Albuquerque joined six hundred cities across the globe Saturday by participating in the “A21 Walk for Freedom” to raise awareness about human trafficking.
A21 is an international organization leading the anti-trafficking and anti-slavery campaign, “Walk for Freedom.” The walk intended to inform the public, while encouraging victims of human trafficking to share their stories to prevent modern-day slavery from continuing.
By 10:30 a.m. a line of marchers stretched along the sidewalk of Louisiana Blvd. from Cutler Ave. to Indian School Rd.
Demonstrators dressed in all black, including the organization’s shirt, reading, “Abolish slavery with each step.” Yellow bandanas with the names Ivan, Amy or Eve covered their mouths. Participants held a vow of silence for the duration of the event, but some designated individuals stationed at street corners explained the event to bystanders.
“This is a demonstration, not like a 5K run, but a slow single-file walk, with signs that show statistics to bystanders,” Event Organizer Jane Sugg said. “The main goal of this event is to raise awareness locally, and the statistics shown here in New Mexico are relevant to trafficking data in this region of the U.S.”
Our state borders Mexico, people who leave Mexico in search of safety, security and financial aid are often “taken advantage of” instead, she said.
“Amy represents the western girl who is forced into prostitution through drug coercion as a form of trafficking. Eve symbolizes the child who is sold into slavery by her parents, which is common overseas. Ivan represents the gentleman who is trafficked into forced labor,” she said.
Demonstrators held signs with statistics reading, “Nine people a day are trafficked in the U.S.,” “Trafficking generates $1.3 billion” and “99 percent of people who are trafficked are never rescued.”
Among the marchers were La Cueva High School students, Samantha Delap and Daniel Ndibongo. The two learned about the demonstration through a humanitarian studies class offered at their school.
“I’m new to the whole activism thing, and it’s great to be able to be a part of such a big group,” Delap said. “I wasn’t expecting this many people. The humanitarian studies class is new this year, and I can see that it is already making an impact.”
“I’m from South Africa, so it’s great to see that people really do care about these issues around the world,” Ndibongo said. “It’s amazing to see this community of people that exists, and it’s great to see the awareness coming to Albuquerque now.”
“It sickens you to learn about this, because you don’t realize what is going on around you,” Sugg said. “That makes me angry, and it makes all these people angry too.”
As participants returned to Lewis University to conclude the event, bandanas were refolded to expose a new term — “free.”
The finale of the demonstration included speeches from the event’s organizers, with the hopes of evoking inspiration to continue the momentum to bring an end to human trafficking.
“We are not detectives, reporters, policemen or lawyers, but we can still shed light on this, and that’s why we do it,” Sugg said.
Rebecca Brusseau is a news reporter for the Daily Lobo. She can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @r_brusseau.