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"Constance" by Mr. J. Medeiros of Echo Park

Being stuck on the Hollywood Freeway during rush hour, trapped in a metallic expanse of automobiles, counting the minutes of your life that you will never get back on the dashboard clock is a nasty predicament to be in...But that isn't the kind of traffic I'm talking about here.

I'm talking about the human traffic -- the trafficking of people. Human cargo. Coerced labor. The exploited and enslaved victims of structural poverty and predatory forced labor peddlers. According to the United States Department of Justice, human traffickers who promise high-paying domestic household, factory, fashion modeling, and farming jobs, smuggle an estimated 50,000 people into the United States each year through international organized crime networks. Once their journey as human cargo is over, victims soon learn that there isn't a great job waiting for them, but rather a life of subjection, severe physical and emotional abuse, torture, starvation, rape, and sexual exploitation.

The Coalition to Abolish Slavery and Trafficking (CAST), a Los Angeles based non-profit that works to serve those who have been trafficked, notes that enslaved individuals are forced to work under the worst of conditions, without pay for pornography, as prostitutes, in factories, on farms, in restaurants and hotels, doing construction, within servile forced marriages, and as domestic household servants. Trafficking as an industry is worth nine billion dollars annually and is responsible for adding another 600,000 to 800,000 people to the 27 million who are currently enslaved worldwide. And just last week, the Los Angeles Office of the FBI announced in a press release that a couple from Culver City is awaiting sentencing for felony charges against them for participating in human trafficking and forced labor.

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For two easy ways to get involved, learn more, and do some good meet us after the jump...

1. The National Council of Jewish Women, Los Angeles (NCJW/LA) is sponsoring a free screening of CARGO: Innocence Lost, a documentary by Michael Cory Davis about the link between corrupt orphanages and human trafficking, followed by a panel discussion regarding the human trafficking industry's impact on our Los Angeles community, at 543 N. Fairfax Avenue (between Rosewood and Clinton), from 6PM to 9PM, tomorrow, August 29th. To reserve a seat, call 323-852-8503.

2. The Polaris Project Los Angelesis hosting Unchain LA: A Night to End Modern Slavery, a cocktail fundraiser to comabt human trafficking. This will be the first in a series of Unchain LA human trafficking fundraising events. There will be music, art, food, booze, and you will get a little bit of a human trafficking education to boot. Money raised will be used to provide better social services to those who have escaped enslavement. The event will take place from 6PM to 9PM on Thursday, September 6th, at MJ Higgins Fine Art & Furnishings, 244 S. Main Street (between W. Second and W. Third Streets). Tickets are $30 and are available at the door. RSVP to LA@polarisproject.org or 213-388-2514.