Olamide Babalola, a senior at Times2 STEM Academy, led a group of about 300 students on a march to the RI Island State House, to raise awareness about human trafficking and modern day slavery. “I was in eighth grade when I first learned about human trafficking,” said Babalola, “My social studies teacher had said something like, ‘slavery is still going on today’ and of course, being naive, I didn’t believe him… I think that’s what birthed the passion in me, in that classroom at that very moment.”
Babalola said, “as we stand here today, there are men, women and children being bought and sold as if they were commodities. In fact, there’s a statistic that every thirty seconds a person is enslaved.”
Peg Langhammer, of Day One, noted that January is Human Trafficking Awareness month. She told the students to be on the look out for the changes in behavior that occur in friends that may indicate that the person is being sexually trafficked. Day One, said Langhammer, has a program for helping children escape from traffickers.
In 2016 Sojourner House became the first organization in the state to open a trafficking shelter, said Sarah DeCataldo, director of operations at Sojourner. Unlike Day One, the THEIA (Trafficking Housing Empowerment Immigration and Advocacy) Project deals with adult victims of human traffickers.
Both speakers thanked Babalola for calling attention to this issue.
Times2 STEM Academy is a K-12 Public Charter, meaning the teachers are unionized. The Middle High School Dean is Celeste Terry-Lo.