Tuesday, March 11, 2008

The New York Times finally notices: Darfur is horrible, but the situation for Africans in Southern Sudan might soon be much worse.

He writes:

Those who focused on Sudan’s atrocities in Darfur, myself included, may have inadvertently removed the spotlight from South Sudan. Without easing the outrage over Darfur — where the bloodshed has been particularly appalling lately — we must broaden the focus to include the threat to the south.


For over a decade, the American Anti-Slavery Group fought to bring to light the religiously inspired genocidal attack on Black Africans, most of whom are Christian or tribalists, by the Islamic fundamentalist regime in Khartoum. According to the US State Department, over 2 million have been killed, and tens of thousands enslaved, since 1989, when a “holy war” was declared on the South. We, along with other organizations, pressed two American Administrations to work for a peace treaty. This finally was achieved in 2005 when President Bush sent Senator Danforth to Sudan to press for an end to hostilities. The result was a peace treaty and slave raids and slaughter were halted.

But as Nicholas Kristof now writes, that peace is being threatened and if war breaks the people of Southern Sudan, the world may see a crisis that dwarfs the horrors in Darfur.

Charles Jacobs

The New York Times
February 28, 2008

Op-Ed Columnist

A Genocide Foretold

JUBA, Sudan

The Sudanese government started the first genocide of the 21st century in Darfur, and now it seems to be preparing to start the second here among the thatch-roof huts of southern Sudan.

South Sudan is rich in oil, but its people are among the poorest in the world, far poorer than those in Darfur. Only 1 percent of girls here finish elementary school, meaning that a young woman is more likely to die in pregnancy or childbirth than to become literate. Leprosy and Ebola linger here. South Sudan is the size of Texas, yet it has only 10 miles of paved road and almost no electricity; just about the only running water here is the Nile River.

The poverty is mostly the result of the civil war between North and South Sudan that raged across the southern part of the country for two decades and cost 2 million lives. For many impoverished villagers, their only exposure to modern technology has been to endure bombings by the Sudanese Air Force. The war finally ended, thanks in part to strong American pressure, in 2005 with a landmark peace agreement — but that peace is now fraying.

Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir is backing away from the peace agreement, and prodding Arab militias to revive the war with the South Sudan military forces. Small-scale armed clashes have broken out since late last year, and it looks increasingly likely that Darfur will become simply the prologue to a far bloodier conflict that engulfs all Sudan.

Even my presence here is a sign of the rising tensions and mistrust. The Sudanese government refuses me visas, but the authorities in the south let me enter from Kenya without a visa because they want the word to get out that war is again looming.

The authorities in disputed areas such as the Nuba Mountains and Blue Nile State also welcomed me, rather than arresting me, even though those areas technically are on the northern side of the dividing line. Local officials in both areas warned that President Bashir and his radical Arab political party are preparing to revive the war against non-Arab groups in the south and center of the country.

“If things go on as they are now, war will break out,” said Sila Musa Kangi, the commissioner of Kormuk in Blue Nile. “And it can break out at any time.”

Although people speak of renewed “war,” the violence is more likely to resemble what happens in a stockyard. If it is like the last time, government-sponsored Arab militias will slaughter civilians so as to terrorize local populations and drive them far away from oil wells.

Under the 2005 deal that ended the war, Sudan is supposed to hold elections early next year, but President Bashir is unlikely to allow them because he almost surely would lose. Likewise, Mr. Bashir is unlikely to abide by his commitment to allow the south to hold a referendum in 2011 to decide whether to separate from Sudan because southerners would likely vote overwhelmingly for independence — and more than three-quarters of the country’s oil is in the south.

Already, the Sudanese government is backtracking on its commitments under the Comprehensive Peace Agreement, or C.P.A.: It still hasn’t withdrawn all of its troops from the south; it hasn’t accepted a boundary commission report for the oil-rich border area of Abyei; it keeps delaying a census needed for the elections; and it appears to be cheating the south of oil revenues. And the U.S. and other countries have acquiesced in all this.

“We say to the international community, ‘you midwifed the C.P.A., and then you left,’ ” said Rebecca Garang, the widow of the longtime southern leader, John Garang. “You must come back and check the baby.”

Those who focused on Sudan’s atrocities in Darfur, myself included, may have inadvertently removed the spotlight from South Sudan. Without easing the outrage over Darfur — where the bloodshed has been particularly appalling lately — we must broaden the focus to include the threat to the south.

