Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Random act of culture: 650 undercover choristers break into song at Macy's in Philadelphia

My wife sent me a link to this video today and it "wowed" me. The more I write about modern slavery, the more I realize it's important to celebrate the beautiful things in life. With Thanksgiving happening tomorrow, this touched me and helped me remember the things I am thankful for. Enjoy and have a Happy Thanksgiving!
Here is the full story behind the random act of culture.
On Saturday, October 30, 2010, the Opera Company of Philadelphia brought together over 650 choristers from 28 participating organizations to perform one of the Knight Foundation's "Random Acts of Culture" at Macy's in Center City Philadelphia.
Accompanied by the Wanamaker Organ - the world's largest pipe organ - the OCP Chorus and throngs of singers from the community infiltrated the store as shoppers, and burst into a pop-up rendition of the Hallelujah Chorus from Handel's "Messiah" at 12 noon, to the delight of surprised shoppers.
This event is one of 1,000 "Random Acts of Culture" to be funded by the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation over the next three years. The initiative transports the classical arts out of the concert halls and opera houses and into our communities to enrich our everyday lives.
To learn more about this program and view more events, visit The Opera Company thanks Macy's and the Friends of the Wanamaker Organ ( for their partnership, as well as Organ Music Director Peter Conte and Fred Haas, accompanists; OCP Chorus Master Elizabeth Braden, conductor; and Sound Engineer James R. Stemke. For a complete list of participating choirs and more information, visit event was planned to coincide with the first day of National Opera Week.
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Human trafficking and the 2011 Super Bowl in Dallas, TX

Last week the Texas State Attorney General, Greg Abbott, announced he would be sending a dozen staff members from his human trafficking task force to assist local law enforcement in cracking down on human trafficking during the 2011 Super Bowl.

"The Super Bowl is one of the biggest human trafficking events in the United States," Abbott said.

During the 2009 Super Bowl in Tampa, Florida, the Florida State Department of Children and Families took in 24 minors who had been trafficked to the Tampa area as Sex Slaves for the Super Bowl. These were just the ones that were found.

In 2010. the Women's Funding Network found an increase of 80% in Craigslist sex ads during the Super Bowl. Craigslist recently shut down their "Adult Services" section after receiving over 10,000 petition signatures from the public and pressure from a number of State Attorney Generals.

Although no one knows exactly how many people will be trafficked to North Texas for the Super Bowl in February 2011, anti-trafficking organizations estimate it will be in the thousands.

This is partially due to the fact that the U.S. Department of Justice estimates that over 14,500 people are trafficked into the United States each year and 25% of all trafficked persons come through Texas.

According to a report by Shared Hope International, which investigates human trafficking in major cities, the Dallas Police Department, Child Exploitation/High Risk Victims & Trafficking Unit has created a unique and effective investigative tool to combat domestic minor sex trafficking. The Dallas Police Department, Child Exploitation/High Risk Victims & Trafficking Unit (CE/HRVTU) has developed an investigative tool to identify high risk victims (HRV) by flagging all minors who have run away from home four or more times in one year, as well as any minors that are repeat victims of sexual abuse or sexual exploitation. In 2007, CE/HRVTU identified 189 HRV cases 119 of which involved prostitution.

Of those High Risk Victims cases, 75% included felony charges specifically related to domestic minor sex trafficking.

A number of local organizations are joining in the effort to raise awareness and support ground work in recognizing and reporting human trafficking for the Super Bowl 2011. You can learn more about these groups and how you can help by clicking the links below.

Texas Anti-Trafficking Organizations:
Traffick 911
Free the Captives
Mosaic Family Services

Read all 64 pages of the full Dallas report by Shared Hope International

Stories about previous Super Bowls and Trafficking.

Monday, November 15, 2010

One night in the Red Light district of Durban, South Africa

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Celebrities against slavery: Interview with Eric Balfour of "Skyline" and "24"

Actor Eric Balfour

Last week I was privileged to attend the 2010 Freedom Awards in Los Angeles. This red carpet event, produced by Free the Slaves, brought out a number of celebrities to support and celebrate the cause of freedom.

There are an estimated 27 million slaves worldwide and over 300,000 slaves within the United States. The U.S. Department of Justice estimates over 14,500 people, 80% women and children, are trafficked into the U.S. each year.

I had a chance to interview celebrities and ask them about modern slavery and these startling statistics.

Actor Eric Balfour (Skyline, 24, Haven) was one of my favorite interviews of the night and he introduced me to a new organization, Falling Whistles. Here is my interview with Eric Balfour.

Q: How did you first learn about modern slavery?

A: For me it started with an organization I work with called Falling Whistles. Falling Whistles was founded by my friend Sean Carasso who was in the Democratic Republic of Congo. He saw children forced into the military and the ones who were so small that they couldn't pull the triggers on the gun, so they were given whistles. They used the whistle in case they saw they enemy coming and they could blow this whistle and let other soldiers know. Well they took this whistle and it became the symbol for this organization. The idea is to wear your protest and be a whistle blower for peace.

Q: How do you use your celebrity status to combat slavery?

A: To whatever degree you have as a celebrity or notoriety, there are people who see you as an opinion leader. You can use your opinions to sell underwear or alcohol, or you can use your opinion to sell positive change and to sell responsibility.

Q: Hearing these statistics and writing about these stories of slavery, especially about sex trafficking and child soldiers, can be depressing. How important is it to you to stay positive and how do you stay positive in the face of modern slavery?

A: My family is Native American and I was raised with Native American ceremonies. My Grandpa used to always talk about this. He used to say that man is inherently good, you know woman and man. I believed that and I still do. You know when we see people fighting, stealing, abusing, I don't believe it's because people are inherently evil. He believed that people are inherently good and that that goodness can come out if given the opportunity.

Sometimes it is hard to hear about all of the things going on, but we have to remember and celebrate the small things. It's not a revolution, but an evolution.

Q: How can people help and get involved?

A: You want to help, go to, go to Use the internet. The internet is an amazing tool. Talk about these things. Get on Twitter, get on Facebook, talk to your friends about it. The amazing thing about technology is that people have power. We are seeing it all the time in that innocuous people you would never know are having their voices heard because of this ability and technology we have.