Sweet '16: Reflections From an Activist
December 31, 2015. Always an interesting place of the year, isn't it? It's like a bookmark in a juicy novel. It's here that we find ourselves halfway between the school year, yet standing at the doorway of a brand new set of days, weeks, and months. We have the next 365 days on the Gregorian Calendar in which to mark our mark in the world. Where have you been and where are you going on this Magic Carpet Ride?
For the past twelve months, I have been making strides to shine the light on human trafficking and modern day slavery. It's been quite a journey, one that is not always easy to adhere to, for there is so much exploitation that exists in this world. If nothing else, I have become keenly aware of how my actions affect others. In the end, the most profound statement I can make as an idividual is to be mindful of my purchases. I read something yesterday that resonated with me deeply, "When we remain silent, we give our consent." This is so true. Have you silently agreed to abuse and exploitation because it's just easier to look away, because it's cheaper to do so and gives you instant gratification? Think about it. Pray about it. Meditate on this for a moment and ask yourself, "Is owning this product going to make my life? Was someone exploited in the process? If so, is this how I would wish to be treated?
"When we remain silent,
we give our consent."
I've chosen to use my voice to help create change in the world by helping people becopme aware that there are more slaves living today than during the entire Transatlantic Slave Trade. There are slaves working in your town, too. Just check the local Chinese restaurant or nail salon, the massage parlor that offers Happy Endings, the one that's quietly tucked away in a little shopping mall. Slaves can be found on the farms that produce many of the fruits, meats, and veggies that we consume. Of course, exploitation is in the factories where our clothing and shoes are churned out at a break-neck speed in order to keep up with the demands of the fashion industry. Everywhere I look in the mall, the tags read, Made in Taiwan or Made in China, and I know think of the poor person - perhaps a young child - who slave away each day behind a machine. The thought brings a lump to my throat, and i get a pit the size of a canteloupe in my stomach.
As I do this work to enlighten others about what I've been learning, I see some people squirming in their seats, averting their attention to what I'm trying to say. I am working toward being in alignment with my vision, but as I do this work to help humanity, I've been manifesting at a very quick rate. It's as if the Universe says to me, "Okay, you want to help fix this problem that's larger than life? Well, you need to dig down deep, girl, so that really know where you stand on these issues and how you will handle them."
Over the past month, I've been forced to examine some pretty dark issues - domestic violence, sexual predators in our midst, gun violence, and modern day slavery in paradise - and how they affect me personally. After writing a little blog, Sugar N' Spice, Not So Nice about the exploitation and extreme poverty I witnessed the last time I was on vacation at Casa De Campo in the Dominican Republic, what did I get the very next day? An invitation for me and my family there for winter break. An all-expenses paid trip, in a villa with a pool and lots of people waiting on you hand and foot. It sounds lovely, enticing, and not-to-be-missed, right? Wrong.
The resort is owned by the sugar plantation owners, the ones whose pockets are lined in profit, by exploiting the Haitian farm workers for millions in profit. Over this past year, I've learned to look for the Fair Trade label , but sugar is a key ingredient in so many of the products we consume here in America, it's nearly impossible to escape this dark reality.
The Haitian workers are trafficked into the Dominican Republic with false promises of a great job in the contruction industry or the like, but when they arrive in the DR, it's a different story altogethe. The reality it that these poor workers lay down in the fields each night after doing back-breaking work in the hot, hot sun for twelve or more hours, with no shade, minimal breaks, and very little nutrition. Knowing that the owners of Casa De Campo are the ones causing so many to live a life of hardship, misery, and shame, I cannot accept this invitation for a "luxury vacation". I cannot support this while I am working to end modern day slavery. Certainly, it would be a lot easier for me to turn the other cheek and merrily take this family respite, but I've made a commitment to - whenever possible - raise my vibration and that of others by speaking my truth. Would I really be able to sleep at night, knowing I've contributed to their pain and suffering? No. Here's a short video, The Price of Sugar, about the corruption and exploitation in the Dominican, narrated by Paul Newman.
There have been other situations recently where I've chosen to speak up about something I've noticed was wrong, but no one has joned me in my little movement to do anything. Instead, there's a real sense from tothers that smacks of "We better keep things quiet. I don't want to rock the boat." Sometimes doing the right thing can be more difficult, and it can certainly cost more, but in the end, I'm striving to always reach for that higher vibration in Sweet 16. As author H. Jackson Brown Jr. has said, “Our character is what we do when we think no one is looking."
Oddly enough, as I sit before a 1,000 piece Coca-Cola puzzle, I am reminded that we have everything we need inside of us to access the Divine wisdom that's meant to lead us down the right path. We gather information from different sources - our own experiences, other people, the news, school, and the like. We might not always know what to with the information, but it stays with us, filling our sup with knoelwedge. Eventually, there's a Big Reveal, an aha momemt of sorts, and it's then that we are privy to the greater purpose at hand.
I've been separating out parts of the puzzle by design, creating several piles of reds, whites, browns, blues, and greens; some are with words, others with faces, and some with texture. Til now, they've just been pieces that just sat there - they have had no meaning. Now, as more of the 24x30" oh-so-intricate collage comes into focus, I am able to quckly analyze where things go, and the pieces of the puzzle are simply falling into place. It's like a big A-Ha Moment....everything is starting to make sense, and it's a relief. Perhaps 2016 will be just like this for me? I believe it will.
In the coming year, I will continue to shine my light and stand my ground on the difficult and controversial topics. I will grow and learn as I go, stumbling here and there, picking myself up with grace, ease and dignity when I fall. In the end, I will strive to make decisions that are good for the conscience - mine and the collective. I'd like to think that my decisions will not only be good for me and my family, but they will not harm another in any way. With all the hidden exploitation, I am quite sure I bolster the underground buiness of slavery with many of my purchases, but I will continue to seek out ethical sources and do my best to create positive change in the world. It's not easy being an activist and trying to take a stand, but it's worth it in the end.
Wishing you peace in your heart as we stand on the precipice of a new year.
~ Dorina Leslie, LMT and founder of Shine the Light Project
Dorina Leslie is the founder of Shine the Light Project, a grassroots movement to raise awareness about human trafficking, labor exploitation, and modern day slavery through the arts. She welcomes the opportunity to collaborate with artists, musicians, authors, and activists who are passionate about creating a better world in which all people are living free of exploitation. Please feel free to contact her and join in the movement.
The Price of sugar viodeo, narrated by Paul Newman. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EmKMSvNOsA8