Human Trafficking Month Resources

Over the past few weeks, I have been involved in a campaign initiated by Vicki Davis (an award winning education blogger aka @coolcatteacher on Twitter) to raise awareness about the issue of modern slavery. Vicki asked educators to blog or tweet once each day during the winter break from school to help end modern slavery.

I enthusastically joined her campaign, and in the process I have learned a great deal.  In this post, I would like to offer some resources that may be helpful to you as you address the issue of human trafficking.

Recently three organizations working to abolish slavery received an 11.5 million dollars from Google to aid their efforts. Each organization takes a slightly different approach to the fight. The International Justice Mission is a Washington DC based human rights agency that  works to rescue victims of slavery and sexual exploitation in about 12 different countries. The Polaris Project and The Slavery Footprint work together in the US Human Trafficking Initiative. the Polaris offers a Human Trafficking Resource hotline, and the Slavery Footprint offers a great interactive website so people can learn how their lifestyle depends on slave labor.

Educator Larry Ferlazzo has compiled a great list of resources that will be useful to anyone interested in learning more about modern slavery. The CNN Freedom Project is an anti-slavery campaign that was launched in March 2011. They report that 2000 people have been freed so far through their efforts.  Their website has many useful resources. ABC also reported extensively on child slavery  in the summer of 2008. Their news reports inspired my initial interest in abolition, and  although some of the links on this page are no longer active there are still some that might be helpful to you.

My book suggestions to learn more about modern slavery include the following:

A Crime So Monstrous by E. Benjamin Skinner–This book by a journalist was published in 2008 and is really a foundational book for anyone who wants to learn more about modern slavery. Many rave reviews.

Be the Change:Your Guide to Freeing Slaves and Changing the World  by Zach Hunter — The author of this book is a college student and a well known public speaker on the topic of abolition. He has been an abolitionist since age 12 and wrote this book as a teenager.

Sold by Patricia Mc Cormick- This novel about a 13 year old girl from Nepal sold into prostitution by her step-father was a finalist for the National Book Award. It is recommended for grade 9 and up.

The General Board of Church and Society of the United Methodist Church has some church specific resources posted on their website. These include bulletin inserts, official church resolutions, small group study resources, current legislative actions, and links to other Christian abolition resources.

President Obama has declared January to be Human Trafficking month; and the United Methodist Church designates January 11th as Human Trafficking Day.  Although I am posting this information on January 6th,  human trafficking education, advocacy, and preaching is appropriate on many different occasions. It can be easily integrated into the curriculum of a high school English class (see this great unit plan for a high school English class and my post on “Teens Stand Up Against Slavery”) and into preaching (there are  many scripture passages that could be useful for this) at various times of the year.

It is my prayer and my hope that educators and pastors will work together to bring awareness to this continuing human tragedy. Together we are a powerful force.

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Filed under Abolition, Education, United Methodist

“A More Equitable Salary” Petition to General Conference

Here is a petition I have submitted to the 2012 General Conference of the United Methodist Church.  

           A More Equitable Salary 5 (2) LINK HERE

If this petition is adopted, I believe it will transform the culture of our denomination dramatically.  I believe it will do the following:

1) Change the way our bishops and cabinets appoint clergy to local congregations by removing money from consideration in appointment making

2)  Allow the appointment of new clergy to healthy, thriving churches and the appointment of experienced clergy to struggling congregations

3) Allow all clergy to provide adequately for their family needs and protect clergy from the danger of riches (as Wesley would say)

4) Eliminate the “ladder of success” mentality that currently afflicts the spiritual health and integrity of our community.

5) Restore a sense of community among clergy who are now forced to be competitive with one another

7) Support salaries of pastors in areas where the church serves the poor such as in our central conferences

8) Serve as a CHRISTIAN witness to corporate America and

MOST importantly the adoption of this petition will BRING OUR CHURCH INTO CONFORMITY WITH THE SCRIPTURE (1 Timothy 5:17-18) with regard to our use of money.

Since I have submitted this petition as an individual to the General Conference, I am concerned that it might quietly become lost in the Finance/Administrative Committee. I am hoping that social media will help to bring this petition to a wider audience and will aid it’s passage. I consulted with my bishop as I drafted this petition in order to assure it’s constitutionality, and the petition DOES have some significant support from bishops in Africa, who assure me they will promote it among their delegates. Since MORE than 40% of 2012 delegates will be from central conferences, I believe that this proposal may be adopted if some delegates in the United States choose to support it as well.

So, I am inviting your discussion here. Please offer your concerns, and questions in the comments on this blog; and share this post with others (especially delegates), so this idea will receive the attention I believe it deserves.

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Filed under Bible, Christianity, CTA, General Conference, United Methodist

An Unlikely Hero Rescues Slaves in Nepal

When I discovered this  interview of the 15 year old abolitionist Zach Hunter by Robin Roberts on  Good Morning America, I was STAGGERED by Zach’s claim  that there are 27 million slaves in the world today.  In order to come to grips with this astounding  figure, I immersed myself in learning more by continuing to watch the extensive ABC video archive reports about modern slavery.  Although my research was spurred by a 17 year old student’s question in the American literature class I was teaching (see my previous post); this was something I needed to do for myself.  I was diving deep. Deeper than I could take my students. I was trying to assimilate the incomprehensible.  So, I watched the horrifying news reports of children being sold, abused, and exploited.

