Dr. Laura Murphy

This year at Off the Market: Slavery Then and Now, I had the privilege of hearing from Dr. Laura Murphy, a world renowned expert on modern forms of slavery. Unlike many others in her field, Dr. Murphy has made it a priority to focus her work not only on helping enslaved individuals escape their circumstances, but also on helping them to tell their own stories. A current professor at Loyola University, Dr. Murphy is also the Lead Researcher for Loyola’s Modern Slavery Research Project. So far, Dr. Murphy has interviewed over forty survivors of slavery — documenting their first-person accounts — in order to better understand their experiences, and the lasting effect that those experiences have had on them.

Dr. Murphy began her speech by explaining that real-life slavery is nothing live the Liam Neeson movie: Taken. The majority of enslaved individuals do not have a wealthy fathers in the CIA who have the resources to rescue them within a week; In fact, the majority of victims are targeted because they do not have any local friends or family — no one will come looking for them. This means that many of the targets are either immigrants or individuals of low socio-economic status. Another sad reality of modern-day slavery is that, despite years of joint efforts between governments and NGO’s, there is no easy way to rescue people from slavery. This is because the majority of people are not aware that it is going on, and do not know the signs to look for in order to identify it. If we are to truly end modern slavery, it is imperative that we dispel of our false notions of what slavery looks like.

During her speech, Dr. Murphy emphasized the importance of allowing survivors of slavery to tell their own stories without criticizing them for not explaining every horror they experienced in graphic detail. She explained that many times survivors intentionally skip over some of the most violent situations that they endured because the experiences are simply too painful to share with the world, or they do not feel that they should have to share the entirety of their story with the world. Dr. Murphy elaborated that many survivors are weary of allowing others access to the pain and suffering that hey endured because they had relatively no privacy while enslaved and do not feel obligated to share their private experiences with the public.

Survivors of slavery have multiple tactics of sharing their narratives without laying their experiences out in the open for anyone to examine. Many survivors will use deflection, shifting the focus from themselves to another individual (either a friend or someone whom they helped after escaping slavery) when describing traumatic events. Others will completely skip the most violent encounters by panning the focus to a seemingly insignificant details of the situation. For instance, it is common for sexual slavery survivors to focus on something like a candle, or the color of the walls, when they are describing their rape. In other cases, survivors will code their speech in metaphors, that allow them to explain their experiences without blatantly stating them.

Presently, it has become a trend for (typically) wealthy white women to narrate, or co-narrate, survivors stories with them. Although this does seem beneficial in that it allows survivors stories to be told, it also distorts the survivors original stories. In fact, in many cases, the survivors original story can end up playing second fiddle to narrators personal agenda (whether it be fame, fortune, or the furthering of a specific organization). In order to truly understand and eradicate modern systems of slavery, we must stop viewing survivors as merely the helpless victims of circumstance and begin to recognize them as our equals, allowing them to voice their own stories without our interference.

UN Symposium

On Thursday, April 22nd, in celebration of the United Nation’s 70th Anniversary, the UN symposium was held in Zarrow Hall featuring an eye-opening lecture from Jennifer Foray, an Associate Professor of History at Purdue University. In her lecture, Dr. Foray discussed the many behind-the-scenes interactions between different people and organizations that directly affect our history. She specifically mentioned September 28, 1950 – the day on which Indonesia was accepted into the United Nations as an independent state. She explained that the Indonesian Flag raising ceremony outside of the UN headquarters in New York City was simply the finite result of years of Indonesian struggle against Dutch imperialism and the extremely complex process of decolonization in the East Indies.

Until December 27th of 1949, what we now know as Indonesia was recognized as the Dutch East Indies – “the crown of the Dutch empire.” It is a commonly-known fact that Indonesia is now a free and autonomous state; however, the long and violent process that lead to Indonesia’s independence from the Dutch, and the United Nations’ (and a few especially influential delegates’) instrumental role in the process of decolonization are less well known. The process began during World War II; while Dutch officials (who were typically stationed in the Dutch East Indies) were away in London, Indonesian nationalists declared their independence to the world. Unsurprisingly, their declaration of sovereignty was not recognized by the Netherlands or, initially, the United Nations. This lack of recognition speaks to the massive inequality between states in that it displays the ubiquitous hierarchy between the Netherlands and the East Indies which allowed the Dutch to determine the status of the East Indies, thereby denying Indonesians the right to self-sovereignty.

