Fair Trade Fair, People Behind the Label, & Silhouettes Project Event

This event held at County College of Morris in New Jersey had a market to sell fair trade and ethically created items, displayed art awareness of wooden silhouettes, and included a presentation by Sarah Barasch-Hagans. NJ Coalition Against Human Trafficking, Jewish Federation of Greater Mertrowest NJ, National Council of Jewish Women – West Morris Section, and Justice Network each sponsored this event!

The represented vendors were Bridge of Faith, Here There & Everywhere, ImagiNations, Imagine Goods, Mayamam Weavers, Marafiki Fair Trade Store, Mitla Moda, NCJW & Equal Exchange, Noonday Collection, Sseko Designs, and Unshattered.  Each had beautifully hand crafted items that represented women coming out of oppression, addiction, abuse, and poverty to empower them and their families.

The Silhouettes Project was really eye opening for those who especially might just be learning about the various forms of human trafficking around the world.  Danny Papa’s Project Stay Gold, an organization that educates students about modern-day slavery and gives them voices and opportunities to change their future generation and the ones to come, worked hard cutting and sanding each wooden silhouette.  Each one was then worked on by individuals who wanted to tell the story of a survivor or bring attention to various slavery such as sex trafficking, labor trafficking, and child soldiers.  They each had a story presented with the silhouette.  Those who worked on them did an amazing job.  They were very beautiful, educational, sad, and redeeming.  3rd place prize was $50 to Youth Consultation Service, 2nd place prize which also was the fan favorite won $100 for College of St. Elizabeth, and the first place prize of $200 was Oratory Prep.

Perhaps you have heard of the current Wendy’s boycott by the Immokolee Workers and are a part of this boycott yourself.  Speaker Sarah Barasch-Hagans of T’ruah encouraged us to join in the fight against the treatment of those who suffer in the tomato farm industry as slave laborers in Florida.  She said that many are now able to report of wage theft, sexual abduction, and more to authorities so that they can regain dignity while simply trying to work in the fields.  She implored us towards speaking up against the injustices they face and tied it in to how Passover, coming later in this month, is about the release to freedom for those who are enslaved just as the Israelites were enslaved in Egypt in Moses’ time.

It is important that we are consumers of goods and advocates against slavery; that we demand Corporate responsibility while informing these companies that independent sources are important.  “Fair trade empowers economy and farmers,” which is why our supply chains need to be researched better.  Sarah tied this into the deplorable practices of child slavery in the chocolate industry.  She asked us to download the free documentary Dark Side of Chocolate.  She shared how these children suffer to exposure of spray pesticides, tools that are dangerous such as machetes, and how it is the worst form of child labor.

While we are shopping at a supermarket, we need to know if what we are buying involved child labor, fair pay, good working conditions, and gender equality.  If we are buying something that has slavery involved, the products we buy may continue to hurt these people and allow corporations to continue to take advantage of their workers.  Until more consumer advocacy happens, we can’t tell companies of how to save children. This was stressed by Sarah as she wants us to redefine liberation through fair food programs and attack issues within these farms in our own country as well.

Supermarkets’ low cost tomatoes harm those who work in the fields.  Even earning just one penny per pound can help them.  Immokolee Workers have been able to assist in prosecution to lierate 1200 slave labor victims and currently strawberry farmers receive the most abuse.  The Imokolee Workers have a community center to help with work related issues.  She told how in 1993 the Immokolee, FL farmers were breeding grounds for slavery but due to many years of fighting the corporation pressures, 2010 started to truly bring a change to the lives of these farmers for the better.  Many are still falling through the cracks.

Overall Sarah Barasch-Hagans presented her speech beautifully and you could tell the audience was longing to learn more and help out through the questions they were asking her at the end.  Justice Network certainly appreciates what she has shared with us! Thank you to those of you who attended!

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