On September 4-7, 2008 around twenty students from ten different states and organizations across the nation converged in Washington D.C. for an anti-trafficking leadership retreat. The meeting was spearheaded by Americans for Informed Democracy, FAIR Fund and Polaris Project. The result was the creation of the National Student Coalition Against Slavery, a group aimed at synchronizing the strategies of the student movement throughout the country that will enhance its capacity to have a legislative and social impact on anti-slavery issues, providing a web of support for activism in different regions, and serving as a well of information and the sharing of resources.

Among other things, the students were trained on how to handle the media and approaching someone about human trafficking in less than a minute (the “elevator pitch”) as presented by Paula-Raye O’Sullivan from Campus Progress. Michele Clark, Professor for the Elliot School of International Affairs at George Washington University spoke about the challenges of teaching about and fighting human trafficking. Karen Stauss (Managing Attorney and Policy Council) and Elizabeth Rhodes (National Grassroots Coordinator) from the Polaris Project explained how to go about lobbying for the Trafficking Victims Protection Reauthorization Act (TVPRA), and the differences between the House and Senate bills, among other things. Amelia Korangy, Development Officer for FAIR Fund, addressed activism, and advised and guided discussions in the break-out groups. Aashika Damodar, Zimmerman Fellow at Free the Slaves, related to students her experiences organizing students in California and her work at Free the Slaves; she also actively participated in break-out groups.

After the lobbying training students along with AID staff members including Arya Zarrinkelk, Sarah Frazier, Kate Willard, and FAIR Fund representative Amelia Korangy visited Capitol Hill. They split into groups of two to three students guided by a staff member and met with representatives of several senators from their respective states in order to advocate for the TVPRA.

The group “Yellow Rage” was unable to attend the retreat and perform live for students due to bad weather conditions. However, they were present via video conferencing. Their recorded performances about human trafficking and other poems were played and explained by the group members for the attendees, illustrating one of many creative mediums by which different oopulations can be educated about modern day slavery.

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