I sat, eyes riveted on the screen, too horrified to look away. It was an incredibly graphic movie clip, and something I, as a highly sensitive person, would typically avoid. But I knew that for the sake of acknowledging the horrors of the Transatlantic Slave Trade, it was something I needed to see.
The African slaves on the ship were chosen one by one to be thrown over the side to their deaths. It didn’t matter whether or not they knew how to swim because they were chained to bags of rocks that would drag them to the bottom of the ocean. The pressure from their rapid descent would crush them long before their lungs filled with water, not only satisfying the slave trader’s wish to kill them, but also making their deaths excruciatingly painful.
When the clip from Amistad ended and my APLA teacher turned off the screen, a heavy silence ensued. I remember being hit full force with a wave of emotions. Not only was I sickened by the reality of the African slave trade, but I was also alarmed to realize that the vast majority of my classmates, while acknowledging the atrocities of slavery back then, were completely unaware of its prevalence in society today.
“Did you know that there are more slaves in the world today than there were during the entirety of the Transatlantic Slave Trade?” I desperately wanted to ask them. Although the world’s population is much larger now than it was a few hundred years ago, that statistic alone blows the argument that slavery no longer exists completely out of the water.
After class, my friends and I could not stop talking about what we had seen, so decided to form a group called the Modern Underground Railroad, or MUR for short. We extensively researched slavery in the world today, and planned presentations that we could give in our history and language arts classes. And then, life got in the way. The academic rigors of junior year took over, and our grand plans for presenting to our classes fell to the wayside, never to be fully realized. However, a seed had been planted for a passion that would burst into bloom three years later when I went to Nepal.
Before going to Nepal, I would have said I felt at least somewhat prepared to deal with human trafficking up close and personal. I had read books and articles, attended lectures and prayer meetings, and extensively researched anti-trafficking organizations. However, several experiences in Nepal quickly humbled me, and reminded me that there is no way to fully prepare for catching glimpses of a system that buys and sells girls. Two instances in particular stand out as moments when the reality of trafficking hit me full force. The first was when my team was accidentally taken into India (you can read that story here https://learningtoloveagainblog.wordpress.com/2015/06/23/whoops-i-went-to-india/), and the second was when we visited a village and met young girls who were the exact demographic of girls most likely to be trafficked (you can read about it here https://learningtoloveagainblog.wordpress.com/2015/10/09/three-little-girls/).
Needless to say, my trip to Nepal greatly furthered my passion to end human trafficking, which is a form of modern-day slavery. Since returning home, I have been looking for ways to continue to be involved in the fight for the freedom of all. Then I discovered Dressember. (http://www.dressember.org)
On their website, Dressember describes their mission as using “fashion to advocate for women who’ve been exploited for their femininity. As women take on the creative challenge of wearing a dress for the 31 days of December, they are advocating for the inherent dignity of all women.” Women who chose to participate can raise both awareness and funds for Dressember’s partner organizations International Justice Mission (https://www.ijm.org) and A21 (http://www.a21.org).
While fundraising is definitely an integral part of Dressember’s mission, my main focuses this year are advocacy and prayer. I am excited for the opportunities I will be given to talk about why I’m wearing a dress. I’m confident people will ask because a.) Pacific Northwest winters are cold, and b.) we’ve hit the point in the semester where most students choose sweats as their daily attire. I am also excited for the ways it will remind me to pray. As I am limited in my outfit choices each morning or endure a chilly walk to class, I will choose to pray. And by wearing a dress, I will be embracing my femininity and reclaiming the dignity and power of being a woman in a world that says otherwise.
Here are three ways you can participate with me.
- Join me! It may already be December 1st, but it’s not to late to start wearing dresses. If you’re a guy, you can also participate by wearing dress clothes every day of December.
- Pray! One of the key lessons I learned this summer in Nepal is that prayer is powerful! In the words of my good friend Bree, “Prayer is never powerless because you’re calling on the God of the universe who holds the whole world in His hands.”
- Donate! Both IJM and A21 are doing incredible work to fight human trafficking, and your donations make their work possible. I’m encouraging my friends and family to forfeit one latte and donate $5. It may not seem like much, but when people come together for a cause, their efforts quickly multiply. You can access my campaign page here: https://support.dressemberfoundation.org/fundraise?fcid=572776
31 days of dresses here I come, and I couldn’t be more excited!