Monday, March 14, 2011

I'm Not For Sale: Slavery Past and Present

The 16th Annual Building Bridges Conference was held Saturday, March 12, 2011, at Gustavus Adolphus College in St. Peter, Minnesota.

The event opened in Christ Chapel with a piece by I Am We Are, a social justice performance group organized by students at Gustavus.

The first of the day's many speakers was Dr. Joy DeGruy, who gave the keynote on her concept of “Post-Traumatic Slave Syndrome."

Joy Friedman, Women's Program Manager at Breaking Free, gave a harrowing account of her life as a victim of human trafficking and her role today helping women and girls escape prostitution. 

Alison Kileen spoke on "Interfaith Communities Combating Human Trafficking" on behalf of Minnesota's Joint Religious Legislative Coalition (JRLC).  

Suzanne Koepplinger, Executive Director of Minnesota Indian Women’s Resource Center discussed her organization's research report titled "Shattered Hearts: Commercial sexual exploitation of American Indian women and girls."

I regret I was not able to stay for the entire talk given by Connor Grennan, founder and president of Next Generation Nepal.  The story of his experiences restoring trafficked Nepalese children to their families has been captured in his book Little Princes: One Man's Promise to Bring Home the Lost Children of Nepal. 

Likewise, I was unable to hear the talks by James Brewer Stewart or Jennifer Kimball of the National Human Trafficking Resource Center, or participate in "the action piece" - a highlight of every Building Bridges Conference. 

Our daughter, Cassandra, worked on the conference again this year (her last at Gustavus).  What a fine program!  We are so proud of her work on issues of importance.

That's Right, Don't Anger Your Bodyguards

Frankly, I wasn't paying much attention to the gubernatorial politics and the legislative process in Wisconsin, until last week...

During the legal (and illegal) wrangling at the Wisconsin legislature last week Republican legislators made much of the fact that they had to be escorted from the capitol by police.  Perhaps these lawmakers took comfort knowing the police protecting them were exempt from the provisions of their bill which strips other public employees of their rights to bargain collectively.  Such a move is as cynical as it is transparent.  Some off duty cops didn't fall for it and openly expressed support for the protesters.  

If Governor Walker is really doing whatever it takes by whatever means necessary to balance the Wisconsin budget he'll back to strip the cops, firefighters, and state patrol of their rights as well.  If it really is just union busting tactics in support of an arch conservative economic agenda then he might come back anyway, if he thinks he can get away with it.

I'm so very happy we live in the United States where citizens and civil servants, unlike those in some countries, can depend on a tradition of law enforcement professionalism and are Republican officials in Madison, Wisconsin, I bet.