Monday, March 05, 2007

Slavery alive and well

Hi all, hope you had a good weekend. Yesterday I finally watched the Oscar-nominated movie Blood Diamond and it was terrific. Sad, violent but terrific. Man's inhumanity to man never ceases to amaze. While I was still pondering on the themes of the movie (you know a movie is good when you remember it the next day) I received an email from a relative which I felt I needed to post. Here's an edited version:

In this year 2007, the bicentennial of the abolition of slave trade by the British on March 25, 1807, I was of the opinion that slavery was something of the past, a shameful brutal act perpetrated by some human beings on others but no longer a part of our moral or cultural landscape.

So I thought. Until last week when I read Francis Bok's , Escape from Slavery, an autobiography of a young man who had been a slave for ten years in the Sudan, African's largest country, until he was able to escape and gain asylum as a United Nations refugee in the United States of America on August 13, 1999.

It is a shocking read. Slavery and slave trading are still contemporary phenomena. Francis was captured in southern Sudan as a seven year old when Arabic Muslim slave raiders rampaged through the marketplace near a small village called Gourion, killing most of the men and taking the women and children to be slaves in the north of the country. For seven year old Francis, it was a brutal experience. Not only did he see adults being chopped to pieces , he saw the limbs of little children lopped off when they cried too much on the journey north. He was taken to the home of his captor and beaten into submission as an animal is tamed into doing what its owner wants it to do.

Francis tells the story of his ten year captivity as dispassionately as can be expected for one who has gone through such a horrendous experience. The story is an eye opener. Slavery and slave trading though technically not legal anywhere in the world today are still widely practised. Not only does it still exist in African countries ,such as Sudan, Mauritania and Niger but guess what, according to Anti-Slavery groups in the United States and Britian, there are more than 27 million , repeat- 27 million people, being held in slavery today.

And don't think for a moment that modern day slave trading is just relegated to Africa. It is suggested that slavery today exists on every continent on the planet , including South America, and North America. That means that there are slaves today in Brazil, United States and Canada. Greater numbers exist in South-East Asia.

Maybe you already knew all of this. But for me this is a shocking revelation though I now recall reading a newspaper article a few years ago in Barbados that said there are people living in slavery here on this little island. This is not metaphor or hyperbole. What is being said is that there are people (and I am not talking about marriage) living in bondage: held against their will , working for other people and not having the liberty to leave their situation. If they try they are usually threatened with violent or other coercive measures to keep them in their submissive situation.

I suggest that everyone read this book: Francis Bok ( with Edward Tivnan), Escape from slavery, New York: St. Martin's Griffin, 2003 ISBN: 0-312-30624-5
There is also a website for information on contemporary abolitionist activity:

It looks like the battle ain't done and maybe some of us will have to pick up the baton from William Wilberforce, Thomas Clarkson, Granville Sharp, Frederick Douglas, Sojourner Truth, William Ogoode , John Graves Simcoe, Mary Ann Shad , Harriet Tubman, Colonel Bussa, Samuel Jackman Prescod, and a whole host of others who believed like Tubman that slavery was the "next thing to hell".

Francis Bok came to the United States and after a while was enticed to tell his story by an organization called the American Antislavery Group. In doing that he got to meet a whole host of American activists and politicians on both sides of the political divide including former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright, Condoleeza Rice, Coretta Scott King, Rev. T.D, Jakes and President George Bush.

In 2003 when the book was written Francis Bok was 23 years old.


NIGER1.COM said...

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Bajegirl said...

Hi, thanks for checking out the blog. I've emailed the story to you, courtesy of the relative I mentioned. Good luck with the website.