Both Jeanne Mintz and Ambassador Sutan Sjahrir played instrumental roles in Indonesia’s journey to independence. Due to Dr. Mintz’s extensive knowledge of both the Netherlands and Indonesia, she was able to provide incredibly valuable insight that ultimately resulted in the UN decision to allow Indonesians to fight to obtain their independence. Despite its status as an “observer,” granted by the United Nations in 1947, Indonesia still had no voting power and was thus unable to determine its own fate when the larger UN powers determined that the situation in the East Indies was not threatening and closed the case. Again demonstrating the inequality of power between states on the global stage. Imperialist powers like the United States and the United Kingdom have relatively absolute power over smaller states and especially nations who are not recognized as sovereign. Since these Imperialist powers have such a huge amount of power, smaller states often have no say in international dealings.

Fortunately, in 1949, the United Nations realized that the Netherlands had repeatedly violated its cease-fire agreement with the East Indies which prompted the UN to reevaluate the situation in the East Indies and reconsider Indonesia’s declaration of independence from the Netherlands. After Indonesian delegates, specifically Ambassador Sutan Siaharir, presented their argument at UN Headquarters in New York City they were finally granted their independence. The fact that Indonesia was not able to declare its sovereignty from the Netherlands, despite the violent Dutch treatment of Indonesians and having created a stable government is further testament to the inequality of states; there are a few large and powerful states who hold the majority of global control. They are responsible for making many decisions of international importance, and play crucial roles behind-the-scenes of most global interactions even when their influence can’t be directly observed.

Indonesia was the first state to transition from colonial control into the United Nations. Since 1949 many other states have followed in the steps of Indonesia, and have gained active positions in the United Nations. However, even states who are active members of the United Nations do not have the same weight and influence as the larger, more powerful countries. I found Dr. Foray’s lecture to be extremely insightful into global politics as a whole, the United Nations and inequality between states. As Dr. Foray began to explain how the United Nations was involved in Indonesia’s journey to Independence I began to realize how much power the elite powers wield in comparison to smaller states who have a limited influence. I was also surprised by the “observer” status of states that aren’t recognized as sovereign by the United Nations. I feel that this system gives large nations a significant advantage over smaller, poorer states that could (and most likely already has) result in corruption. I certainly agree with Dr. Foray that the UN played a significant role in Indonesia’s independence from the Netherlands, especially after hearing the extensiveness of UN involvement.

It’s a Wrap

This is it – Two more weeks until my first semester of college officially comes to a close! My college experience has been everything that I expected and so much more, and I feel like this semester has flown by. Upon initially coming to OU, I knew that I wanted to get as involved on campus as I possibly could, and I also hoped to find an organization that was involved with combatting human trafficking. During my first three weeks at OU, I was bombarded with opportunities to get involved and, unable to decide which organizations I was most interested in, I ended up joining almost all of them. So, as you could imagine, my first few months at OU were an absolute whirlwind of meetings and events. However, I was having some serious difficulties finding any clubs or organizations involved with modern slavery.

By September, I was convinced that I would never find an anti-trafficking organization to get involved with. So, as a last resort, I decided to email Dr. Kevin Bales – founder of Free the Slaves and a graduate from the University of Oklahoma. Imagine my surprise when I actually got a response! Dr. Bales put me in contact with Lucy Mahaffey – a senior at OU – and together we decided to put on Off the Market Symposium 2016 to raise awareness on the issue of human trafficking. Soon after meeting Lucy, I was introduced to Kes St. Clair through the Global Engagement Fellowship and was able to join ENACTUS – an organization that is currently partnering with No Boundaries International (an anti-trafficking organization based in Oklahoma City) to create sustainable solutions for trafficking on the local, national, and global levels.

Overall, my time at OU – although it had been so busy that I have, at times, struggled to keep up – has been spectacular and I have been able to become more involved with human trafficking prevention than I would have ever thought possible. Through my work within these two clubs, I have been able to meet a multitude of diverse people – all of which have been incredibly influential throughout my first semester here at the University of Oklahoma.

