Voices - Modern Abolition

Modern Abolition

Wednesday, July 22, 2015 - 3:26pm

Freedom Center’s Hathaway debunks myths about human trafficking

Brooke Hathaway, manager of anti-trafficking programs for the National Underground Railroad Freedom Center, recently wrote a post published on the International Human Trafficking Institute’s website addressing myths about modern-day human trafficking.

Hathaway is also the executive director of End Slavery Now, which advocates for awareness of human trafficking and seeks to inspire everyone to take the courageous steps against slavery today.

In the post, she calls out sensationalist social media posts for perpetuating the myths that trafficking is a crime of kidnapping, that trafficking is an impulsive crime, and that middle-class women and girls are the most vulnerable.

On the contrary, Hathaway explains, human trafficking is much more commonly based on trusting relationships between the trafficker and victim, which develop purposefully over time, and it disproportionately affects minorities and disadvantaged groups.

“While interest in human trafficking demonstrates growing awareness about the issue, it does not translate to any increased understanding of the human pain and tragedy,” she cautions, encouraging readers to gain deeper knowledge about the realities of trafficking. “Consequently, it does not result in any change in individuals’ behaviors or attitudes.”

Click here to read Hathaway’s piece and to watch an interview with her about these myths.

Elizabeth Cychosz 
Marketing and Communications Intern

Photo: Freedom Center Manager of Anti-Trafficking Programs Brooke Hathaway. Provided.

Related Content:  Invisible: Slavery Today

More authored by Elizabeth: Mason man recalls Tiananmen SquareDr. Newsome speaks at international conference in ParisWarren County Underground Railroad station honored with historical markerNHL selects first Chinese player14th Amendment Ratified on this Day, 1868,Former Auschwitz guard sentencedHonor Nelson Mandela this Sat with 67 min of service

Tuesday, July 21, 2015 - 12:26pm

OH Human Trafficking Task Force makes recommendations

Ohio plans to further improve services for victims of trafficking, the Ohio Human Trafficking Task Force announced in a report on Monday, July 20.

At the top of the priority list: faster access for victims to recovery services like shelters or drug treatments.

The report also outlines plans to increase public awareness and police access to information about tracking human trafficking, as well as a legal path for victims to have their records expunged of charges that came about as a result of being forced into the sex trade.

“Ohio’s progress in combating trafficking is both exciting and sobering,” wrote Ohio’s Anti-Trafficking Coordinator Elizabeth Ranade Janis in the introduction to the report. “More victims have access to justice and more offenders are being punished... However these efforts confirm what advocates already know—more victims will come out of the shadows of exploitation, more intensive law enforcement investigations will be necessary to lock up traffickers, and more trauma-informed care will need to be made available for survivors.”

The recommendations will be implemented by state-level and county-level departments and officials, like the Department of Medicaid, the Attorney General’s Office, and the Department of Job and Family Services.

Three years ago, the task force made 26 other recommendations, almost all of which have been put into place by now. For example, in 2012 the state penalty for human trafficking was upgraded to a first-degree felony, which can come with up to 15 years in prison.

The report estimates roughly one thousand children – mostly young girls between 13 and 18 years of age – are forced into sex trafficking in Ohio each year. Other victims might be forced into sweatshop-like jobs.

Join the National Underground Railroad Freedom Center this Thursday at 3 p.m. for a gallery talk on modern-day human trafficking with representatives from End Slavery Now.

Elizabeth Cychosz 
Marketing and Communications Intern

Related Content:  Invisible: Slavery Today

More authored by Elizabeth: Mason man recalls Tiananmen SquareDr. Newsome speaks at international conference in ParisWarren County Underground Railroad station honored with historical markerNHL selects first Chinese player14th Amendment Ratified on this Day, 1868, Former Auschwitz guard sentenced, Honor Nelson Mandela this Sat with 67 min of service

Wednesday, July 15, 2015 - 11:28am

Honor Nelson Mandela this Sat with 67 min of service

This Saturday, July 18, the United Nations and the Nelson Mandela Foundation honor the equal rights activist Nelson Mandela (1918-2013) during Nelson Mandela International Day.

