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.

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