Until 2016, LK.

Journey to Turkey

Coming into my freshman year here at OU, I had absolutely no idea where I wanted to study abroad. When I thought about where I wanted to study abroad, my line of thought looked something like this: “Norway! No, India. No, Peru.” and so on and so forth. So, as you can see, I had no concrete idea of where I wanted to go whatsoever. However, a few weeks into my Becoming Globally Engaged seminar I began to realize that I was extremely interested in Eastern Europe and the Middle East. I have been passionate about helping the Syrian Refugees since the weapons crisis in 2013. However, up until recently I had never considered how learning their culture could better enable me to help them. It is with this sentiment that I decided to travel to Turkey with the University of Oklahoma’s Journey Program.

Turkey and Syria have extremely interconnected histories and during Journey to Turkey 2016 Dr. Jill Irvine is scheduled to teach a course on Turkish history. Ironically, Dr. Irvine is one of the professors that I have been working closely with while planning the Off the Market Symposium on modern slavery and human trafficking, and I am very excited that she is also one of the professors sponsoring the trip! After going to a few meetings with a study abroad advisor I began to realize how multifaceted country and has an extremely rich and diverse history. I hope that while in Turkey I will be able to learn a lot about the Turkish culture and history and expand my worldview and broaden my global perspectives.

Soccer, Sex and Scandal in Brazil

On November 17th, I attended a lecture entitled “Soccer, Sex and Scandal in Brazil” given by anthropologist Don Kulick. During the lecture, Mr. Kulick explained the situation surrounding the scandal involving the famous Real Madrid soccer player Christiano Ronaldo. Earlier this year, Ronaldo hired three prostitutes that were, as explained by Mr. Kulick, “travesties”.

Now, upon first hearing this term I was extremely confused and had no idea what this term could be referencing. However, Mr. Kulick continued to explain that “Travesties” are men who have chosen to dress like when and modify their appearances with plastic surgery to appear more feminine. However, these individuals have no desire to undergo surgery to remove their penises, nor do they wish to change their identification from that of a man to that of a woman. I found this to be an interesting difference from transgenders in the United States who commonly wish to make full transitions. However, after hearing Mr. Kulick speak I began to wonder if the only reason that this image of transgenders is so common is because it is perpetuated by pop culture and the media. Andrea Albertina, one of the hired prostitutes that was labeled as a travesty, was the individual who leaked the event to the media and triggered the entire scandal.

Sexuality in Brazil, as explained by Mr. Kulick, was an extremely odd idea to me and was unlike anything that I had ever heard of before. In Brazil, a man is considered “straight” so long as he is the “perpetrator” during sexual intercourse regardless of whether he is engaging in intercourse with a woman or another man. Ronaldo fell under scrutiny, not because he hired prostitutes, but because he hired travesties. Many individuals believed that Ronaldo’s actions called his sexuality into question, alongside his manhood, because he hired men dressed as women (travesties) as opposed to those deemed to be true women by Brazilian society. The only view on sexuality that I have ever been exposed to is that of American society in which an individual’s sexuality is based solely on the gender with whom they engage in sexual intercourse with. The fact that Brazil has such blurred lines dividing different sexualities was very strange to me.

In multiple interviews Ronaldo was under the impression that he had hired female prostitutes; however, Mr. Kulick explained that, in Brazil, travesties are most often highly identifiable by Brazilians in the way that they hold themselves. He also explained that these travesties advertise heavily in certain districts of Brazil. So, with this sentiment in mind, it is highly likely that Ronaldo was aware that he was hiring travesties. However, I do not believe that he should be defined by whom he chooses to have sexual relations with. To be quite honest, I have no problem with the fact that he elected chose to higher travesties over female prostitutes, rather that he hired prostitutes at all.

Digital Storytelling

As of about three days ago, I can finally say that I have completed my digital story for my Becoming Globally Engaged Seminar! And let me tell you, this project has been an absolute roller coaster ride. I knew from the time that the project was announced that I wanted to film mine over the subject of human trafficking, but, at the time, I had no idea how many different roadblocks I would face. My first mistake was choosing to procrastinate the assignment until about two weeks before the due date, my second mistake was failing to recognize that I had no pictures or videos of my experiences with anti-trafficking.

