Editor’s note: Alison Leuchtenburg is the current outreach intern at Free the Slaves. She will be the leader of Team Free the Slaves for the Stop Modern Slavery Walk on October 3rd, when thousands of anti-slavery activists and organizations will gather at the National Mall to raise awareness about slavery. (To join Team Free the Slaves—or for more information on how you can support the walk, go here.) In this blog entry, Alison talks about how she became an anti-slavery activist.
I am often asked how I got involved in the anti-slavery movement. I am now approaching ten years of involvement, thanks to an incredible teacher, Mariann Nogrady.
When I was thirteen, my eighth grade social studies teacher, Mrs. Nogrady, did a unit with us on modern slavery. We were outraged, and wrote letters to our representatives, telling them that slavery still exists and we want them to do something about it. We weren’t very clear on what we wanted them to do, but we wanted something to be done.
In high school I joined Unitarian Universalists Against Slavery. In 2003, Barney Freiberg Dale, founder of UUAS, invited me to go with him to the Unitarian Universalist General Assembly to help represent UUAS. There I helped staff an informational booth, one we shared with Free the Slaves. That was where I met [Free the Slaves President] Kevin Bales for the first time.
As a student at the University of Massachusetts Amherst, I invited Kevin Bales to speak in my Hunger in a Global Economy class, as well as a class in the women’s studies department. That event sparked the idea to create a group at UMass dedicated to fighting slavery. A couple years later, former Free the Slaves intern Steve Hoeschele and I founded the UMass Anti-Slavery Club.
As president of the UMass Anti-Slavery Club, I recruited new members, organized meetings and staffed an informational table in the campus center. I also planned the first Freedom Walk, soon to be an annual event. The Freedom Walk was a five mile fundraising and awareness-raising walk through campus and town. We carried signs, sang old freedom songs like “We shall overcome,” and told curious passersby about modern slavery. All told, we raised just over $1000.
Being in that walk was a great moment. I felt a connection to the freedom fighters of old, as well as all the ones working for change all over the world today. We sang the words, “deep in my heart, I do believe, we shall all be free someday,” and I could feel the power of those words echo throughout my being. There is nothing so exhilarating as being a part of a movement.
Today I work for that movement full time, as a Free the Slaves intern. Every morning I go to work with people who believe as I do, that “we shall all be free someday,” and have dedicated their lives, as I have, to making that happen. And every evening I go home knowing that the work I did that day will help to free slaves and end slavery.