One of the lessons of Darfur, Rwanda and Bosnia is that it is much easier to avert a genocide ahead of time than to put the pieces together afterward. So let’s not wait until gunshots are ringing out again all over the south.

There are steps that the U.S. can take to diminish the risk of a new war. We can work with the international community to raise the costs to President Bashir of defying his treaty obligations.

We can warn Sudan that if it starts a new war, we will supply anti-aircraft weapons to the south to make it harder for the north to resume bombing hospitals, churches and schools. We can also raise the possibility of protecting the south with a no-fly zone, which might be enough to deter Mr. Bashir from starting yet another genocide.

Comment on this column on my blog at: www.nytimes.com/ontheground.

Thursday, January 31, 2008

Valentine's Day - Make Sure to Buy Fair Trade!

Organic Consumers Association has posted an article just in time for Valentine's Day, "Unchain Your Heart"...

"Valentines Day marks the biggest shopping day of the year, when it comes to chocolate and flowers. But did you know that by purchasing organic and Fair Trade chocolate and flowers your consumer dollars will no longer be going towards toxic pesticides, child slavery, and farm worker exploitation?

Over 40 percent of the world’s conventional chocolate (i.e. non-organic and non-Fair Trade) comes from Côte d’Ivoire (Ivory Coast), where the International Labor Organization (ILO) and US State Department have reported widespread instances of child slavery. Exploitation of cacao farmers and farm workers is the global norm in the chocolate industry, rather than the exception."

To read more and view OCA's buyers guide, click here.

Make Valentine's Day truly sweet affair this year!

Friday, January 18, 2008

Congratulations Francis Bok!

What were Memphians reading in 2007? Davis-Kidd Booksellers knows. Memphis’ largest independent bookstore has released its annual list of top sellers and Francis Bok's Escape from Slavery made number 9!

Listed below are the 25 most popular titles:

1. Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows – J. K. Rowling
2. Home to Holly Springs – Jan Karon
3. Simply Salads - Jennifer Chandler
4. Eat Pray Love – Elizabeth Gilbert
5. The American Plague (hardcover & PB combined) – Molly Caldwell Crosby
6. Simple Solutions – Thomas Schmitt & Arnold Perl
7. The Legend of Quito Road – Dwight Fryer
8. The Heir – Barbara Taylor Bradford
9. Escape from Slavery – Francis Bok
10. Talent is Never Enough – John C. Maxwell
11. Somebody is Going to Die If Lily Beth Doesn’t Catch That Bouquet - Gayden Metcalfe
12. Mid-South Garden Guide – Garden Club of Memphis
13. Boom! – Tom Brokaw
14. The Dangerous Book for Boys – Conn Iggulden
15. Water for Elephants – Sara Gruen
16. A Thousand Splendid Suns – Khaled Hosseini
17. The Secret – Rhonda Byrne
18. The Peabody: A History of the South’s Grand Hotel - Sharyn Burson
19. Playing for Pizza – John Grisham
20. Praying in Color – Sybil Macbeth
21. The Memory Keeper’s Daughter – Kim Edwards
22. The Way It Was – Victor L. Robilio, Jr.
23. Forever in Blue – Ann Brashares
24. Fancy Nancy and the Posh Puppy – Jane O’Connor
25. Heart & Soul Cookbook – Junior League of Memphis

*This list is comprised of total book sales at Davis-Kidd Booksellers in Memphis, TN from January 1 through December 31, 2007. Non-event titles special ordered in bulk quantities are not included on the list.

Monday, December 31, 2007

Happy Freedom's Eve!

Or Watch Night, as it's also called throughout the U.S. Robert Smith's blog posting, Watch Night tradition rings in New Year for black churches, explains that "Watch Night has been know to Methodists since the mid-1700s, when John Wesley, founder of the Methodist movement, encouraged new-year "covenant services" as a means of reaffirming faith. "

"The vigils won the fealty of black America in 1863, many say, when Abraham Lincoln decreed that his Emancipation Proclamation would take effect Jan. 1. Abolitionists and slaves are said to have congregated on "Freedom's Eve" to await what the new year would bring. "

Tonight, many Methodist churches in the United States will celebrate and hold vigils. I am not a Methodist, or an African American, but I am an abolitionist. And this Freedom's Eve I will pray and resolve (again) to help bring sweet freedom of all men, women and children who are still enslaved. Please join me.

