The #WalkForFreedom raises awareness of the human trafficking problem in the United States and across the globe. The walk will happen in hundreds of cities, including three in Oklahoma, Bartlesville, Oklahoma City and Tulsa.
The event, coordinated by the anti-human trafficking organization A21, is designed to raise awareness about the millions of men, woman and children still trapped in modern-day slavery. The Bartlesville walk is scheduled from 8-1o a.m. Oct. 20. It will start at 520 Osage Ave.
Ronda Taraboletti and Ericka Berry, the local organizers, became aware of the human trafficking issue about seven to eight years ago.
“Ericka is a mother,” Taraboletti said. “I am a mother and grandmother as well as a former teacher. We feel compelled to fight this evil in our society. God laid this compassion for the victims on our hearts and we are acting upon it.”
The Bartlesville walk is one of 430 scheduled worldwide, she said. It is designed to raise awareness and facilitate fundraising for A21, the parent organization founded by Christine Caine in 2008, which works to educate to prevent trafficking, rescue and restore victims, and prosecute perpetrators.
“Human trafficking is the fastest growing crime in the world. It is estimated to be a $150.2 billion industry,” Taroboletti said. “Human trafficking occurs in all 50 states. According to A21.org, more than 25,500 cases of human trafficking have been reported in the U.S. … The most common venues for human trafficking were — massage parlors, hotel and motels, residences and truck stops.”
Awareness is growing thanks to A21’s “Can You See Me?” campaign, which has placed educational materials in major airports worldwide to help airline staff and travelers spot victims, Taraboletti said.
“Airline workers and flight attendants have been trained to look for suspicious individuals who might be moving prospective victims,” she said. “Recently, Marriott International’s training to help employees to recognize signs of human trafficking since hotels/motels are often the selected venues.”
Across the nation, Truckers Against Trafficking works to educate and rescue victims in all 50 states.
“The Oklahoma Bureau of Narcotics and Dangerous Drugs added a trafficking division in 2012,” Taraboletti said. Its hotline is 1-855-617-2288.
Organizers believe by fundraising and rallying thousands of people around the cause, the Walk for Freedom will be the catalyst for the rescue and restoration of exploited human beings.
“We are convinced that if we do this together, if we keep showing up, if we continue to be tenacious, if we continue to turn up with strength, numbers, and courage, then we can see slavery eradicated in our lifetime,” said Christine Caine, A21’s founder.
Taraboletti shared that Polaris, another organization, based in Washington, D.C., working to eradicate human trafficking, reported that Oklahoma had 228 calls to its trafficking hotline in 2017. In addition, cases were reported — 62 female and 15 male — 49 adult and 21 minors.
In November viewings of the 2005 movie “Human Trafficking,” starring Donald Sutherland and Mira Sorvino, are planned at area churches to further educate the community, Taraboletti said.
To register for the Walk For Freedom visit A21.org/Walk.