SixEight Life

justice.mercy.journey

{features} Keep your eyes open

If you could soldier on, headstrong into the storm
I’ll be here waiting on the other side don’t
Look back the road is long, the first days of the war are gone
Take back your former throne and turn the tide

‘Cus if you never leave home, never let go
You’ll never make it to the great unknown
Till you keep your eyes… open my love

So tell me you’re strong, tell me you see
I need to hear it, can you promise me
To keep your eyes… open my love

Just past the circumstance, the first light a second chance
No child could ever dance the way you do oh
Tear down the prison walls, don’t stop the curtain calls
Your chains will never fall until you do

‘Cus if you never leave home, never let go
You’ll never make it to the great unknown
Till you keep your eyes… open my love

So show me your fire, show me your heart
You know I’ll never let you fall apart
If you keep your eyes… open my love – Needtobreathe

This song kept running through my head as I research and drafted this post. Needtobreathe is one of my favorite bands. This is a pretty inspiring song, you can watch the official music video on youtube here. It reminds me of bravery, the importance of keeping our eyes open and pressing on towards our goals.

My hope is that we can all work together to keep our eyes open in our community. These atrocities could be happening on your street, behind the scenes of your favorite restaurant. I wrote about the restaurant in Woodstock, Georgia that was allegedly using slave labor. I was messing with SlaveryMap at the end of our mapping session at the Backyard Academy and showed the listing in Woodstock to a friend of mine sitting next to me. She gasped and said that she and her mother (in law? I can’t remember) used to dine at that restaurant pretty regularly. It’s pretty sobering to think about the times you came into contact with people who were likely being held against their will. I know its happened to me before. I went to Haiti in 2010 after the earthquake to participate in a relief project. Our host had three young girls and one older woman living in his home. His wife didn’t live in the home, just him, a few men, and the women. They cleaned, cooked, didn’t say much. I didn’t think much of it because the norm in parts of the developing world is to hire housekeepers to help with tasks. In a lot of cases its a good way to earn income.

One year after completing my trip to Haiti I read a book by E. Benjamin Skinner called ‘A Crime so Monstrous‘. In this book he details the plight of restaveks, young children who are enslaved in domestic servitude. This practice is common and culturally accepted, even by clergy and other prominent moral figures. You can read a CNN article about restaveks here, or read Skinner’s book.  My heart sank when I realized that it was very possible that I came into contact with young victims. I want to be clear, I do not KNOW that our host was perpetuating this social ill and owned slaves, the clues just seemed to add up in my head. I would hate for someone to think I was accusing him of doing something so atrocious, the situation just felt ‘off’ while I was there.

David Batstone, the founder of Not for Sale, had an instance of slavery in his community shocked him into action. Here’s the direct quote from the Not for Sale website

“I read in a local paper that one of my favorite Indian restaurants in the Bay Area had been trafficking women from India to wash dishes, cook meals and other tasks. The story came out when a young woman, Chianti Pratipatta died of a gas leak in an unventilated apartment owned by the proprietor of the restaurant, who forced Chianti and others into slavery under threat of reporting their illegal presence to the authorities.

This was happening in my country at a restaurant I frequented. My shock turned into a consuming passion that took me around the world to learn more about how slavery flourishes in the shadows.

I also learned about the solutions. I met heroes. Modern-day abolitionists fighting trafficking and slavery on the front lines. And I knew I had to do something. Not for Sale combines technology, intellectual capital, abolitionist groups and a growing network of individuals like yourself – joined together to end slavery in our lifetime.
Welcome to the movement.”

My memory of my time in Haiti, the accounts of slavery cases in my own community, and stories like David Batstone’s remind me of the need for us to, like the song, ‘keep our eyes open’. Be brave, be smart. Do research, understand the situation. Then, look around. Take note of what is happening in your community. There are a ton of resources for how you could potentially identify situations that aren’t quite right. You don’t have to do the investigating, you can just call a hotline number. The Polaris project has a great fact sheet with a hotline you can view to learn how you can play your part in identifying potential slavery situations. We can all play our part in ending these heinous crimes, and sending a message to traffickers that this is NOT okay and we will NOT tolerate it. Let’s work together to keep our eyes open so we can discover and shine light into the darkness of slavery in our communities.

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