To read Robert Smith's complete posting, click here.

Thursday, December 13, 2007

“Trafficking Free NYC”

Want to know what it's like to be a prostitute in a NYC brothel? Definitely not Pretty Woman. Sonia Ossorio, president of NOW-NYC, tells it like it is in her article "Voices of NOW NYC: Aiming for a “Trafficking Free NYC”. She doesn't sugar coat it. A gipping picture indeed...

"If you never had a picture of what the low-budget, factory-style prostitution that makes up much of the local NYC sex industry, this is it – up close, uncomfortable and a mockery of sex and all it stands for – pleasure, sharing, sexual empowerment and women’s liberation.

At the beginning of each shift, the women are given a produce box top with two rolls of paper towels, a bottle of lube, alcohol and a baggie filled with unwrapped condoms. The condoms are prepped much like vegetables at restaurants before the rush hits. There are tips that go to the men who stand on the corners as dusk sets in and pass out business cards for the brothels and give directions to the houses where sex can be bought $30 for 15 minutes. The price went up this year from $25."

Many of these brothels are advertised in the yellow pages and local magazines - some showing pictures of children! NOW-NYC is spearheading a campaign called “Trafficking Free NYC!” asking publishers to use common sense, do some basic due diligence and stop taking ads that exploit women through commercial sex work. To learn more about NOW-NYC, click here.

Wednesday, December 05, 2007

Nivasa Foundation is hosting a Dinner and Dance Party

Beatrice’s Fernando's Nivasa Foundation (one of AASG's speaking associate) is hosting a Dinner and Dance Party with authentic Sri Lankan cuisine and FREE dance lessons and you’re invited!

What: Dinner and Dance Party (featuring Sri Lankan food and FREE dance lessons)

When: December 8 @ 6:30 to 10:00 pm

Where: Knights of Columbus, Charlestown

Contact: www.NivasaFoundation.org, 781 -888-9880

*Purchase tickets in advance or make a donation.

As a Sri Lankan survivor of slavery, Beatrice Fernando founded the the Nivasa Foundation, a non-profit organization helping to end the cycle of slavery in Sri Lanka. By funding the education and basic necessities of the children of Sri Lankan victims of slavery, we prevent these women from again being deceived into situations of slavery and provide their children with better opportunities.

The Dinner and Dance party is a fundraiser for the Nivasa Foundation and will provide Sri Lankan cuisine and free ballroom dancing lessons and other entertainment, as well as raffles and prizes for a ticket price of $40. Space is limited so please reserve your spot in advance. If you are unable to attend, please consider making a donation to the Nivasa Foundation. A donation of $37/month will provide a child with an education, food, clothing, and school supplies.

Please call 781 -888-9880 or send your contribution to Nivasa Foundation, P.O. Box 95, Merrimac, MA 01860. You can also make a donation, purchase tickets, and read more about our work at www.NivasaFoundation.org.

Thursday, November 29, 2007

TONIGHT -"Bearing Witness in Darfur: Who Will Be My Sister's Keeper?"

Thursday, November 29th, 7:00pm
First Church in Jamaica Plain, Unitarian Universalist, Sanctuary
6 Eliot St. (Across from the Monument)

Since her first visit to southern Sudan in 2001, Rev. Gloria White-Hammond, co-pastor of Jamaica Plain s Bethel AME Church, knew that she wanted to stand in solidarity with the women of that country. She had served as a medical missionary during several trips to Botswana, Cote d Ivore, and South Africa, but it was on delegation of several other African-American ministers to Sudan that, Rev. White-Hammond participated in the liberation of over 6,700 enslaved women and children. Bearing witness to the untenable realities of slavery taking place in the 21st century changed her life forever.

Upon her return to Boston, she co-founded My Sister s Keeper, a humanitarian women's group that partners with women in Sudan and their efforts toward reconciliation and reconstruction of their communities. Since it s inception in 2002, My Sister s Keeper has listen closely to the concerns and opinions of the Sudanese women. It has assisted in community-initiated economic development, healthcare and education projects in Gogrial County, Sudan. Furthermore, by mobilizing resources in the United States on their behalf, My Sister s Keeper works to lift up the plight of Sudanese women to the World.