However, I was lucky enough to have a friend that works on the #Enditmovement that helped me to gain access to all of their public service videos from the past five years. The next challenge that I faced was deciding exactly what I wanted my video’s purpose to be; I initially intended for it to be a personal narrative of my involvement in anti-trafficking. However, I soon realized that this was an excellent opportunity to spread awareness on the extent of human trafficking and how others could get involved with helping to end it. My video still highlights a few of the ways that I have gotten involved with anti-trafficking while at OU, but I tried to shift the focus onto the greater problem at hand – the 27-milllion people who are currently living within the confines of modern slavery.

The next step in making my video was choosing background music. Music has always been a big part of my life and I wanted to make sure that the song I chose reinforced the message I wanted the video to convey as a whole. I was initially drawn to two different songs written specifically about the issue of human trafficking, but, although they are moth great songs, neither one of them fit the tone of empowerment that I wanted my video to have. I spent about two hours going through my entire I-tunes library before I finally settled on Save Me by Remy Zero. The only time that I had ever listened to that song was when I watched Smallville in the 8th grade, and I had never taken the time to really listen to the words. However, after listening to the song again I realized that it was absolutely perfect for the video.

Overall, I think that making this video has been an incredibly rewarding learning experience and my final video is better than I would have ever expected. With the development of technology, and its integration into the school and work places, I think that it is extremely important that students be as well versed in the different forms of technology as possible. This project was really beneficial for me in learning how to work with video software, and the most productive ways in which to format my video in order to maximize its effectiveness and communicate with a broad and diverse audience.

The video (without narration) can be accessed through this link: https://youtu.be/kGPfg-BITaA

Syrian Weapons Crisis of 2013

This semester, I was able to attend Colonel Cinnamon’s lecture on the Syrian Weapons Crisis of 2013. As a member of the United States Air Force, Colonel Cinnamon had a very unique perspective on the events that took place in Syria during this crisis and the global response that ensued almost instantaneously after these weapons were used to target innocent civilians on August 21st of 2013. I really enjoyed the Colonel’s presentation because it was extremely factual and intellectual, but was also balanced with empathy for the Syrian people. I think that, often times, when we talk about Syria and the Syrian Refugee crisis we focus entirely on the emotional aspects of the issue, saying things like “pray for Syria”. Now, I am a big believer in the power of prayer, but I find it a bit odd that many people claim to pray for a people group that they know almost nothing about. This lecture was a great opportunity for me to learn more about the Syrian people, the Syrian Weapons Crisis, and the international response that it prompted.

After over 100,00 innocent civilians were pronounced dead after this attack of civil war, the world was thrown into a panic; not only was the Syrian government in possession of weapons of mass destruction, but also prepared to use them on innocent civilian populations. Needless to say, the United States was among the first responders – alongside none other than Russia. Typically, these two nations have a rocky relationship at best; however, after the attack they were deemed as unlikely allies due to a common desire to remove all chemical weaponry from the Syrian government as soon as possible. Soon after, it was also agreed that neither the US or Russia were willing to put troops on the ground in Syria so the two international superpowers were forced to resort to other methods of extraction. Initially, I was a bit surprised that we had no plans of placing military troops on the ground; however, the point was soon brought up that after Iraq the US was hesitant to enter into another open-ended war.

Ultimately, the weapons were extracted through a Russian-led diplomatic approach that asked Syrian government officials to willingly hand over their chemical weaponry to Russia (since the weaponry had been initially developed within Russia). However, this required a great deal of cooperation across the entire global community due to the fact that Syria was unwilling to unarm if other major nations, such as the United States, were publically claiming military strikes against them. Fortunately, the Russian plan of extraction worked well after other nations agreed not to target Syria in any military attacks. I think that these events, as tragic as they are, show the power that each nation has if we are willing to ban together and cross international lines for the good of the global community – we could definitely apply this to the current attacks by ISIS.

