Former slave to address abolitionist gathering

How Long ‘Til Freedom? a 1999 abolitionist gathering to present the sobering reality of contemporary slaves and suggested innovative responses to their plight, will be held at 7:30 p.m. Thursday, Dec. 2, in the Benjamin Mays Center on the Bates College campus. The public is invited to attend free of charge.

Featured speakers from the Boston-based non-profit American Anti-Slavery Group include Jesse Sage, associate director, and 40-year-old Moctar Tayeb, outreach director and an escaped slave from the West African nation of Mauritania. Founded in 1993, AASG is the only organization in the United States solely dedicated to the eradication of modern slavery around the world.

By ASSG estimates, there are 27 million slaves in the world today. From sexual slavery in Thailand and Russia, to debt-bondage in Nepal and India, to forced labor in Haiti and Brazil, millions live in bondage. In Sudan and Mauritania, more than one million Africans are the inheritable property of Arab masters.

“Black families are ripped apart when masters give their relatives as slaves,” Tayeb told an audience of Massachusetts students last spring. “In your history classes, you have learned how this was done to black slave families in America, but to me, it is not history. It is happening today in my country, to my people, to my family.”

Tayeb escaped from his master as a 19-year-old. “I am still my master’s property, as I do not have a warrant from him to prove my freedom,” Tayeb told members of a church audience in Newton, Mass.

In describing the “contemporary horror of human bondage,” a 1999 Boston Globe editorial said, “Moctar Tayeb wants, and should have, help from Americans to liberate his people in Mauritania.”

AASG first broke the story of black chattel slavery in a piece for The New York Times in 1994. Since then, the organization has twice testified before the U.S. Congress, in 1996 and 1999. AASG also convened A Call For Freedom, the first national abolitionist conference since the Civil War, and has been involved in the elementary-school initiative S.T.O.P., in which students from around the United States have raised awareness as well as funds to free Sudanese slaves their own age.

How Long ‘Til Freedom? is co-sponsored by several Bates College organizations, including Amnesty International, the Department of History, the International Club and the Jewish Cultural Community.

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