Hamilton, #SlaveFreeLent and the University of Glasgow
I started this weekend by listening to Hamilton. This was different than the other times I have listened to Hamilton, because I have spent a lot of my thought life and planning time this week preparing for #SlaveFreeLent and my part in University of Glasgow’s Stand for Freedom, 5-6 March. Hamilton is about freedom and independence, and abolition and freedom from slavery are a key theme in the show. I let that really wash over me and sink into my heart as I listened to John Laurens rapping about freedom from slavery in ‘My Shot’, and the implications of the fact that Hamilton was the son of a Scottish man. Scotland’s historical links to transatlantic slavery matter. As a new abolitionist who longs to see an end of modern slavery, I speak over where we now stand fighting modern slavery; “this is not a moment, it’s a movement” (Lin Manuel Miranda, ‘My Shot’, Hamilton). We are here for the long haul, we are here to move forward together, actioning this one step at a time.
This leads me to speak about #SlaveFreeLent (www.ijmuk.org/slavefree). For anyone who is not part of this campaign yet, it isn’t too late! It constitutes messages on WhatsApp each day of Lent about an aspect of modern slavery, facts in small digestible doses and crucially, a suggested action. This week as a movement, the 1900 people in the UK currently signed up to take part in #SlaveFreeLent have given up chocolate in honour of the children who are exploited on cocoa farms. “Two thirds of the world’s cocoa supply comes from West Africa, where more than 2 million children are thought to be exploited in the cocoa industry…The practice isn’t new, or even unknown to chocolate brands. In fact, two decades ago chocolate brands pledged to eradicate child labor. But deadlines continue to be missed.” (IJM UK, #SlaveFreeLent). Please take a moment to pause here. You might well be someone who has already pledged to give up chocolate for Lent, for your own reasons, and I honour that. But have you thought yet about the people behind the product? If not, why not? If you have already read this today and your heart hurts, like mine, for the children who are forced to work on cocoa farms, and it’s beginning to stir you, I say there are actions we can take. We can write to brands and use our consumer power. We can write to politicians and use our advocacy power. I will post in the future about my experiences writing and advocating so far. Whatever you do, don’t sit back and say you could not do anything, or pretend you didn’t know.
Finally, I wanted to highlight Stand for Freedom. This week I will be part of the University of Glasgow’s Stand for Freedom, in which members of Just Love are standing outside the library as a for 24 hours to protest the use of modern slavery and forced labour in the making of university branded clothing in the campus shop. If you are a UoG student, alumni or staff, please consider signing this petition here to support our campaign. I have written already about my thoughts linking transatlantic slavery and modern slavery. They are both wrong, and need to be fought. I think at times we all experience feeling powerless to change the systems we are fighting. I want you to know that I do not believe that anymore, I feel convinced that my voice is powerful because I do not stand alone. I am part of a group, a process, with a long term goal to end injustice, fighting on different fronts and in different spaces, one of which is cyberspace. Congratulations friend, because by reading this article, you are part of the fight.