In 1991, Mandela became the first democratically elected president of a free South Africa after working for decades toward an end to the injustices and inequalities perpetuated by apartheid (1948-1991), a set of laws that segregated the majority nonwhite South Africans from their white counterparts.

He is also known for being a human rights lawyer, a prisoner of conscience and an international peacemaker. He helped found the Youth League of the African National Congress in 1944 and in 1994 jointly won the Nobel Peace Prize with former South African President Frederik Willem de Klerk “for their work for the peaceful termination of the apartheid regime, and for laying the foundations for a new democratic South Africa.”

Mandela’s tireless work and many sacrifices in the pursuit of freedom and equality for all in South Africa have been inspirational to generations of activists. Take the time this Saturday to honor the call of Nelson Mandela International Day to dedicate 67 minutes of time to helping others in the same way Mandela served humanity for 67 years.

Elizabeth Cychosz 
Marketing and Communications Intern

Photo: Nelson Mandela smiles in front of the South African flag. (Source: http://www.pbs.org/newshour/rundown/viewers-guide-to-mandelas-funeral-an...)

Related Content:  Unlocking the Gates of Auschwitz 70 Years Later

More authored by Elizabeth: Mason man recalls Tiananmen SquareDr. Newsome speaks at international conference in ParisWarren County Underground Railroad station honored with historical markerNHL selects first Chinese player14th Amendment Ratified on this Day, 1868

Wednesday, July 15, 2015 - 10:50am

Former Auschwitz guard sentenced

This Wednesday, July 15, former Auschwitz guard Oskar Gröning was sentenced to four years in prison for being an accessory to the deaths of 300,000 people in “what could be one of the last big Holocaust trials.” The 94-year-old German has been on trial in the northern German city of Lüneburg since April.

The death camp at Auschwitz-Birkenau in Nazi-occupied Poland claimed the lives of 1.1 million people, mostly Jews, during its operation from 1942 to 1945. Gröning’s trial focused mostly on the period from May to July 1944, during which 137 trains brought 425,000 people to Auschwitz and at least 300,000 were killed in the gas chambers.

During the trial proceedings, Gröning testified that he sorted through the belongings of arriving Jews after they went through the selection process that ended with many being sent to their deaths in the gas chambers. His task was to find valuables, particularly banknotes, to help fund the Nazi regime.

The trial speaks to a question that courts have grappled with since the end of the Second World War: how much guilt the legal system can place on people who acted as small cogs within massive human rights violations like the Holocaust. In 2011, German courts set a precedent that death camp guards can be charged as an accessory to murders committed there, even if that guard is not linked to any specific death. Gröning said he accepts moral guilt but said early on in the trial that he would leave it up to the court to decide his legal guilt.

Earlier this year, the Freedom Center hosted Unlocking the Gates of Auschwitz 70 Years Later, which featured the stories of two survivors of the death camp: Werner Coppel and Bella Ouziel. Auschwitz’s history of systemic and organized genocide provides a start warning and call to action for those today to stand up against injustice, inhumanity and genocide.

Elizabeth Cychosz 
Marketing and Communications Intern

Related Content:  Unlocking the Gates of Auschwitz 70 Years Later

More authored by Elizabeth: Mason man recalls Tiananmen SquareDr. Newsome speaks at international conference in ParisWarren County Underground Railroad station honored with historical markerNHL selects first Chinese player, 14th Amendment Ratified on this Day, 1868


Thursday, October 16, 2014 - 12:00am

Young, Powerful and Influential: How Malala Yousafzai is Changing the World

Earlier this month, Malala Yousafzai made history as the youngest Nobel Peace Prize Winner ever at age 17. Yousafzai is a Pakistani activist for female education rights and has been engaged in activist work since she was only 11 years old!  She began by writing blogs for the BBC about her life under Taliban rule and her views on the importance of education for girls all over the world but especially in her country. After Yousafzai was profiled in a New York Times documentary, she rose to fame as a speaker promoting education for girls in the Swat Valley of Pakistan. Tragically, as Yousafzai was headed to school one morning, she was shot in the face by a gunman and remained in critical condition for several months. After rehabilitation, Yousafzai was healthy enough to continue her activist work, giving speeches and interviews for women’s education rights and her tragic story provided even more impetus for people to believe in and support her cause. What was called an assassination attempt on Yousafzai’s life caused the United Nations to launch a campaign calling for the education of all children worldwide and eventually led to Pakistan’s first Right to Education Bill.