According to my rather conservative, prudish standards, most of the videos I watched were not suitable for use in school–even for 11th graders.  To deal with my student’s question, I finally decided to show my class the GMA interview with Zach Hunter; but I considered showing another video as well.  It tells the story of an 82 year old American woman who has found a fairly simple way to rescue child slaves in Nepal. In fact, she is eradicating slavery in entire villages.  Although time constraints prevented me from showing this news report to my class, I find that it continues to inspire me in my personal attempt to make a difference.

Please ignore the irritating commercial at the beginning, and watch the video on the following link. The report is only 3 minutes and 11 seconds, and it  is well worth your time. It will also help you understand why the picture of a goat heads this post.

http://cdnapi.kaltura.com/index.php/kwidget/wid/0_ag64o5yp/uiconf_id/6501241

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Filed under Abolition, Education, Public Schools

Teens Stand Up as Abolitionists

Two years ago, when I was teaching 11th grade English, my students were discussing The Interesting Narrative of the Life of Olaudah Equiano , a slave narrative. The excerpt we were discussing described the terrible voyage of Equiano to America on a slave ship as a young African captive in the 18th century.  One of my 17 year old  students blurted out a comment, saying,

“I don’t understand slavery. I mean, how could people be so cruel to one another?”

I spontaneously replied,

“Oh, there has always been slavery. It has existed throughout history. It existed in ancient times. We read about it in the Bible during the time of Moses. We read about it in the New Testament in the writings of St. Paul, and we even see it in the world today. It has never been totally abolished.”

I was rather startled at my own response, and I think I startled my students as well. So that evening, when I got home, I began to investigate modern  slavery more thoroughly. I discovered a wealth of information.  There are numerous books on the topic. http://www.amazon.com/Crime-Monstrous-Face—Face-Modern-Day/dp/0743290089/ref=sr_1_2?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1325079106&sr=1-2 But for a quick understanding of the reality, I turned to  ABC News online. They  had recently spent a week reporting on How to  Buy a Child and there were numerous videos posted showing how disturbingly easy it was for one of their reporters to purchase a Haitian girl for less than the cost of a television! (Unfortunately these no longer seem to be available at their website.)

The real prize, however was this video of Good Morning America’s Robin Roberts interviewing a 15 year old teenager named Zach Hunter who has taken up the cause of modern slavery.

http://abcnews.go.com/GMA/video/fifteen-year-tackles-slavery-2953597

Zach said that according to Amnesty International, there are more than 27 million slaves in the world today—more than at any other time in human history! (I have since heard other figures ranging from 27-32 million.) I  modified my lesson plans for the next day and decided to show my students this interview with Zach instead.  A few days later, I was delighted to learn that our school not only had an Amnesty International Club, but we also  had a chapter of Zach’s non-profit organization, Loose Change to Loosen Chains. I encouraged my students to check out these extra-curricular activities, and several chose to do so.

Later in the year, I was able to incorporate this real life issue into our curriculum as we studied the writings of another abolitionist, Henry David Thoreau. For that unit, I asked my students to keep a journal (as Thoreau did); and one of the options they had for a journal reflection was to attend a meeting of the Loose Change to Loosen Chains chapter at our school and write about what they learned from attending.

As a teacher of American literature, I find that students often question the relevance of the literature they are required to study.  Sadly, the topic  of slavery is not an irrelevant issue in today’s English classroom.   But if teachers and students begin to recognize that slavery is a contemporary reality, perhaps it WILL become a blessedly irrelevant topic.  I long for that day.

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Filed under Abolition, Education, United Methodist

Cross-pollination

I am finally blogging! I have been an avid tweeter for about two years now, and I find Twitter to be an amazing tool for professional development, amusement, staying current with the latest news, and even a bit of social networking. I tweet primarily with Christians (mostly United Methodists, but a few strays too), educators, and techies; and I try to tweet or retweet information that I hope will be interesting across these disciplines.  I am sure that my religious tweets are sometimes a bit distracting to the educators, and my education focused tweets seem irrelevant to my Christian tweeps; but I hope they are sometimes useful as well. Despite the separation of church and state, I think we should be learning from one another and listening to words of wisdom from each other. Cross-pollination may lead to the creation of new ideas.

Twitter has, and will continue to be a great tool for me. But I have repeatedly found that there are occasions when 140 characters are inadequate to express my views.  So I am taking up blogging to fill that gap.  There are some topics that I am very passionate about, such as the United Methodist Council of Bishop’s Call To Action, my petition to the 2012 General Conference entitled “A More Equitable Salary”, education reform, on-line learning, the seeming taboo of the Bible in public schools, the elimination of extreme poverty, literacy and reading, racism, sexism, and the modern abolition movement. I would like to use this blog to speak in more depth on these topics. But in addition to just speaking, or writing about my own view, I hope that this blog will become a forum for discussion. So I invite you to comment, and join the conversation as well.

I look forward to this new adventure, and I welcome you to this journey.

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Filed under Blogging