ELIZABETH — It was only 150 years ago that Abraham Lincoln proclaimed that America must abolish slavery and emancipate every human being, regardless of race, creed or color. On Saturday, October 20, Benedictine Academy student leaders and youth from several other schools traveled to the National Historical Site of Frederick Douglass in Washington DC and proclaimed a New Proclamation of Freedom on behalf of the victims of modern day slavery– Human Trafficking.
Benedictine Academy’s “Cor Defenders” student group, who are the Freedom Partners of the Frederick Douglass Family Foundation, stood proudly on the steps of the National Parks Historical Site in Washington, D.C. to proclaim the New Proclamation of Freedom which was written by students from Benedictine Academy and other schools. The hope is that the new proclamation will help eradicate modern day slavery in the form of human trafficking through education.
Students, legislators and others who are working to abolish human trafficking gathered at the historical site, which is the Cedar Hills Home of Frederick T. Douglass, the former slave who became a leader of the civil rights movement in the 1800’s. Douglass played a crucial role in advising President Lincoln about our moral obligation to emancipate enslaved people.
Congresswoman Eleanor Holmes Norton; author William Katz; Samantha Vardaman of Shared Hope International; and Laura, a Human Trafficking survivor, each spoke at the gathering on October 20, reflecting on the life and passion of Frederick T. Douglass, and sharing their hopes and dreams for an end to Human Trafficking modern day slavery. They stressed the importance of education for empowering the youth of today to break the shackles of oppression, exploitation, and enslavement.
Ken Morris, Frederick T. Douglass’ great, great, great grandson who heads up the Frederick Douglass Family Foundation, was the main speaker. Morris has spearheaded the Foundation’s launching of “100 Hundred Days to Freedom.” “100 Days” refers to the time between September 22, 1862, when Lincoln issued the preliminary Emancipation Proclamation, and January 1, 1863, when he signed the final version.
“One of the most exhilarating and turbulent periods in American history, these anniversary dates present a unique opportunity for teachers and students,” believes Morris, who is a direct descendant of both Frederick T. Douglass and Booker T. Washington. “We want young people to understand the meaning of two words that have truly shaped our past and continue to shape our future: Slavery and Freedom,” Morris has said.
The U.S Department of State, in its 2012 “Trafficking in Persons Report”, has noted that today millions of people around the world and thousands within the U.S. are trapped in contemporary forms of servitude. As part of the “100 Days to Freedom” project, students from nine schools across the country, including Benedictine Academy, in conjunction with FDFF, worked to draft the New Proclamation of Freedom. This document will advocate for the adoption of a national human trafficking education program to prevent and reduce the incidence of modern slavery in our communities.
One hundred and fifty years after Abraham Lincoln issued and then signed the Emancipation Proclamation, the Frederick Douglass Family Foundation (FDFF) believes “there is still a lot of work to be done”. The “100 Days to Freedom” service-learning project encourages secondary school students both to commemorate history and rouse the public through social action to end human trafficking. The “100 Days to Freedom” service-learning school curriculum is free and available to all secondary schools at http://fdff.org/100days.
Benedictine Academy has been recognized as one of the most-decorated schools for its anti-trafficking work. Ewa Kowalczyk, a junior at the Academy, was invited to speak in Washington, D.C. about the value of the Human Trafficking/Frederick Douglass Curriculum education that she received at Benedictine Academy. “We have seen how effective this curriculum is because we have applied it in our own school,” Kowalczyk said. “After being educated on the topic (of Human Trafficking) I developed a strong desire to help those who are victims of this injustice,” Kowalczyk added. “Education is crucial to bring an end to Human Trafficking; in order to make a difference, people must start to know about this issue,” she pointed out. “The most effective way to make a difference is to inform our generation.”
On Jan. 1, 2013, students, teachers, anti-trafficking activists and many others will gather in Washington D.C. to present the final document, along with thousands of signatures, at Emancipation Day ceremonies. The Frederick Douglass Family Foundation is a 501(c)(3) public charity that creates human trafficking curricula for use in middle schools and high schools encouraging young people to affect the issue of modern slavery by mobilizing through digital media.
“I’m very excited about this project,” says Linda Michalski, an educator from Benedictine Academy. “Students will have a chance to raise their voices and use the social media platforms they’re most familiar with to create momentum and gather thousands of signatures in support of the document.”
Benedictine Academy (Elizabeth) students traveled to Washington, D.C. on October 20 to read the New Proclamation of Freedom which was written by students from the Academy and other schools. The hope is that the new proclamation will help eradicate modern day slavery in the form of human trafficking, through education. Pictured reading the New Proclamation of Freedom while standing on the porch of the historic home of Frederick T. Douglass with Ken Morris, Douglass’ great, great, great grandson, are Benedictine Academy students (l-r): Karol Pierre; Joyce Mendoza; Jada Yarbough; Kayla Roque; Sydney Sigue and Ewa Kowalczyk; along with students from other schools.
Benedictine Academy students participated in an historic event in Washington, D.C. on October 20. Pictured with Ken Morris, the great, great, great grandson of Frederick T. Douglass, are (l-r) Kayla Roque, Eileen Conaty, Karol Pierre, (Ken Morris), Marina Santiago, Joyce Mendoza, Jada Yarbough, Sydney Sigue, Ewa Kowalczyk, and Sister Donna Jo Repetti, OSF, Director of Guidance at Benedictine Academy. Students, legislators and others who are working diligently to abolish the new form of human slavery– human trafficking– gathered at the Cedar Hills Historic Site Home of Douglass, the former slave who became a leader of the civil rights movement in the 1800’s. Student leaders from Benedictine Academy and youth from several other schools traveled to Washington to proclaim a New Proclamation of Freedom on behalf of the victims of Human Trafficking, the new modern day slavery.
Ewa Kowalczyk, a junior at Benedictine Academy in Elizabeth, was given the honor of speaking in Washington, D.C. about the value of the Human Trafficking/Frederick Douglass Curriculum education that she received at Benedictine Academy. “We have seen how effective this curriculum is because we have applied it in our own school,” Kowalczyk stated. “Education is crucial to bring an end to Human Trafficking; in order to make a difference, people must start to know about this issue,” she pointed out. “The most effective way to make a difference is to inform our generation.” Benedictine Academy has been recognized as one of the most-decorated schools for its anti-trafficking work, and is a Freedom Partner with the Frederick Douglass Family Foundation. (Photos courtesy of Benedictine Academy)