Yousafzai has won numerous awards in addition to her most recent Nobel Peace Prize including being named one of Time Magazine’s “100 Most Influential People in the World” in 2013. Her story is one of inspiration, courage and perseverance. Yousafzai believed in her cause and did whatever she could to get her message out there. As a young girl, she may have thought that there was nothing she could do or that no one would listen to her message but even a small action such as writing a blog entry led to bigger and bigger platforms for her to advocate for equal educational opportunities for all children. Malala Yousafzai’s story proves that anyone and everyone has the power to fight for change and inclusive freedom for people all over the world. 


Brittany Vernon, IMLS Coca Cola Museum Studies Apprentice

Image: Malala Yousafzai, The Vancouver Sun.

Wednesday, September 24, 2014 - 1:31pm

A Day in the Life of a Museum Apprentice

As an museum apprentice at the National Underground Railroad Freedom Center, one part of my job is to go through the museum every day to make sure every single aspect of each exhibition is functioning, undamaged and ready for a day of visitor interaction. I carefully walk into each exhibition as if I am visiting the museum for the first time, looking at every text panel, listening to all of the audio panels, manipulating all of the interactive displays and watching a small bit of each film. As I check items off on my list, I sometimes get quizzical looks from visitors wondering about my curious behavior. To be honest, if I wasn’t the one doing my job I would also find it strange to see someone pressing every single button and looking so closely at displays. But I try to normalize the experience for the people around me by explaining what I’m doing, and that is usually met with praise and awe that I’m lucky enough to explore our awesome exhibits every day.

Another aspect of daily museum walkthroughs is collecting the surveys from the Invisible: Slavery Today exhibition and the guest book reflections from the And Still We Rise exhibition. Every question, comment or concern gets read by me and entered into our records every day. In And Still We Rise, many people commented in hopes that the exhibit could travel to other states and now that it’s run here at the Freedom Center has ended, I am happy to say it is currently traveling all across the country on a two-year tour! In Invisible: Slavery Today, many commenters reflect on the surprising facts of modern day slavery that make them want to become involved as an abolitionist- so great news! There are now updated fact sheets at the end of the gallery and a new website, which list ways you can get involved.

Every visitor and all feedback is extremely appreciated and helpful in determining the future of our exhibitions so please continue to visit and let us know what you think!

-Brittany Vernon, IMLS Coca Cola Museum Studies Apprentice

Image: A shot of the new Freedom Center exhibition, Foto Focus: New Voices.

Tuesday, August 26, 2014 - 4:13pm

Freedom Center Voices: Meet Gina Armstrong

Now that I've been at the Freedom Center for almost a year, regaling you with exciting behind-the-scenes tales of collections and exhibits, it's time to introduce myself.

 Gina Armstrong in front of David Turnley's photo of Nelson Mandela.I'm Gina Armstrong, one of the IMLS Coca-Cola Museum Studies Apprentices at the Freedom Center. I come to the Freedom Center fresh off a masters of library and information studies (MLIS), with an archival concentration, at the University of Alabama. Your next question is probably "How did you get from Alabama to Cincinnati? How did you even know about the National Underground Railroad Freedom Center?" Excellent questions. I have long been a social justice advocate, and spent my practicum time in graduate school working with the archives at the Birmingham Civil Rights Institute. The longing for freedom is just in my blood, I guess. I also have a longtime friend who has lived in the area for close to 20 years, so I'd been to visit the Freedom Center a couple of times before learning of the apprenticeship and applying.

