In the eyes of many students, slavery is a thing of the past. Yet conservative estimates put the worldwide population of slaves at 27 million-more than any time in history. The sisters of Sigma Gamma Rho Sorority, Inc., raised awareness about the issue Tuesday as they hosted Freedom Day: Slavery in Sudan.
A captivated audience listened and watched as the situation in Sudan was explained at length, complete with gruesome photos and stories of individual slaves.
“I was surprised that slavery still exists,” Philip Laramore, senior, said. “I thought we had risen above it.”
Lattisha Rowe, vice president of Sigma Gamma Rho, got the idea for hosting the event as part of her sorority’s Founder’s Week after she read a story detailing one slave’s experiences in Sudan.
“The main goal is to raise awareness about slavery in Sudan,” Rowe said. “I think it’s important to open people’s eyes about that. I could speak to someone today who could spark a change.”
Edmund Abaka, directory of the Africana Studies program, gave a brief overview of the political turmoil in Sudan that has resulted in slavery. Embroiled in civil war for almost half a century, the Muslims of the north have been fighting the non-Arab Sudanese in the south in a battle that has left more than two million dead and four million displaced.
“Because of the long civil war, there are ethnic animosities,” Abaka said, which have resulted in the current situation of slavery today.
The presentation detailed the harsh conditions that slaves in Sudan endure, including daily beatings, gang rapes and loss of identity.
Abaka advised students to take the steps needed to bring awareness to the conditions of the Sudanese today. He urged everyone to talk to senators and congressmen and to make it a priority for other governments to intervene.
“The main thing is that people’s rights have been abused. They have been oppressed,” Abaka said. “And therefore we should push it strongly as a human rights case. Sudan should be the opening front for this battle.”
Students walked away with a new understanding of slavery in the world today.
“I think it was very informative and I was surprised to see that something as terrible as slavery still exists.” Shajena Erazo, freshman, said. “It really opened my eyes.”
“I know that slavery exists [in the] present day, but I didn’t know that there were that many slaves, especially in Africa,” Emanna Louis, junior, said.
Rowe wants to expand the workshop to next semester, possibly adding speakers.
“Hopefully we can make it an annual thing,” Rowe said. “There is still slavery in the world today-slavery is not history.”
For more information on the issues of slavery in Sudan, visit www.ibolish.com.
Megha Garg can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.