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Antislavery Poetry from San Francisco

Running man image from workshop poster

The Pacific Appeal was the leading African American newspaper on the West Coast during the early 1860s.  A newly-published set of eight antislavery poems from the journal's inaugural 1862 volume captures the sense of expectancy within the African American community for the imminent end of US slavery.  These poems include the work of James Madison Bell, a San Francisco plasterer, brickmason, and poet.  Read more... 
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Sonya's Narrative (XHTML)

Sonya was trafficked from Ukraine into sex slavery in Britain in 2002, and was held in bondage for two years and three months. She was freed in 2004 when police raided the brothel where she was working, and narrated her story the same year. Sonya’s name has been changed to protect her identity.
They took me to a nice house and treated me well. In the first week they gave me a tour of London. I was very happy. After a week I asked when I could start my studying. They said: “You didn’t come here for studying. We spent a lot of money on your travel to UK.” They said I have to work and give them the money back. They said I have to do prostitution. I was crying, I said, I can’t do that. I said I can do any other job to pay the money back. They were beating me and treating me very bad. The next day they took me to a flat, to work there. An Englishwoman provided me with clothes, shoes, cosmetics.
The first client attended the place. I was told to go with him. I worked all day, maybe 12 hours. In the evening, someone came to collect me from the flat. She gave me an envelope with money and a list of clients and the services I gave. After that they took me to another flat. There were many girls from different countries, all Eastern European. We were sleeping on the floor, covered with coats. I was working seven days a week. Every day a different place. Sometimes there were two or three girls, sometimes eight or ten. We were not allowed to speak to each other. Some clients were English, some were Asian.
I was thinking I was in London but one time a client asked me how I liked a different city. I thought, am I in this place? I was forced to pretend I’m fine and like the job, otherwise I’d be beaten. I couldn’t keep my money, not even tips, which were paid to me by clients. I was searched after every job. I was beaten on many occasions, very badly, kicked and punched.
They were saying I’m illegal and they could kill me because I didn’t exist here. They said if the police checked me they would put me in prison for two years. They said I have to pay the money back. They said I’m their property, I will be with them for the rest of my life—I’m not human, just something that can be bought. I was going crazy thinking my father wanted this.
I think I’ve lost my country and I can’t go back. It’s still affecting my life but I’m trying to make it work.