As an archivist, my primary interest is in the artifacts themselves -- "the stuff," as I like to call it. With my information background, I want to make sure that the artifacts are stored, cataloged, and described in the best way to make them easy to access, both for visitors and staff. I've long been an obsessive list-maker and user of databases, so cataloging and describing material comes naturally to me and makes me happy in the best nerdy way.

Outside of work, I am a voracious reader, a fan of punk and '80s music, and a rabid fan of the New Orleans Saints. It will also come as no shock that New Orleans is my favorite city in the country, if not the world. I am a inveterate traveller, and I've been all over the U.S., to Brazil and Zimbabwe on service trips, Great Britain on study and pleasure trips several times, Germany a few times on visits with friends and pleasure trips, and Italy, Peru, and Paris for pure pleasure. It will perhaps not be very surprising that I'd like to visit the three other continents I've never seen.

I'm excited to continue my apprenticeship at the National Underground Railroad Freedom Center for the next 12 months, learning more and more about museum work while fulfilling my passion for "the stuff."


-Gina Armstrong, IMLS Coca Cola Museum Studies Apprentice 

Image: Gina Armstrong inside Senzeni Na? Selected Photos from Mandela! Struggle and Triumph

Monday, August 4, 2014 - 12:00am

Youth Action Against Modern-Day Slavery

You have raised my awareness…now what? One of biggest frustrations in the anti-trafficking movement is the idea that we, particularly youth and young adults, can’t do anything to significantly influence the fight against modern-day slavery. Our choice is either to do nothing – sinking into despair thinking we’re powerless – or to do what we can with what we have where we are. Every experience and decision leads to a different pathway, and these small life choices and acts build towards a bigger goal and vision. You may not be the CEO of an NGO or a globe-trotting emancipator, but you matter. Your efforts will make a difference.


Learn More

The first and most important action you can take is to become well-versed in the subject; dig a bit deeper after your introduction to the issue of human trafficking. There’s misinformation out there, and it is crucial that you separate the myths from the realities. In doing so, you avoid tunnel vision and truly get a better idea of how multi-faceted trafficking is. Additionally, through the education process, you’ll become familiar with major stakeholders and reliable sources of information; as a result, you’ll strengthen your ability to direct others to accurate information. Your authority to engage others in the subject and the anti-trafficking movement’s credibility hinges on this knowledge base.

Learning is not limited to books and online research. Attend events such as the Trafficking in Persons Heroes Reception hosted at the Freedom Center every year. Find a World Affairs Council near you (there’s one in Cincinnati!) and join in on one of their conference calls. A recent call featured Luis CdeBaca, U.S. Ambassador-at-Large to Monitor and Combat Trafficking in Persons.

Buy Fair Trade

Change starts with the individual, and other than learning more, another personal endeavor is to re-examine how our consumer choices feed the cycle of enslavement. Slave-made products are all around us, and yes, at this time it might be impossible to only purchase fair trade products. However, we can still make small advances towards promoting and supporting ethically-made goods. It starts with the following question: what do I really need to have, and what is a luxury item? For me, the answer is chocolate. I love it, but honestly, it’s a treat that I can live without. It’s the one item that I’ve pledged to buy only if it is free of slave labor. So, instead of grabbing candy every time I go to the grocery store, I save up and buy chocolate at a local fair trade shop.

Practicing this type of consumer activity is an exercise of mindfulness and gratitude. It makes us reflect on what we have, what we truly need and the implications of our purchases.

Learn more about fair trade here, and find a fair trade store near you.


Fair trade stores aren’t the only organizations looking to end modern-day slavery, and buying items isn’t the only way to financially support anti-trafficking work. There are a lot of NGOs and nonprofits that run much-needed programs, from investigation to reintegration. However, these organizations require funding. Many of them have individual fundraising pages. Ideas include marathons (5K runs for charity), garage sales, silent auctions and restaurant nights. Here’s a list of restaurants that donate a portion of proceeds during fundraising nights.

