A Night to Change the World

Posted: April 25, 2012 in About slavery/human trafficking, Events

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It was 5:00 p.m. Nate was behind the wheel inching through traffic, I was putting on makeup in the passenger seat, and Gabe was squalling in the back. After six months of planning, five weeks of being new parents, and a very long week of polishing our presentation for The Slave Next Door, we were exhausted.

Earlier in the week, only about 100 tickets had been purchased (for a venue that fit 700). Several event partners had backed out at the last minute. With a Project Peace ace planning team that hadn’t stopped working since November, we believed that the event would still be a great one–Kevin Bales alone would have made it that way. But in the minutes leading up to the event, the possibility of anticlimax was looming.

Friday afternoon we asked many of you to pray with us that God would make the event a success–and he did–in bigger ways than we could’ve imagined! By the time the first speaker took the stage, nearly 400 people were there. In a reception beforehand, 35 leading anti-trafficking agencies were able to hear directly from Kevin Bales. Nate and I were able to shake his hand and tell him that his book Disposable People played a large role in our year in the Philippines.

Local trafficking survivor Minh Dang kicked off the evening, sharing her story of being sold by her own parents. She urged us to resist putting survivors in the “victim” box, and instead focus on the hope and new life that is possible for women like her. She is currently getting her PhD in trauma care, and speaking to groups all around the Bay Area.

Kevin Bales started his talk by saying “I didn’t know it was Minh I was waiting for, but I’ve been waiting fifteen years to meet Minh,” he said, comparing Minh to Fredrick Douglass and Harriet Tubman. He affirmed the work she was doing, saying that the world needed more people like her–not more white male professor-types like him.

That same combination of expertise, humility, and grace characterized the keynote address Dr. Bales gave, the most inspiring talk on modern-day slavery that we’ve ever heard. His research illustrates both the magnitude of slavery and how to address it. His work has informed the national governments in both Britain and the U.S. He showed us multiple pictures of slaveholders with slaves, and noted “these people are free now,” thanks to his organization, Free the Slaves.

The speaker portion of the evening ended with a call to action–first through us sharing a bit of our story (which you can watch on the 5-minute video below), and then with a passionate panel of anti-trafficking experts including Bales, Oakland Police officer Holly Joshi, Trade as One founder Nathan George, and Tashina Manyak from MISSSEY. Officer Joshi and Tashina talked about Oakland, which is a major hub for sex trafficking girls, and encouraged the audience to vote for politicians who support anti-trafficking measures, volunteer locally, and help shift our culture away from sexualizing girls and women, and toward holding men accountable for their use of prostitution and pornography. Officer Joshi emphasized that the perpetrators are often “regular” guys–coworkers, friends, neighbors, and husbands. (We were encouraged to learn that at the end of the evening, MISSSEY’s volunteer sheet was completely full!) Nathan George and Kevin Bales encouraged people to buy fair trade, to make a daily investment in freeing people from poverty and modern-day slavery around the world.

The night ended with a fair trade bazaar, where people could sample fair trade chocolate and buy everything from greeting cards to purses to coffee. They could also talk with people from 35 anti-trafficking organizations and learn about volunteer and donation opportunities. There was so much enthusiasm that we had to kick people out at the end of the night when the janitors needed to lock up.

We left asking ourselves how we could work for Kevin Bales, our new hero. We commented on the energy, on the  standing ovations, and the dozens of people who wanted to get involved. After a night of hearing about modern-day slavery, we didn’t feel depressed; we felt exhilarated, excited, hopeful. We couldn’t stop thanking God for blessing the night so far beyond our hopes. Most of all, we felt humbled and honored to be a part of something so special, so big. When we were called up to the stage with the other speakers, we felt unworthy to be standing with people like Minh Dang, Kevin Bales, Holly Joshi, Nathan George, and Tashina Manyak. We’re just regular people, after all.

And that’s the point, I realized: this isn’t just an issue for heroes; we’ll put an end to modern-day slavery when we realize this is an issue for all of us.

–Laura

p.s. If you couldn’t make it or are reading this from across the country or world, we’ve included links to a few videos below to give you a snapshot of what you missed:

Kevin Bales’s TED Talk: How to combat modern-day slavery (18 minutes)
Trade As One: Just One (Narrated by Nathan George) (2:27)
NBC Interview with Minh Dang (3:50)

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Comments
  1. Matt Will says:

    Great links. I went to the ted talk and his organization. Thanks for sharing this.

  2. hilarykdavis says:

    Watching this vid of you guys reminds me of the beautiful way your marriage is a partnership in meaningful work on many levels. I love watching you guys.

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