This event will be in honor of the International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women (Nov. 25th), World AIDS Day (Dec. 1st), and Human Rights Day (Dec. 10).

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Sexual Slavery: Can You Really Define It?

The Department of Justice (DOJ) is doing just that. According to a recent article in Front Page Magazine, "a prostitute or a victim of trafficking is entitled to justice but only if he/she has been "forced, tricked or coerced" into doing what the DOJ calls "sex work" - and only if they can prove it."

In addition, the DOJ is more sympathetic to those victims in third world countries as opposed to a young woman from Massachusetts or California. Most shocking is that a minor, yes a child, used in "commercial sex acts" is not considered "coerced" or "duped" as defined by the DOJ. The most vulnerable, those who need this protection the most, are subjected to less because they cannot defend themselves or prove their own case.

Why is the DOJ failing? How are those connected to legalizing "sex work" opposing abolitionists in a new way? Read the full article, "Stopping Sexual Slavery" by clicking here.

Monday, November 12, 2007

Darfur Too Dark Too Far - Featuring Simon Deng

Darfur Too Dark Too Far: FREE Film Screening & Panel Discussion

Tuesday, November 13, 2007, 5:00 PM - Reception to Follow
Ames Courtroom, Austin Hall, Harvard Law School
1515 Massachusetts Ave, Cambridge, MA 02138

Award-winning filmmaker Hafiz Farid has recently released his award-winning film, Darfur Too Dark Too Far (http://www.darfur2dark2far.com/). This powerful documentary film addresses the horrific crisis in Darfur, as well as the root causes of genocide… slavery, racism and oppression in the name of religion.

Darfur Too Dark Too Far was awarded Best Social Documentary in the New York International Independent Film and Video Festival, Best of the Best in the Martha’s Vineyard African-American Film Festival, and Excellence for Cinema for a Documentary in the Los Angeles International Independent Film Festival.

A panel discussion will follow the film screening, featuring:
  • Simon Deng, iAbolish American Anti-Slavery Group; Former Sudanese Slave; Human Rights Activist
  • Dr. Jerry Ehrlich, Pediatrician, Doctors Without Borders
  • Hafiz Farid, Award-Winning Filmmaker/Director; Executive Director, NoCane, Inc.
  • Dr. Lori Heninger, Executive Director, HiTOPS, Inc., Teen Health & Education Center; Former Director, Children and Adolescents Program, Women’s Commission for Refugee Women and Children

To RSVP: Click Here

Thursday, August 30, 2007

Call For Papers

The Anti-Human Trafficking Conference held at the University of Missouri-Columbia, is seeking panelists. From their website:

We are seeking panelists from diverse backgrounds, including activists, legislators, academics, NGO representatives, religious groups, and victim advocates. We are also seeking booth and art display proposals that focus on issues relating to human trafficking from individuals and organizations.

We are particularly interested in panel, paper, and booth proposals on the following issues as they relate to trafficking in persons: labor, gender, sex, children, US foreign policy, militarization, economics, politics/policy, the EU, activism, religious perspectives, prevention/protection/prosecution/best practices.

Panel and paper proposals: Each proposal should include a brief abstract explaining the presenter’s main ideas and focus for the talk or paper, and a biographical sketch detailing the presenter’s background and contact/affiliation information. Presenters should plan to present their work and/or research for approximately 20-25 minutes (not including questions). We will consider proposals for both individual presenters that may be grouped with other presenters and full panel proposals.

Booth and art display proposals: Each booth proposal should include a brief description of the organization and nature of the booth. We are also interested in booth proposals from filmmakers who have made films about human trafficking; there may be the opportunity to show excerpts from the films as well. Each art display proposal should include a brief description of the artists’ background, details about the materials necessary to display the artwork, and a description and/or pictures of the art work. Time will be set aside for booth representatives and art creators to talk about their work and answer questions at their booths/displays.

Website: www.stoptrafficnow.com and http://wgst.missouri.edu/
Contact: Jessica Jennrich, Associate Chair, Women’s and Gender Studies, University of Missouri-Columbia, jennrichj@missouri.edu

Submission: Proposals should be submitted to jennrichj@missouri.edu and muhtc2008@gmail.com or
Women’s and Gender Studies,
University of Missouri-Columbia
325 General Classroom Building
Columbia, MO 65211-4130

Deadline for Proposals: September 15th, 2007

Conference Dates: March 21, 22, and 23, 2008