By Wendy Nelson Kauffman
Ana Alarcon, a 17-year old senior at the CREC Metropolitan Learning Center, was not going to let a blizzard stop her from her fight to end modern-day slavery. Despite most public transportation being shut down, Alarcon arrived in Washington, D.C. to speak Monday at the National Youth Summit on Abolition.
The young Latina was the only student on a panel including three nationally recognized experts on modern-day slavery. One of the panelists that Alarcon shared a stage with was Kenneth Morris, the founder and president of the Frederick Douglass foundation, and also a descendant of both Frederick Douglass and Booker T. Washington.
Alarcon said at first she felt out of place sitting on stage among such accomplished people, including Luis CdeBaca, who heads the U.S. State Department’s Office to Monitor and Combat Trafficking in Persons, and Lois Brown, professor of English and African American Studies at Wesleyan University, and the consultant to the TV series, “The Abolitionists.” But Alarcon said they quickly made her feel like she belonged.
She described her efforts as an abolitionist to the students in the audience at the Smithsonian National Museum of American History, as well as those watching a webcast in 31 states and three foreign countries. She reminded students that nothing was stopping them from doing what she is doing. She is president of CREC’s Metropolitan Learning Center’s extra-curricular group, Student Abolitionists Stopping Slavery (SASS).
“For me, this is something from the heart,” Alarcon said when asked why she is an abolitionist. “People are going to react differently; however, how do you go back from seeing a child suffering while you have so much, and such a normal life.”
Alarcon reminded the thousands of students watching that they had a role in ending modern-day slavery. She told them they did not necessarily need an organization to help free the estimated 27 million people enslaved worldwide today. She said students can change their buying habits to purchase fair-trade goods, donate to groups who free and rehabilitate slaves, or simply raise awareness by sharing what they learned at the conference about present-day slavery.
“It sounds cliché, but knowledge is power and the more people know, the more people are willing to make a difference,” Alarcon said.
(Wendy Nelson Kauffman is a teacher and advisor at the CREC Metropolitan Learning Center who traveled to Washington with Ana Alarcon.)