Plymouth Church in Brooklyn Heights was made famous and has long been lauded as a pioneer for its 19th-century anti-slavery stance and for the abolition work of its first minister, Henry Ward Beecher.
While traditional slavery in the U.S. was abolished just over 150 years ago, the stark truth is that modern day slavery — or human trafficking, as it is alternatively known — does exist.
In order to raise awareness of this underpublicized epidemic, Plymouth Church is sponsoring a free event called “We Are the New Abolitionists: An Education and Action Event to End Human Trafficking In Our City.”
The gathering is slated to take place this Sunday, Jan. 24, at 12:15 p.m., following Plymouth’s 11 a.m. service.
The event will include advice on how people can take action, including a letter-writing campaign to legislators and volunteer opportunities.
Plymouth Church stated in a press release that its anti-trafficking event is “meant to educate, making us aware what happens in our own community — but also to uplift, as we are given meaningful, positive volunteer opportunities that will make a difference.”
Brooklyn District Attorney Ken Thompson, whose office has a Human Trafficking Department, will be the keynote speaker and will detail the work that has already been done to stymie this issue.
Also present will be several anti-trafficking organizations, including Sanctuary for Families, ECPAT-USA (End Child Prostitution and Trafficking) and Restore.
The gathering will feature a performance of “Trafficked” by the renowned Brooklyn-based Girl Be Heard theater company.
“We focus on ending modern-day slavery — trafficking in all its guises — in our own community, here in Brooklyn and New York City,” said Beth Fleisher, chair of Plymouth’s anti-trafficking ministry.
Fleisher assisted in organizing a sold-out roundtable discussion on the issue of trafficking at the Brooklyn Historical Society that was led by now-U.S. Attorney General Loretta Lynch.
Human trafficking is notorious in India, South East Asia and Brazil, but its prevalence in Brooklyn and across the U.S. is perhaps less widely recognized.
According to the DA’s Office, just last month, four Brooklynites were indicted for a 2014 kidnapping of two 13-year-old girls they hoped to lure into prostitution.
In December of 2014, 15 employees and managers of nine massage parlors in Brooklyn were arrested on prostitution and promoting prostitution charges.
According to Law Street Media, the 20 U.S. cities with the highest volume of trafficking in America include New York, Long Island, Houston, El Paso, Los Angeles, Atlanta, Chicago, Charlotte, Miami, Las Vegas, New Orleans, D.C., Philadelphia, Phoenix, Richmond, San Diego, San Francisco, St. Louis, Seattle and Tampa.
Plymouth Church chose to hold this event at a time of the year when there tends to be a surge in commercial sexual exploitation and victimization.
According to McCain Institute, “the Super Bowl [is] the most prominent national event where sex trafficking flourishes, with estimates of as many as 10,000 victims flooding host cities to be offered to willing purchasers intent on buying sex.”
According to Plymouth Church’s press release, ECPAT says that “about 25 percent of the youth in a random sample who were surveyed at Covenant House, a shelter for street youth in New York City, experienced some form of trafficking victimization.”
ECPAT also reported that the National Human Trafficking Resource Center received more than 16,600 calls for help last year, according to the press release.
Worldwide, human trafficking is a $159 billion global industry and roughly 20.9 million have fallen victim to this issue.
While human trafficking is indeed a growing epidemic, Brooklynites have the ability to raise awareness and take small steps toward eradicating this problem by attending Plymouth Church’s event this Sunday.
More information on “We Are the New Abolitionists: An Education and Action Event to End Human Trafficking In Our City” is available at http://goo.gl/vwYNjA.