Francesca Norsen Tate
Brooklyn Daily Eagle
Plymouth Church, from its founding in the 19th century, became a pioneer for freedom and served as part of the Underground Railroad. Now in the 21st century, the landmark church continues to fight against forms of modern-day slavery. Friday, Jan. 11 is recognized worldwide as Human Trafficking Awareness Day, and that evening Plymouth will host an educational symposium on this human rights crisis.
President Barack Obama has proclaimed January 2013 as National Slavery and Human Trafficking Prevention Month, a time for Americans to recognize the vital role that citizens can play in ending all forms of slavery. As we reach the 150th anniversary of the Emancipation Proclamation (signed Jan. 1, 1863), new attention is being focused on those individuals still held against their will.
The January 11 symposium will provide an overview of contemporary slavery and its impact on victims at home and abroad, and will offer new ideas regarding how individuals and communities can fight human exploitation and support its victims.
This symposium features three guest speakers. Mary Settleholm is a graduate student at Harvard Divinity School, a onetime U.S. surfing champion, a former prostitute, and an advocate for victims of sexual abuse. Crystal Chen is from International Justice Mission (http://www.ijm.org), the Washington-based agency dedicated to fighting for victims of sexual violence and forced labor worldwide. International Justice Mission has been noted in the U.S. News and World Report’s “Ten Service Groups That Are Making a Difference.” The third guest speaker, whose name has not yet been announced, is a representative from the Somaly Mam Foundation. This organization has become a global leader in fighting sexual slavery and empowering its survivors. Its work is based on the vision and life’s work of Cambodian survivor Somaly Mam.
The symposium will open with a brief introduction, followed by 15-minute presentations from each panelist. The next segment will be a 30-minute Q&A round-table discussion.
Admission to the 7 p.m. event, which is held in Plymouth’s Reception Room, is open to the community and free of charge. The entrance is at 75 Hicks St. in Brooklyn Heights. Childcare is available with reservation made by Jan. 9; those interested should contact Amy Talcott at Plymouth Church during regular business hours (718-624-4743).