by Alex Melnick
arts & life editor
According to the State Department, 14,500-17,500 people are trafficked each year. For those unaware, human trafficking is classified as any crime that involves the sale of human beings—whether it is for sex, forced labor or other motives. Selling people into sexual slavery is human trafficking, as is holding migrant workers against their will.
Mississippi is unfortunately a hub for this kind of criminal activity, due to our location in the country. While the state has greatly cracked down on this kind of behavior, it remains rampant. According to the Polaris Project (a nonprofit dedicated to eradicating human trafficking and aiding its victims), from January to June of 2013 alone, 100 cases of human trafficking were reported in Mississippi. In Jackson in 2012, 11 potential cases of human trafficking were reported. Many of these cases involved minors, and the majority of these cases involved circumstances that involved sexual slavery.
Slavery still exists in Mississippi.
While these statistics may make you feel overwhelmed and powerless, even college students can do something. In addition to calling hotlines to report suspected human trafficking, such as The Polaris Project (1-888-373-7888), or local lines like Advocates for Freedom (228-806-3492) and The Center for Violence Prevention (1-800-266-4198), students can volunteer at Matt’s House, which is located right by CS’s. Matt’s House is a local Stewpot-affiliated women’s shelter that primarily focuses on women who have been victims of domestic and sexual crimes, and as a result feel unsafe in their homes or have been forced to flee their residences. Women who have escaped sexual slavery fall under this category.
Or you can do what Sara Jo Ridgeway did, and try to start a campus-wide movement. Ridgeway is attempting to bring the End it Movement campaign of “Shine a Light on Slavery” to Millsaps campus, by incorporating social media and activism. Her idea was to have all Millsaps students wear red crosses on their hands Feb. 27 to commemorate the 27 million slaves existing in the world today. (For more info visit: http://enditmovement.com/learn.php). In addition, Ridgeway hosted a candlelit service in the Bowl Feb. 26.
The Purple and White sat down this week with Ridgeway to get the scoop on what inspired her to bring this movement to campus.
The Purple & White: Could you tell us about the End it Movement?
Sara Jo Ridgeway: The End it Movement is a national movement to stand up against slavery and sex trafficking. A way you can bring awareness to the slavery and sex trafficking that is still going on today is to draw a red X on your hand on Feb. 27. Then you can take a picture of your hand and upload it to social media using the hashtag “End it Movement.” We’re trying to make anti-slavery go viral.
P&W: How did you get the idea to do this?
SJR: There’s a Christian convention called “Passion” (http://268generation.com/passion2014/), and it’s a convention that anyone can go to. They pick one issue that is both nationwide, community-based and global, and work on that issue. So Passion is bringing attention to global slavery.
P&W: So what would you like to see Millsaps campus do?
SJR: There’s going to be a candlelight ceremony in the bowl on Feb. 26, with a guest speaker Drew Malone attending. He does anti-slavery work in the Jackson area. The Gospel Choir and the a cappella group here on campus will perform as well. Then Chaplain Chris will close for us at the end.
P&W: That’s exciting! What started you on this journey to social justice?
SJR: I think it’s very important to educate others on global issues. When I found out about the End it Movement, I thought it was an easy way to get Millsaps campus involved. It’s so easy to draw a red X on your hand! Our campus is so small that I hope literally 100 percent of our campus participates.
P&W: Where can our readers go to find out more?
SJR: They can look on social media, and the End It Movement page. (http://enditmovement.com/)