loyno.edu · 865-2152

Location: Miller Hall, room 114

Find out more about Shamere McKenzie here.
Thanks, Laura, for putting this event together! And thank you, Shamere, for speaking out about slavery, and sharing your experience with the world—and for rocking the Free the Slaves “Slavery Sucks” t-shirt!

Watch the 2010 Freedom Awards!

The beautiful Shamere McKenzie, an American survivor of modern-day slavery, presenting the 2010 Fredrick Douglass Freedom Award to mentor and fellow slavery survivor Tina Frundt.

Last weekend, Halogen TV premiered the 2010 Freedom Awards. We live tweeted and watched the broadcast along with the rest of you—it was just as inspiring and exciting to relive as it was to experience first hand. (I got to see what I looked like on camera, as I accepted my Zimmerman Fellowship—that part was not so fun. But I was once again moved to tears watching2010 award winners JEEVIKA, Roger Plant, Tina Frundt and 2008 winner James Kofi Annan stand on stage and speak about freedom.)

Watch Demi Moore, Ashton Kutcher, Forest Whitaker, Mad Men’s Vincent Kartheiser, actor Eric Balfour and other stars and activists on the Freedom Awards red carpet!

If you missed it, you can now watch the show at your leisure, because here it is, below, in its entirety! Scroll down for the footage from the Freedom Rocks, the anti-slavery movement’s best after party featuring Jason Mraz, the Makepeace Brothers, Luc and the Lovingtons, and Ghanaian reggae superstar, and current NAACP Image Award nominee Rocky Dawuni.