Stop Modern Slavery Walk: Washington DC
( World Footprints) - Eradicating modern-day slavery is an enormous undertaking that begins with small steps. On Saturday, October 22, 2011, World Footprints creators/producers/hosts Ian and Tonya Fitzpatrick joined with nearly 2,000 foot soldiers for the second annual Stop Modern Slavery walk-a 5 kilometer walk around Washington, DC's National Mall to raise awareness about human trafficking.
Stop Modern Slavery ( DCSMS) is a Washington, DC-based anti-trafficking organization that was formed in 2004 by a small group of concerned citizens. In less than six years, DCSMS has grown into an action-oriented core of grassroots volunteers with more than 850 members devoted to combating modern-day slavery in all forms.
"Human trafficking is one of World Footprints signature issues," states Tonya Fitzpatrick, co-founder of World Footprints. "We wanted to 'walk the talk' and although we have joined the United Nations Global Initiative to fight Human Trafficking (UN.GifT) as a media partner, we wanted to demonstrate our commitment to fighting this issue by also supporting the efforts of a local group."
The DCSMS event began with fitness trainer Jen Elyse of JFeldy Behealthy leading all walkers in a set of warm-up exercises. Then participants were treated to a morning performance by the Batala Washington Percussion Band and that was followed by the 'command to walk' that was given by survivors of human trafficking. Survivors then led walkers on the 5K trek which was accompanied by the heart-pumping beat that Batala provided.
Throughout the route around the National Mall and Tidal Basin walkers were inspired by cheers and they joined in chants of "What do we want…FREEDOM! When do we want it…NOW!" DCSMS volunteers provided directional markers and signs depicting photos and information about human trafficking along the course. Walkers also encountered an enthusiastic Abe Lincoln who led a chant of "Our children are not for sale!" as walkers passed by the Lincoln Memorial.
World Footprints co-founder Ian Fitzpatrick said, "It's impressive to see how many people in the Washington, DC area are concerned with this issue. When we looked around the gathering place and the walking route, it was amazing to see a sea of red DCSMS tee-shirts." Tonya also exclaimed, "I loved seeing people of all walks (no pun) participate. This was truly a family event. Parents brought strollers with their toddlers in tow, there were dozens of puppy ambassadors who enjoyed socializing with other canine friends, young children skipped along the 3.1 mile route and never missed a beat. It was very touching to be in the midst of this sea of humanity."
After completing the walk, participants were treated to a performance by the Idan Raichel Trio and a speakers' panel consisting of human trafficking survivors. Following the panel, Detective Steven Schwalm was awarded a Law Enforcement Service Award by DCSMS for his work and commitment to fighting human trafficking in the metro DC area. There were many activities provided for walkers, including a resource fair, children's area, and art exhibition.
"We organized TEAM World Footprints a bit late in the game so we were only a two-man team this year. We're hoping that our listeners will help grown our team for next year," stated Tonya Fitzpatrick. "In the interim, DCSMS will continue hosting our TEAM World Footprints page so that listeners and fans will have an opportunity to make donations to DCSMS in our name. We'll also continue raising awareness about this dreadful issue through our multi-media channels. In fact we incorporated some sound bytes from the walk and 'man on the street' interviews in our October 25 th show. Both Ian and I believe that we can eradicate this crime and leave a legacy of positive footprints…one step at a time."
Visit the DC Stop Modern Slavery website to learn more about how the organization is helping to end slavery through grassroots action and to join in the efforts.