Volunteer/Intern Locally

Fundraising is one way to get directly connected with organizations fighting trafficking. Volunteering and interning locally are also ways to get involved. Direct volunteers (i.e., those who personally interact with clients) are usually 18 or older, but there are other roles to fill as well. The End Slavery Now Directory of Organizations can help you find groups in your area; in Cincinnati, there are several that address different aspects of human trafficking. Visit End Slavery Cincinnati, Ten Thousand Villages, Jean R. Cadet Restavek Organization, Restavek Freedom Foundation, Stop Traffick Fashion and Cincinnati Union Bethel to learn about their initiatives. Also, check out organizations that are not exclusively for trafficked persons. Detox houses, domestic abuse centers and shelters for minors often have volunteer opportunities. These are places that often serve trafficking survivors.

Volunteer/Intern Abroad

If you have a heart for serving but want to take that to the international level, check out Crossroads’ mission trip to India or Half the Sky Movement’s openings. End Slavery Now’s Antislavery Partners usually have a variety of volunteer and internship opportunities abroad.

Volunteer/Intern Virtually

You don’t have to leave the comfort of your home to help organizations. The U.S. State Department hires virtual student foreign service e-interns, and the United Nations has online volunteering opportunities.

Initiate a School Campaign

While volunteering or interning with organizations, you’ll find that there’s still an immense need for more people to get involved. You can be a recruiter and encourage others to take part in these anti-slavery efforts. Counselors, administrators and parents are always telling us to get involved in school. Starting a campaign against trafficking is a way to engage your school community in the conversation, and it will also help you develop communication and management skills. Campaign ideas include a simulation, play or film screening.

Who knows? Your school might already have an anti-slavery organization that could co-sponsor an event. If so, check out The Free Project and be part of the network of students striving to end slavery.

Host a Speaker

Campaign organizers often find it beneficial to host speakers or facilitate panel discussions. A passionate and knowledgeable speaker can move people and incite thought and conversation. There are a multitude of survivors, advocates and experts willing to share their work and their stories. Head to End Slavery Now’s list of Antislavery Partners and see which organizations have speakers on deck. International Justice Mission, for example, has a variety of experts that can talk about a wide range of topics – from justice operations to strategic initiatives.

Be a Speaker

You are also qualified to talk about human trafficking. We cannot negate the value of including kids in the conversation, and you can be the one to start that partnership. Most curricula in elementary, middle and high schools include a section on chattel slavery. These required class lectures are chances to introduce students to 21st century slavery in an age-appropriate manner. Give an overview of the situation, and ask questions that make them think. We build strong communities – and for that matter, strong anti-human trafficking communities – when we approach everyone in society. Each person, no matter how young or old, has something to contribute. Establish those ties by leading stimulating discussions, motivating others to become global citizens and cultivating the next generation of thinkers and problem-solvers.

Talent Show

Sometimes, we’d prefer to talk less and express more. Organizing or participating in a talent show is another way to raise awareness and give a voice to the anti-human trafficking cause. A talent showcase can include artwork, slam poetry, music and dance. There are several anti-human trafficking inspired pieces. Take a look at artwork from Artworks for Freedom, listen to this poem from the Polaris Project and check out these music videos  from MTV EXIT. The point is not to sensationalize or trivialize human trafficking but to express the truths about it through various methods.

Develop an App or Virtual Tour

There’s no limit to the ways in which you can creatively involve others in the anti-slavery dialogue. If you enjoy coding, programming or designing, consider creating an app or virtual tour related to human trafficking. You can develop something as complex as Slavery Footprint or create a virtual tour on YouTube (e.g.., have a progressive set of videos where viewers can learn about anti-trafficking laws and their outcomes).

Conduct Research

You can always explore fresh and innovative ways to contribute to human trafficking content, but remember that academic research is also necessary. Modern-day slavery only started to gain attention a few years ago, and there’s a dearth of rigorous and useful research material. Potential thesis topics could address human trafficking and its relationship to local law enforcement, state legislation, culture, global climate change, nationalism, foreign policy relations, economic sanctions, human development, etc.


