While all seven stories are inspirational, we would like to highlight Kenneth B. Morris, Jr. who founded the Frederick Douglass Family Initiatives and raises awareness of the realities of modern day slavery and human trafficking. Mr. Morris' recognition as recipient of the Ida B. Wells Award for Bravery in Journalism is particularly timely during this National Slavery and Human Trafficking Awareness Month (January 2014).
Kenneth B. Morris, Jr.: Inheritor of Anti-Slavery Activism
Recipient of the Ida B. Wells Award for Bravery in Journalism
For the first time in 21 Leaders' history, a man has been selected as the recipient of the Ida B. Wells Award for Bravery in Journalism.
Kenneth B. Morris, Jr. is a direct descendant of two of the best-known Americans from the 19th and early 20th centuries: Frederick Douglass and Booker T. Washington. He continues his family's legacy of anti-slavery and educational work as the founder and president of the Atlanta-based public charity Frederick Douglass Family Initiatives.
The father of two teenage daughters, Morris was deeply touched by a 2003 National Geographic Magazine cover story called "21st Century Slaves," which outlined the contemporary manifestations of slavery, including the sexual exploitation of young children. He decided at that moment the only alternative was to act and, calling upon his famous ancestors for guidance, he began pursuing new solutions to this ancient crime against humankind.
Today, Morris and his organization educate young people who are most vulnerable to the dangers and injustice of human trafficking. As part of the organization's work, he speaks at schools across the country, shares history-based service-learning curricula, entitled "History, Human Rights and the Power of One," and participates as a leading activist in the anti-trafficking movement. One recent service-learning initiative, "100 Days to Freedom," helped teach students about the Emancipation Proclamation while facilitating their creation of a "New Proclamation of Freedom."
Frederick Douglass Family Initiatives' programs seek to educate boys about the injustice of sexual crimes committed against women, encouraging an understanding of women's rights at an early age. They also inform girls on how to prevent and protect themselves from becoming victims of sex trafficking.
Morris quotes his great-great-great grandfather, Frederick Douglass, saying, "It's easier to build strong children than to repair broken men." He found that this has proven true through his teaching and he hopes young people will follow his lead in educating others. He tells his audiences that everyone "descends from someone who made a difference and you can too."
Even though Morris was aware of it at an early age, his family downplayed his lineage so as not to raise expectations. His activist roots emerged in 2003 and he's never looked back. "We need to know where we've come from in order to know where we're headed," he says.
--By Reshmi Kaur Oberoi
We're sharing this resource as part of National Slavery and Human Trafficking Prevention Month. Learn more about the month HERE and check back on this blog for more resources and ways you can take action.