All for One and One for Freedom

 Freedom is an interestingly complex concept. Americans have adopted the ideal as a fundamental chromosome to our way of life. Since signing the Declaration of Independence, we have attempted to articulate the meaning and the foundation of the word – freedom – into a living breathing structure. Freedom of speech, freedom of religion, freedom from involuntary servitude or slavery. The language we have used as our foundation is supposed to cultivate our lives and shape our futures.

But what about the fact that approximately 21 million people are trapped in some form of forced labor, present day, both ``globally and here in our own country, land of the free ( These individuals are forgotten in propaganda, watching politicians’ freedom campaigns and doubting that this person will reach them in, say, Immokalee, Florida (learn more about great worker’s rights efforts here: ).

The Freedom River, a clip narrated by Orson Welles 40 years ago, formulated the meaning of freedom through a metaphoric river. He tells the story of a free flowing river, who by the ignorance and greed of the people, was dammed. The river stopped flowing and became muck. The freedom and vivacious nature of the people was lost.

The tidal rivers of America have brought life to the people who have inhabited this land for centuries. Listening to Welles’ deep, inviting voice I couldn’t help but migrate to the people  who are currently entrapped on those very same freedom rivers. The dams were built, allowing only the rich, the affluent, and the normative, free access and potential to the other side. Those are the slaves of today.

The Thirteenth Amendment granted freedom from involuntary servitude yet we are not equipped to free those who are enslaved to poverty, the modern day slave trader. This slave trader now has a new directory of clients that include (but not limited to) textile factories, agricultural farms and ranches, private property care, and the sex industry. Poverty utilizes the middleman - human traffickers - to maintain the supply and demand of humans, sustaining the thriving yet outdated business.

Welles wraps up the novel clip with the culmination of a light bulb that epitomizes the invention of knowledge and insight beyond the American dollar. The light bulb embodies an idea that, “where [the river] has been fouled by our foolishness, it can be made clear by our wisdom”. The people rally to exercise their intellect, clean the river, and destroy the dams so that all of the enjoyment of the Freedom River is restored.


When will the very same light bulb in this 1971 premonition regurgitate itself to include the freedom of all our fellow humans? We are all survivors to systemic torments and marginalization but it is all too palpable for millions of people - men, women, and children of all ages, genders, ethnicities, sexual orientations, mental capacities, and personalities.

As a human race, we are creative by nature. The beauty of invention can forge the wisdom of some with the needs of others. It is our duty as Americans and as humans to break down the systemic dams to those who can’t afford to buy tickets to the Underground Railroad.

Let the Freedom River run. Let freedom ring, but when it does, we need everyone to have access to answer that call.

Watch the Orson Welles video here

Themes: examining freedoms – people who access freedoms and those who cannot; poverty is the main driver blocking access to freedoms; innovation/entrepreneurism – true innovation is bridging divide between haves and have nots


Villain, Victim, or Savior?

Villain, Victim, or Savior?

A classic story involves a damsel in distress and a cruel, disillusioned villain. After arduous realities, the damsel is saved by a heroic mess of testosterone and the world is set right. The villain is banished to a castle in the abyss for all eternity while the damsel and her prince live happily ever after.

There are two points to this introduction.

The first is that without the villain, there’s no plot, or story. The identified evil would be absent. With no antihero, there is no need for justice (or prosecution). The villain must be present to illuminate the need for redress and to recognize the inherent nature of the crime and stop it at the source.

My second point is that narratives are the facilitators of human connection. As children we learn empathy through the triumphs and tribulations of the stories. The narratives connect us to people and things we may not otherwise attempt to understand.

Why or how are these two points connected in the field of human trafficking?

Let me set some context. Human trafficking was officially defined in Colorado law as  a felony in 2006. One man was convicted for sex trafficking of a minor and adult to mark the first-ever human trafficking conviction under Colorado law in 2011. In 2009, Peruvian sheepherders brought a civil suit against an employer for miscellaneous trafficking atrocities. They won the case. These are some of the few cases brought against the perpetrators under state anti-trafficking laws that have succeeded in identifying, charging, and convicting the criminals with the intended appropriate laws.

You can find more information about the cases below:

These convictions represent the successes of law enforcement, prosecution, communities, service providers, and the survivors themselves. But how can this be enough? When there are service providers reaching hundreds of people every year who have survived numerous forms of exploitation and/or trafficking, how is it that only a handful of cases have been prosecuted under Colorado’s human trafficking statutes in the past nine years? And how much do we know about the individuals perpetrating these crimes, especially in the midst of such low conviction rates?

The first ever conviction in Jefferson County occurred in 2014 read more about it here:

In fact, I want to hear more about the people who are committing these atrocities and seemingly getting away with them. Instilling pressure on the criminal stops the cycle at it’s core and prevents the victimization of more vulnerable people. What can we learn about the motivations from these criminals? How can we prevent people from becoming perpetrators? Too often, the narrative seems to focus only on victims, which creates the delusion that this issue is one-sided. It most certainly is not.

I am advocating for an appropriate and holistic effort to address all aspects of human trafficking. How can we tell a better story that generates human connection?

A comprehensive approach brings the narrative around full circle generating understanding and universality. If you take the Brothers Grimm, their stories embody the elements of classic stories but are never clear. These tales depict a messy and chaotic parable. This reflects the efforts to end human trafficking. Frequently, the perpetrators are victims themselves and the evil behind the crime is hidden and deceitful to an obvious glance. To manifest a true holistic approach to  end human trafficking, the victim, villain, and savior necessitate extensive research and insight.