There was a time when people were unaware that slavery continues on in the world, that the buying and selling of people had stopped with the United States Civil War and legislation by countries around the world. Unfortunately, that is not the case. Free the Slaves helped start the modern-day anti-slavery movement in the year 2000 by alerting the world to what was happening and initiating actions to stop it. So when I looked for a way to support the cause in 2008, Free the Slaves was the first organization I gave to. And it’s why I said yes several years later when Free the Slaves asked me to join its board of directors.
It has been a privilege to work with my exceptional colleagues on the board, and with the dedicated staffers who have helped Free the Slaves mature during challenging times for the organization and the anti-slavery movement. I am grateful for the opportunity to help build momentum for the future. As Free the Slaves marks its 20th year, it is poised to become an institution with bigger impact.
I am proud of the work that Free the Slaves and I have done to create the annual Freedom from Slavery Forum, which convenes leaders of anti-slavery organizations from around the world to share knowledge and build a coordinated global response to modern slavery. When I first became involved in the anti-slavery movement, I was surprised that there was no opportunity for the leaders of these organizations to meet and act collectively. Together, and with the additional help and leadership of others in the anti-slavery community, we were able to establish this important gathering which has led to collective actions and positions for many in the movement.
I am also proud that during my time with Free the Slaves, several thousand individuals have been liberated, and tens of thousands have been educated to safeguard their communities. Much more remains to be done, but I am glad at least we could make a difference for some people.
Now, after six years on the board, including one as chair, I am term-limited and must step down. But I feel confident that Free the Slaves is in capable hands with my friend and colleague Tim McCarthy, a well-known figure in the movement from the Kennedy School at Harvard, stepping up as chair, and with our remarkable executive director, Bukeni Waruzi, whose personal journey and leadership are set to lead us into the next decades of Free the Slaves.
Finally, I would like to express my gratitude to all of you – to my movement colleagues and to the employees and supporters of Free the Slaves – who have made the past six years a remarkable journey. I hope we will all continue to fight together against the injustice of modern-day slavery in whatever role we play.
Editor’s Note: See incoming Board Chair Timothy Patrick McCarthy’s vision for FTS’ future in the FTS Blog here.