Dr. Hill and students
Students taking stand against modern slavery

USC-Upstate, Wofford students joining international protest

By Felicia Kitzmiller
The Spartanburg Herald-Journal
Published: Wednesday, March 6, 2013

A group of University of South Carolina Upstate students have decided what they stand for.

About 100 Upstate students joined groups across the country in protesting modern slavery and human trafficking during the International Justice Mission's annual Stand for Freedom event. The event asks organizations to stand for 27 hours for the 27 million people across the country who live in slavery. Money raised from the event is used to fund International Justice Mission investigations and prosecutions of those responsible for keeping people in slavery.

Upstate's 27 hours started Wednesday at 8 a.m. and will conclude Thursday at 11 a.m. with food, entertainment and games continuing through the night.

Shelley Wilton, a Spartanburg native and junior at Upstate, said she was inspired to organize Stand for Freedom last year when she heard a lecture about the human trafficking industry and its effects on South Carolina.

She was shocked at the exploitative and often violent ways slaveholders oppress their captives and escape detection.

“It's all around you and it might be happening to someone you know,” Wilton said. “It's not just in some Third-World country.”

The more research she did, the more motivated she said she became to take action. Modern slavery includes forced labor and sexual exploitation frequently inflicted on people who lack the financial means and education to protect themselves.

“Something as basic as freedom is something everyone deserves,” she said. “They are denied basic human rights that many of us take for granted.”

Hannah Stogner, who graduated from Upstate in May, helped Wilton organize the event. The two were brought together through a mutual friend who knew they were both moved by the plight of people living in slavery.

“When I first heard about the issue and how large it has become, I wanted to find a way to give back and right this injustice,” Stogner said.

As she began talking to people about human trafficking and slavery, Stogner said the response from people was overwhelming, and almost everyone was motivated to take action.

On March 1, the U.S. House of Representatives approved the Trafficking Victims Protection Reauthorization Act and sent the U.S. Senate's bill to the president. The bill would extend anti-trafficking programs for four years, establish new international partnerships for preventing trafficking, adds new protections for victims and gives attorneys the tools necessary to aggressively prosecute trafficking suspects.

The Stand for Freedom events will take place March 5-15. According to the International Justice Mission's website, the main campus of University of South Carolina in Columbia, is on track to have one of the ten largest Stand for Freedom events in the country.

This is Upstate's first Stand for Freedom event, but Wilton said she has been met with impressive support from students and faculty.

“I've found there is a really great group of people who feel really passionately about this,” she said.

Wilton said she hopes to raise $2,700 for the International Justice Mission through the event. Contributions can be made at https://www.ijmfreedommaker.org/campaign/884/Stand-For-Freedom-at-USC-Upstate/. Wilton said she plans to keep the fundraising going until the goal is met.

Wofford Facts: 

Wofford College students also have organized an event to raise awareness about modern-day slavery.

About 270 local students are planning to participate in a 27 Hour Stand for Freedom on Friday and Saturday. 

The students will be standing at the back side of the Main Building during the day and in the Roger Milliken Science Center at night, according to a statement from the college. The group hopes to raise $2,700. 

A celebration has been scheduled at the conclusion of the event. The public is invited to the Benjamin Johnson Arena at 6:30 p.m. Saturday for “a celebration of freedom through God's grace,” which will feature food, music and students speakers.

Copyright © 2013 GoUpstate.com — All rights reserved. Restricted use only. Used with permission.