Woman speaks of years as a slave
9/16/2008 12:39 AM

Staff writer

Neither as a black mark on America's past nor a historic teaching but the real-life modern-day living lesson of a young woman forced into servitude was presented Monday.

A room full of students, staff and guests sat in awed silence for almost an hour as a former slave laid out her unfathomable story of abuse and torture.

"For me, the term 'slavery' does not issue images of plantations and slave markets," she said. "For me, it's a much more recent problem."

Micheline Slattery, a native of Haiti, was orphaned at 5 years old and taken in by her own family. Instead of receiving their love, Slattery became a slave. At 5, she was forced to care for a family of 12, including trekking miles each day to fetch water. If she disobeyed, her punishments included beatings and much worse.

"(My aunt) would send me out into the middle of the hot sun for hours to kneel on a large cheese-grater," Slattery said, collecting herself between words. "A large cheese-grater covered in rock salt."

Slattery, now an activist for the American Anti-Slavery Group (AASG), was offering her story to a gathering at USC Aiken. Many students had been required to read the book "Not for Sale" by David Batstone about the global slave trade. Slattery highlighted how this is not just a foreign problem but something that is frequently happening in the United States.

After being a slave for 13 years, five of them in the United States, Slattery spoke from a position of authority.

As a young teen, Slattery was sold by one cousin to another living in Connecticut for $2,500.

"I was indebted to my cousin forever, for $2,500," she said. "That is all I was worth - I started to believe that."

Though she was allowed to go to school only to allay suspicions, Slattery was still forced to be a domestic servant for a family with four children.

"Twice I tried to take my life, but each time ended in frustration," she said. "It seemed like even death didn't want me then."

Her tale of sorrow gripped the audience, some of whom openly admitted they thought this behavior died hundreds of years ago.

"Wow, that's all I can say," said Isabelle Wood, a sophomore at USCA. "She talked so beautifully about something sickening. Wow!"

Wood was not alone in her incredulity, the audience of around 100 stood in applause after hearing the story come full circle - how Slattery left the home, put herself through nursing school and then found the strength to speak out.

"I speak out because I want people to know I am not unique," she said. "In Haiti and across the U.S., there are thousands of stories like mine. You took the first step by coming here. You have a voice. Use it."

Dialogue and confronting the problem are the best ways to combat it, Slattery said when asked, but she ended her speech quoting Mahatma Gandhi.

"Freedom is everyone's birthright."

Aucun commentaire: