Rowing across the Atlantic to end slavery

Slavery is not dead.

There are millions of men, women, and children forced into physical and sexual labor around the world, but the problem is often drowned out by other headlines.

In order to bring attention to the modern slave trade, a team of ten athletes is Rowing Against Slavery across the Atlantic Ocean. They’ll be stuck in a small boat for weeks, each one rowing two hours and taking two hours off as other team members take the oars, nonstop until they make the entire 3,000 mile journey.

The team hopes to beat the previous world record for rowing across the Atlantic, which is 33 days, but more importantly they will be raising awareness for an often hidden crime.

There are some grim facts and figures on their website, and more on the website of Anti-Slavery International, which was founded back in 1839 but still finds itself fighting a global problem.

It’s noticeable that both sites use the term “slavery” instead of “human trafficking”, which technically only refers to slaves who are moved from one place to another through force or deception. Instead they call slavery what it is. There appears to be a trend in the media of using the nastier-sounding term “slavery” when referring to slaves in Africa or Asia, and “human trafficking” when referring to slaves in the U.S. or Europe.

Slaves in U.S. and Europe? Yes. Many women and children are forced into prostitution in the developed world and there’s no shortage of child workers, like the blueberry farm in Michigan that ABC News found was using children as young as five. Kids as young as twelve are allowed to work legally on U.S. farms. Child labor is often considered slavery because the children have no choice about working, and are often denied access to education and are subject to sexual exploitation.

To follow the team’s adventure across the Atlantic, check out their blog. There’s a donate button if you want to help the effort to free the slaves. In the land of the free, what could be a better cause?

Race and the ties that bind at Monticello

There is an article in today’s New York Times about Monticello. Not so much about Monticello, but about how the decedents of Thomas Jefferson, the third president of the United States, and Sally Hemings, Jefferson’s slave who he supposedly had children with, have come to see the house as a place that binds them together. Jefferson, however, is buried in the graveyard, but Hemings is not. No one knows where Hemings is buried. Still, Jefferson’s grave holds importance, and like many places with historic value, people aren’t allowed to go near it. It has something to do with messing up the grass.

Monticello, according to the essay, is an indication of the complexity of United States history and the relationship between the people whose lives have been affected. It has become a place where healing can take place. One of the people mentioned in the article is from Gahanna, Ohio, not far from Columbus. She is a descendant of Hemings, and thus, possibly of Jefferson. For her, Monticello is a place that fosters the idea that folks ought to learn to get along since they may be related to each other after all.

The essay brought to mind the idea that places have meaning when the people who go there understand its importance. Otherwise, one might be walking through just another fancy house with gleaming wood furniture and fine china.

Washington’s birthday–a virtual tour of Mt. Vernon

Earlier this week I headed to Mt. Vernon. Not physically, but via Mt. Vernon’s Web site. I see lots and lots and lots of Web sites. Web site hopping is a great way to pass writing time. Mt. Vernon’s Web site is the Rolls Royce of sites. There is so much material that it’s easy to get lost in the wandering.

Details range from the reconstruction of a slave cabin to how to make Martha Washington’s Great Cake to every detail about George Washington’s house and gardens and his life, including before and after his presidency. In each section there are links that lead to more details. For example, when you go to the house and garden link there are other links to specific buildings. Each building has other links to more information. If you head to the Virtual Mansion Tour, you’ll find links to specific rooms in the main house. Each room of the house has more links. In the Large Dining Room, you can find out about the molding, the artwork, the furniture and the room’s purpose.

If you can’t make it to Mt. Vernon in person, spend some time at the Web site and you’ll think that you spent a week there. Besides that, you’ll know more about 17th and 18th century life in the U.S. than most people do. Did you know the Great Cake takes 40 eggs? I do now.

Each month there are special events. For Black History Month programs center around the contributions of the slaves who lived at Mt. Vernon and the lives they led. Here’s the page that details the history of slavery where George Washington was concerned.

Cathedral of St. John the Divine, one of the world’s biggest churches

It’s a lovely thing when a Gadling reader posts a comment that leads us to another post. Such is the case with Moody 75’s comment “Dude, Manhattan has what is claimed to be the largest cathedral and Anglican church and third largest Christian church in the world” on my post “Temples and churches to visit in New York City.

Sure enough, Cathedral Church of St. John, The Divine is definitely one that I would like to see myself. From the picture, it looks familiar and perhaps I’ve passed by it on my way to somewhere else, but next time I’m in New York, I’m heading here.

First of all, its history is one that reflects the times and economic struggles. This is not a church that found easy funding at all junctures or has had enough people to build it over the years ever since the cornerstone was put in place in 1892. The Great Depression and World Wars 1 and 2 are only part of what has thwarted progress, although since it is the largest Anglican church in the world–and one of the world’s largest churches, one can make the point that there is tenacity and dedication at work here. Plus, the history reads like a Who’s Who. I’m impressed.

This is a church that seems to reflect aspects of American culture and because of its stature has attracted important people to speak here and perform such as Nelson Mandela, Bishop Desmond Tutu, and Leonard Bernstein. Madeline L’Engle who died this past year, even set a novel in this cathedral.

Along with giving tours, the church offers concerts and performances to the community. The next one, January 13, is called “Let My People Go: A Service of Liberation.” There will be various performances and singing along with a talk in commemoration of the end of the transatlantic slave trade.

10 Places to Absorb Slavery’s Past

Visiting places with dark pasts isn’t as odd as it sounds — in fact, it ‘s quite common. Lonely Planet picks up on this travel trend in their 2007 Bluelist, which examines the general popularity of tombs, graves, and memorials as destinations. Furthermore, the authors point out that Ground Zero and Auschwitz have become modern-day pilgrimage sites. “Dark Travel,” as it’s been coined, is incredibly popular.

USA Today recommends a few more non-cheery holiday stops in its article 10 Great Places to Absorb the Reality of Slavery. The article suggests that we should “celebrate freedom by remembering slavery,” which is not bad advice. Without understanding slavery, how can we truly understand what it means to be “free”?

Sights include the Harriet Tubman Home and the Civil War and Underground Railroad Museum, as well as the Frederick Douglass National Historic Site.