If you like to write, research isn’t the only way to utilize this skill. You can write an op-ed or send a letter to your state representatives. Write encouraging letters to organizations helping trafficked persons or make cards for their clients. Be that positive light. No matter what role or sector someone is in, anti-human trafficking work is exhausting; there will be moments of discouragement and failure. Your contribution might be to lift people up with words of reassurance, reminders of success stories and cheers of inspirations.

Everyone has a different calling in life, and there are different levels of involvement. Given the options you can take, go confidently in the direction you choose and realize that you are an abolitionist. Take a look at the work of some young abolitionists:

·         Middle and high school students around the world have been fundraising for The A21 Campaign.

·         Read about Ellie Zika. She founded KidKnits at age nine out of a desire to promote fair labor and education in Rwanda.

·         Watch a preview of The Arts Effect NYC’s play on sex trafficking and the commercial sex trade.

Now, it’s your turn. Be a source of hope wherever you are and know that there are others fighting human trafficking along with you.

Post written by Cazzie Reyes, Contemporary Slavery Intern during Summer 2014. Cazzie is from Bradley University in Peroria, Illinois.

Image: Fair-trade chocolate, Nico Nelson.

Tuesday, May 6, 2014 - 12:00am

A Call For Action

Bring Back Our Girls

By now, you all are aware of the horrific kidnappings that took place in Nigeria on April 15. It is now estimated that 200-300 young women were taken from the Chibok Government Girls Secondary school by Muslim extremist group, Boko Haram, whose name means “Western education is a sin.”

Although Nigeria has Africa’s largest economy, poverty and lack of education continues to plague its people. Economic insecurity has created fertile ground for outside extremist groups like the Boko Haram to take root and prey on the region’s youth, constantly surging communities with terrorist attacks. But the kidnappings also have darker and more sinister implications on the everyday lives and freedoms of the girls and women in Nigeria.

In a video released to the French media earlier this week, Boko Haram leader Abubakar Shekau stated that their intent was to sell the young women at $12 a person, to become “wives” to men in neighboring countries. This is a blatant attack on their personal civil liberties and freedoms. These groups, operating under the guise of military men, invade these communities to sell and trade human beings as cargo. Men, women and children in the region live in a constant state of fear and worry simply because they are intent on providing their children an education and experiences that will give them a better quality of life. 

Stand Up and Speak Out

As a nation of people who understand the high price of and struggle for freedom and equality, I am calling you to speak up. I call you to educate your communities on the dangers of human trafficking and modern slavery. I call you to be champions of freedom and stand with our President and our nation’s leaders to demand that the Nigerian government take immediate action. For assistance and resources to help you get involved, please visit Bring Back Our Girls to stay connected. Join us in our efforts to eradicate human trafficking and modern day slavery.

Many have already made the call for action. How will you answer the call? #BringBackOurGirls!

-Dr. Clarence G. Newsome, President

Tuesday, April 29, 2014 - 1:50pm

Part of the Solution?

 Forced labor sculptureOne of the things I relish about my work at NURFC is the chance to develop a deeper understanding about enslavement today and the steps I can take in my own life to end it.

Our Invisible: Slavery Today  gallery is jam-packed with facts and stories surrounding those who daily face conditions that make exploitation easy. The light bulb moment for me has been not that there are enslaved people still extant, but the industries in which forced labor is used to keep prices down on goods I personally might use and buy, making me complicit.

I, like many people, make many choices when buying products, and for many reasons, some even political. But I think I’m too eager, as so many of us are, to make price the bottom line choice, without ever thinking about how that low, low price is possible. I try to be a good global citizen by buying fair trade, especially in industries I know to be worker exploitative, like clothing, chocolate, coffee, and jewelry. But it did not occur to me before visiting NURFC that my price on a rug or bricks could be made possible by child or forced labor. Now that I am aware, I will look for products by goodweave, for instance, which combats child labor in the rug weaving industry.

For more information about slavery today, and the steps we can take to help eradicate it, please visit our Invisible: Slavery Today  permanent exhibit on the third floor.

- Gina K. Armstrong, IMLS Coca-Cola Museum Studies Apprentice