Volunteer Journal #61 – The Somaly Mam Foundation

The following conversation actually occurred.  It happened because I told a friend that approximately 27 million people live in slavery today - more than during the entire history of the transatlantic slave trade.

Friend: So you’re saying the African slave trade was not as bad as slave trade today.

Me: I actually wasn’t comparing the two they’re both horrendous.

Friend: But you said that there are more slaves today, so it’s worse.

Me: I don’t think we should compare bad. It’s not a slavery competition. They’re both bad.

Friend: I just don’t think it’s a good idea to go around denying the transatlantic slave trade.  You’ll end up like the nut jobs who think the Holocaust didn’t happen.

Me: I’m not denying it. It happened. Can we start over.? ‘Kay.  There are approximately 27 million slaves today.

Friend: Yeah? Like where?

Me: All over the world. Even in LA. In 2004 the VP of Legal Affairs at Sony Entertainment was indicted for having a slave.  He beat her, fed her table scraps, and made her sleep on a dog bed.

Friend: The Sony President of Ethics was arrested for having a slave!

Me: Yes, that’s right...  The Sony President of Ethics.*

Raising awareness is one of the keys to stopping modern slavery/human trafficking.   That being said – as the above example demonstrates - the most difficult thing you will ever try to do is educate the public.  Especially when you say the word “slavery,” people tend to go stupid, like you just told them you saw a T. Rex.  Why would you talk about something that’s extinct?

But slavery is real, it’s an international problem, and you might not realize you're supporting it. “Industries where slave labor is often highly suspected include cocoa, cotton, steel, oriental rugs, diamonds and silk. Currently the only way to ensure the products you buy are slave-free is to buy Fair Trade certified goods.” And then there's sex slavery...  1 to 2 million children sold into prostitution every 12 months. Human trafficking and the slave trade is the third largest criminal industry in the world because you can sell a drug once but you can sell a human over and over again.

So what can you do?  How do you ID slavery? The first thing you can do is educate yourself about the problem: go to HumanTrafficking.org, The Somaly Mam Foundation, The Not For Sale Campaign, and Made By Survivors.  Know what slavery looks like, what kinds of goods are produced with slave labor, what sex tourism is, and how you can help survivors.

You can also go a step further and throw an awareness event/fundraiser like my friend Seak Smith did for the Somaly Mam Foundation. Seak is an event planner with Stylish Affairs in Los Angeles so a large event was easy for her.  I volunteered at party, which meant I helped the caterer.  Beside the fabulous food and silent auction the event included a screening of a video about Somaly Mam and the organization – you can view the same video by going to the Somaly Mam Homepage.

The point of this particular journal is not what I did (I just supported Seak and it barely took 4 hours out of my day).  I just want everyone to educate himself or herself because as entertaining as the above conversation was I don’t want to ever have it again.

*I’m pretty sure there is not a “Sony President of Ethics.” If there is he’s clearly playing Parcheesi with the Fox President of Ethics on the snow-capped peaks of Hollywood.  That being said – if he’s offended by the mention write a personal email.