Last weekend, I talked to my daughter about the significance of the holidays, as she painted Easter eggs at a friend's house. When we discussed Passover, and the enslavement of the Jews, and then talked about the enslavement of African Americans, she asked me if slavery still existed.
My heart dropped. In many ways I have protected all of my children from the human rights work that I do, especially the anti-trafficking efforts. I have tried to insulate them from the violence that is part of my every day reality. But, at that moment, my daughter deserved a truthful, difficult answer.
"Yes, slavery still exists."
"But, Mommy, where are there slaves?"
I thought of Jackie, who ran away from an abusive home at 12 only to be found alone and hungry by a trafficker who promised to love her like a father, boyfriend, Prince Charming. He sold her to at least six different men every night. When she begged him for food or rest, he beat her.
Or Maria, lured by a trafficker at the age of 11 to be bought and sold all over the state of California, along with other girls her age. She explained it to me "as daddy daycare" because of how young she and the other girls were. When she tried to escape, the trafficker tortured Maria with ice baths and broke a table over her back.
And, Tara, who was a high school student, simply walking down the street in her neighborhood, when she was pulled into a trafficker's car, gang raped, and then forced into selling her body every night.
"Where are the slaves, today, Mommy?"
I tell my daughter, that they are here, hidden in plain view. Many of them are girls who look like her, but who are being hurt and denied their freedom and dignity.
And then, I cup her hands holding the Easter egg, think of my father singing the Passover song "Dayanu" and pray that those girls and other girls like them, here and everywhere, will be able to know the promise of freedom and rebirth.