Mid-Semester Meeting

About a month ago, I attended my mid-semester meeting with Jaci to discuss how I was progressing through as a Global Engagement Fellow and as a student in her Becoming Globally Engaged class.

I think that my meeting went extremely well! I am really happy that I got some feedback on my video script, because I had been struggling to nail down exactly what  message I wanted to convey. However, after my meeting, I am feeling much more confident in my video and am excited to begin planning. It was also really great to have the opportunity to hear about Mosaic – a social justice conference held at OU. I really like the idea of a mid-semester meeting, because I think that it insures that each student is on the same page as the professor and helps to keep students accountable.

This semester has been incredibly busy thus far, but I really enjoy always having something to do. I have been most excited about the multiple opportunities I have been given to become involved in Anti-trafficking on the OU campus this semester. Just recently I was asked to co-host the Off The Market Symposium and, although it has been stressful, It has been a great learning experience and opportunity to connect with other students and faculty members.

I have no regrets about how I have handled this semester. However, during the spring semester I plan to be more careful in choosing the clubs that I commit to. I am a strong believer in being entirely dedicated to a few clubs rather than spreading yourself too thin by joining a lot of clubs. I think that this will help to relieve a lot of stress during my second semester at OU.

Sister Rosemary

On October 1st of 2015, I was given the amazing opportunity to meet Sister Rosemary Nyirumbe, a personal hero of mine. Sister Rosemary works tirelessly at the Saint Monica Girls Tailoring School through her organization Sewing Hope which she founded in Gulu, Uganda. Not only is Sister Rosemary profusely funny and energetic, she is also incredibly intelligent and has a deep compassion for all people that is unmatched by most. While at the University of Oklahoma, Sister Rosemary shared many stories of her life – both good and bad – and explained how each and every experience that she has had led her to begin working with victims of Joseph Kony and his Lord’s Resistance army in Northern Uganda. Since founding her outreach almost thirty years ago, Sister Rosemary has reached more than two thousand women who were brutally assaulted, tortured and raped by the Lord’s Resistance. All of these women were left beaten, alone and hopeless – and many of whom were left feeling as though they were absolutely worthless and no longer had anything to live for. It is only through Sister Rosemary’s efforts that they are rehabilitated and taught various skills – sewing, cooking, and jewelry making to name a few – that enable them to rebuild their lives and begin to make new lives for themselves. However, after listening to Sister Rosemary speak, I have come to the conclusion that the most important thing that she gives these women is a sense of self-love that was previously ripped away from them. Sister Rosemary’s work with the rehabilitation of child soldiers was specifically inspirational to me as I hope to go into the field of anti-trafficking prevention seeing as the two are so closely related. It was an incredible honor to meet Sister Rosemary and I look forward to seeing how her amazing work in Uganda progresses in the future.

The Single Story


“The single story” is an idea that, until last week, I had never even taken the time to consider. I have always been a pretty open-minded person – I have never really taken issue with someone over their race, religion, socioeconomic class, etc. I’ve always been a proud adherent of the idea that all people are just that – People – and although each one of us is diverse and unique we are all, at the end of the day, human. However, after watching this video I came to the sudden realization that even though I have always been accepting of other people, I have also built up certain stereotypes and generalizations about people groups from around the world that have characterized them unjustly.

For example, I have always believed blindly that all people in the Middle-East practiced some form of Islam – which sounds completely absurd as I am writing it out. This generalization isn’t quite as extreme as some that I have heard tossed around in conversation such as, “all Muslims are terrorists”, but it is still a severe over-generalization that is by no means correct. It is impossible to categorize all people living in one region, especially one as massive as the Middle-East, for the simple reason that all people are so hugely unique and multifaceted that it is nearly impossible to make a good generalization about any people group with discrediting each individual’s diversity. however, growing up in the United States I have become so accustomed to western-centric thinking that it is difficult to see past the generalizations made by society about other parts of the world.

I guess what I’m saying is that, overcoming the “single-story” isn’t just going to happen.  Overcoming our deep seeded stereotypes and generalizations is going to have to be a conscious effort of trying to see the world from different perspectives and view people as more than middle class, or African American, or Muslim…you get the picture. Instead of focusing on our differences – although they are many – it is time that we take a look at how similar we are in despite of them.