Seattle Against Slavery (SAS) is a grassroots coalition doing incredibly important work in our own backyard. Its staff and volunteers mobilize our community in the fight against labor and sex trafficking.
Christian Fulghum, Board President and Interim Director of Development & Operations Manager, says, "This is going on right under our noses, everywhere.”
Unfortunately, stats show that the COVID-19 crisis has forced even more people into this life out of economic desperation. On a positive note, he says, there are resources closer at hand than one might imagine; he and the team are working hard to spread awareness.
Fulghum first got involved as a volunteer four-plus years ago, after seeing the organization's executive director speak at a school to answer questions like "What is slavery?" and "What is exploitation?" He was awed to see how the subject was addressed among seventh-grade social studies students, "in a way that didn’t overwhelm with the horror of the topic, and also didn't sugarcoat it in a way that made it meaningless."
SAS attempts to fill in many gaps, since there are not nearly enough resources on a state or federal level, Fulghum says. The organization's work is broken into three main categories: trafficking prevention for schools, freedom signal technology (software assigned to hep victim outreach organizations) and men's accountability, which takes a look at the connection with toxic masculinity.
"I'm grateful the sun is setting on patriarchy as a model," says Fulghum. “We’re at a time in the history of humanity where we're opening up a lot of hard and fast assumptions."
He also appreciate that SAS “works on the problem in a 360-degree manner, versus one slice." Fulghum raves about the work of the organization's key players like Tanya Fernandez and Eli Zucker.
Fernandez is the Director of Education, and has been with SAS for six years. She says her work is important to our community "because we have the opportunity to build sustainable energy and passion for social justice with young people who will continue to demand equity and safety for all throughout their lifetimes."
She explains that upstream, comprehensive prevention is key in addressing human trafficking.
"We get to the root," she says. "Systems that are designed to hurt many while lifting others up - and engage youth in envisioning and creating a world where we take care of each other and no one is exploited."
Zucker, Director of Men's Accountability, has worked with SAS for two-and-a-half years.
"It is so important for men to address issues of gender-based violence," he said. "And my work with SAS allows me to create entry points for men to take action around this issue."
As one way to keep the conversation going - while also spotlighting local talents - Seattle Against Slavery has launched a Community Concert Series. The concerts are free, yet donations can be made when registering online.
“We didn’t want cost to be an obstacle to enjoying these wonderful artists,” says Fulghum, who used to serve on the board of KEXP.
Not only will they share with listeners how pervasive these issues are in our community, he says, “but we can also support these musicians who are so essential to our health and vibrancy. We can show that we’re stronger together."
"This series came together really organically in the early days of lockdown," says Fernandez, "when Eli and I were trying to figure out how we could bring people together to celebrate community, partnership and what is to come."
"With this event I'm particularly drawn to how important storytelling has been and will continue to be for all of us involved in this project and beyond," said Fernandez. "Whether we are listening more intentionally to the experiences of survivors and those most at risk of violence, telling our own stories through music and other forms of art, stepping back and passing the mic so there is space for others to tell their stories, or writing our own path forward through Covid as individuals, families and organizations."
Zucker concurs that this concert series feels like the perfect fit. "The music community has a rich history of facilitating social change," he says, "and our collaboration with Whitney Mongé, Deep Sea Diver and ParisAlexa are fantastic opportunities to deepen our shared values."