At the beginning of 2022, I rethought my business and it blossomed into a vocation of serving the interests of others. I was ready to bear one another’s burdens with a bountiful eye, even though I was in no place to be generous. There are many causes to lend a hand but when I really considered the issues that disturbed me the most, I encountered a crime that I found to be an axis for many of today’s pervasive injustices: human trafficking.
When I was in college, the faith-based organization that I was a part of held an invitational campaign called The Price of Life which promoted awareness about human trafficking and explored the deeper meaning of our personal freedom. It was the first time that I realized that even though slavery had been abolished in the United States in 1865, it had not been destroyed. In fact, it still existed here and all over the world, entangling 46 million vulnerable people in its demeaning and heinous web.
I see human trafficking as a crime of all crimes. It reaches its ugly hands across so many other issues in our world: financial hardship, domestic abuse, sexual abuse, household instability, homelessness, low self esteem, cyber grooming, immigration, border security, labor exploitation, consumer demand, food security, mental health… It is from this plot that human trafficking plucks its innocent victims, courting them into a life without freedom.
Fighting against modern day slavery isn’t just my cause, it’s a long-awaited summons from the history of my people. My parents, grand, and great grandparents are originally from Guyana, a Caribbean country on South America’s northern coast. Today, it boasts an eclectic mix of Indian, African, Chinese, Amerindian, British, Dutch, Portuguese, and Spanish racial and cultural influences.
Between 1838 to 1917, Indian laborers were brought to the West Indian colonies, some with the promise of a better life, some tricked, and some kidnapped, ultimately to replace the void created by the abolition of slavery. On the estates under this new system of slavery, indentured laborers experienced similar dehumanizing treatment and exploitation for little compensation. Today, it is estimated that 24.9 million people are trapped in forced labor worldwide, including 4 million children.
I am certainly not a perfect human, I’m not a superior or distinguished abolitionist, nor a seasoned advocate. I’m an artist and a person who wants to help. My interest in artistic expression lies in my ability to create a life of my own choosing, an ability that I know many people in the world today do not have. In my freedom, I want to shine a light on the exploitation of our society’s most vulnerable members. I have deep empathy for victims of violation and it motivates me to create paintings that allow others to participate in the fight for freedom alongside me.