I remember being 13-years-old in eighth grade Georgia History class and learning about slavery in antebellum America. It broke my heart to think that girls my age a hundred years earlier were treated as cattle instead of as people. Little did I know that slavery was still alive, let alone the number of people enslaved in our world was bigger than ever.
Today, there are over 27 million people in bondage across the globe. Many of those people are little 13-year-old girls who will never get to learn the history of their state in a safe school like I did.
On February 1st, 1865 President Abraham Lincoln signed the 13th Amendment which banned slavery in the United States. One hundred forty eight years later, President Obama is still trying to abolish slavery. There are currently an estimated 200,000 slaves working in America as you read this. This dark, inhumane "industry" is raking in $32 billion a year. It's going to take all of us working together to end it.
In 1948, award-winning author -- and emancipated slave -- Richard Wright, helped convince President Truman to declare February 1st National Freedom Day. It is inspiring to see how far our country has come since 1948 in terms of race relations. It is also shocking and tremendously unjust to think about the thousands of 13-year-old girls here who are bought and sold all day and night for rape.
One of those girls was Jessica*. Jessica was born in Louisiana into an unstable, and often homeless, family. When Jessica was ten, she and her mother, then a drug addict, moved to Atlanta. Two years later, her mom disappeared. A teenage man came into Jessica's life that said he could help her survive. The cost of Jessica's survival was sleeping with other men who would pay him.
At 15, in 2010, Jessica met with a client who turned out to be an uncover policeman and she was sent to a juvenile detention facility. The judge allowed her the choice to stay in prison or to enter a restoration center called Wellspring Living. Jessica chose Wellspring. Today, Jessica is healing thanks to a team of dedicated staff and volunteers. Jessica is example of the good news we can make together. But let's get a step ahead and stop stopping child sex trafficking before it starts.
But what if Jessica did not meet that uncover cop client? What if she was in a city without a place like Wellspring? What if she was in a country without a National Freedom Day like ours?
In honor of Jessica and the millions like her, let's do something today to finally stop slavery. Join Wellspring Living in wearing white for their #WhiteOut4Freedom Day. Find a One Billion Rising event in your town to dance for freedom this Valentine's Day. Ask the president to make freedom real by sending a letter through the International Justice Mission. Share Jessica's story to save others like her.
*Jessica's name was changed for her safety.
The views expressed do not necessarily reflect the opinion of Creative Visions Foundation. Personal opinion of the author only.
Erin Levin is sponsored by Creative Visions Foundation, a publicly supported 501 (c)(3), which supports Creative activists who use the power of media and the arts to affect positive change in the world.