Human Rights Conference to focus on human trafficking

Guest speakers include faculty members, department of justice employees, and a survivor of human trafficking

Professor Maureen Eke presents on the Isabella County Human Rights Committee on Feb. 8 in the UC Maroon Room.

The 2018 Human Rights, Literature, the Arts, and Social Sciences Conference will focus on issues surrounding human trafficking. 

The conference will be held from 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Friday, Oct. 12 in the Bovee University Center Terrace Rooms. 

Human trafficking is a multi-billion-dollar global problem and considered a form of modern-day slavery. 

“There are more people in slavery today than there were ever in the history of the world, and anyone is vulnerable; it doesn’t matter,” said English faculty member Maureen Eke.  

Eke explained that this can happen anywhere, mentioning the teenagers from Mount Pleasant that were lured to Southeast Michigan and then forced into trafficking. 

The goal of the conference is to learn to identify human trafficking, to understand what populations are vulnerable to this and to know how to combat trafficking. 

Key speakers at the conference include Leslie Kind, a survivor of human trafficking and founder of Sacred Beings, and Chief Matthew Roth, head of the major crimes unit in the eastern district of Michigan. 

Kind will give her testimony as survivor. She was coerced into prostitution at age 15 and was exploited and trapped for 20 years. She finally found the strength to break free in 2000 and is now committed to helping women like her.

Roth will discuss human trafficking in Michigan and prosecuting the traffickers. 

Other speakers include Eke, who will discuss human trafficking in general, and Eastern Michigan University faculty member David Manville, who will discuss how everyday choices can lead someone into forced labor. 

“People can become vulnerable without realizing they got themselves in a situation that makes it possible for them to be trafficked,” said Eke. 

Also, Eke and political science faculty member Sterling Johnson will talk about how human trafficking is related to migration. 

Kurt Fiegal from Homeland Security Investigations and Valentina Seeley from U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement will discuss human trafficking and law enforcement. 

The deadline to register was Oct. 1.