By Holly Austin Smith — From her column Speaking Out in the Washington Times
WASHINGTON, September 25, 2012 – The fourth annual Stop Modern Slavery (SMS) Walk is happening this Saturday, September 29th, 2012 at the National Mall in Washington, DC!
As a survivor of domestic minor sex trafficking, I am honored to participate and speak at this year’s event. The first annual DC Stop Modern Slavery Walk was where I first met many of today’s most influential anti-trafficking advocates and organization leaders. For me, this was life-changing as I caught the bug of advocacy and have since become a speaker and columnist.
“At the core of the Stop Modern Slavery Walk is the belief that anyone can get involved and have an impact on this issue,” stated Joe Flippin, Director of the 2012 SMS Walk, “Our job is to bring people out to the Mall, tell them about modern slavery through narrative and empathy, and highlight the many ways that people are getting involved today.”
The DC Stop Modern Slavery (DC SMS) organization is a diverse and growing group of community members who, as strongly stated by their mission statement, are taking action to end slavery wherever it occurs, beginning in Washington D.C. Founded in 2004 by a small group of concerned citizens, DC SMS has grown to having more than 1,200 members. Through community education and action, DC SMS has helped to pass legislation addressing human trafficking in the D.C. area. They have also helped with training hundreds of area residents to recognize and report signs of human trafficking.
DC Stop Modern Slavery has been highly recognized for their community outreach and efforts. Courtney’s House honored DC SMS for their “Effective Use of Grassroots Tactics,” and Polaris Project honored DC SMS as their 2010 “Star Activists” for their achievements with the Stop Modern Slavery Walk. Joe Flippin is aiming to activate the advocate within all those who participate in the walk this year:
“By featuring strong survivor leadership,” Joe stated, “we aim to leave each person in the audience thinking: If they can do it, so can I. If they can face the hardship they’ve faced, [and] not give up, and fight every day for a world without slavery, then there has to be something I can do, too.”
This year’s Walk includes the following organization leaders and survivor advocates:
Brook Bello, Actress, Author, Public Speaker, NGO Founder, and Survivor (Keynote)
Kay Chernush, Founder and Director of Artworks for Freedom
Evelyn Chumbow, Survivor Speaker
Mary David, TV Host and Director of Public Relations for Foundation for Post Conflict Development (Emcee)
Ka Flewellen, Vice President of the International Black Women’s Public Policy Institute (Keynote)
Tina Frundt, Survivor Founder and Executive Director of Courtney’s House
Kelly Heinrich, President of Global Freedom Center
Stacy Jewell Lewis, Survivor Speaker, Writer, and Actress
Victoria Pannell, Youth Activist
Andrea Powell, Co-Founder and Executive Director of FAIR Girls
With over fifty anti-human trafficking organizations represented at this year’s resource fair, Joe Flippin is certain that every participant can find a match for their volunteer interests.
“But it all begins with that first step,” Joe stated, “Commit to coming out the Walk; be open to learning about the realities of modern slavery and to encouraging others to do the same – to set yourself on a path where you can make your own impact and leave your own footprint on this issue.
Event organizers anticipate over 2,000 participants and hope to reach $100,000 in donations. This year’s selected beneficiary organizations include the following: Boat People SOS (BPSOS), Bridge to Freedom Foundation (BTFF), Challenging Heights, Courtney’s House, Free the Slaves, Freedom Firm, iEmpathize, Global Centurion, Innocents at Risk, Polaris Project, Restoration Ministries, Safe House of Hope, Shared Hope International (SHI), Tiny Hands International, and Turn Around, Inc.
If you would like to participate in the walk, please join Team Survivor Strong! And, I look forward to seeing you there. Musical performances include Bethany and the Guitar and The Ruin City. For more information about DC Stop Modern Slavery, please visit their website at www.StopModernSlavery.org.
For more information about the 2012 DC Stop Modern Slavery Walk, please visit the event website.