Human Trafficking Awareness Day at Lake Eola Park on Jan. 25

via Florida Coalition Against Human Trafficking

The movie 12 Years a Slave depicts an awful scenario: a free man kidnapped and sold into bondage. The events of the film are disturbing, but in the minds of many, they’re also remote and more than a century old.

Yet slavery is a much larger part of our world than most Americans – particularly, Southerners – would like to admit. And sadly, it’s still very much a reality.

Modern slavery’s driving force is the same as it’s always been: money. It comes in many forms, and preys on the most vulnerable: a teenage girl forced into prostitution; an immigrant blackmailed by an employer holding the deportation lever; a debt-burdened worker kept underwater by a crooked boss.

Last month, President Barack Obama proclaimed January 2014 National Slavery and Human Trafficking Prevention Month. Citing the Emancipation Proclamation, the president said that “modern-day slavery is a global tragedy” that requires international effort to combat.

On Jan. 25, the city of Orlando, the Greater Orlando Human Trafficking Task Force and the Florida Abolitionist Group are giving citizens an opportunity to unite locally against modern-day slavery during Human Trafficking Awareness Day at the amphitheater in Lake Eola Park.

The event runs from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m., with a “Break These Chains” freedom walk from 1 p.m. to 2 p.m. Information booths, live entertainment, food and children’s activities will be featured, and proceeds go toward assisting human trafficking victims.

This venue is apt for the Sunshine State, which, according to the Florida National Organization for Women, has one of the highest rates of human trafficking in the nation, along with California and New York.

State Department figures estimate the total number of people enslaved in the world at 27 million – the highest in human history.

Perhaps it won’t take a gory civil war to end modern slavery, but anyone who wants to be part of a solution should try making it out to Lake Eola on to support the efforts against today’s most heinous criminal enterprise.