It’s 2017 and My People are Still Slaves.

Also Available at Onsite Magazine @onsite_magazine

You’ve seen it. Or if you haven’t, please consider yourself lucky to have not glanced your eyes upon the shackled, mangled, burned, imprisoned, tortured, raped, brutalised and otherwise dehumanised bodies of black people in the sands of Libya. The sight is sickening. What is more sickening is that upon all the progress and social advancement of our times, a generation where trigger warnings and accessibility-friendly applause exist to create safe spaces for the vulnerable amongst us, is also the generation where the trade and sale of humans of darker pigmentation is once more permitted. What is more sickening is that all it took for the resurrection of history’s greatest tragedy was a mixture of incompetent western intervention and unimaginable depths of anti-blackness from fellow Africans.

In a homophobic world, many LBGT people internalise homophobia. In a sexist world, many women internalise sexism. In a racist world, people of colour internalise white supremacy and discrimination against their own. For all Colonel Gaddafi’s desire for a singular African state, a “United States of Africa” with one military, one currency and one president, it seems many of his kinsmen disagree. The mercenaries and militias who have enslaved refugees and sexually exploited vulnerable women, girls and children don’t see black people as their own; rather than solidarity with other victims of neo-colonialism and other impoverished African states, they feel contempt and greed. And such they profit from the pain and suffering of my people.


While deeply distressing for an audience unused to such graphic, striking imagery of almost casualised black pain. Slavery never ended. It just moved around, far from the islands of the Caribbean and the plantations of the American South (though much can be said about how the American prison system treats and coerces people of colour), modern slavery is much much closer to the shores of Europe. The enslavement of Black Africans by lighter-skinned Arabs or Berber communities in Mauritania was only officially criminalised and slaveholders actually liable for prosecution in 2007 following international pressure. The actual presence of slavery was unaffected however, with slaves generally illiterate and unable to escape masters that they are financially dependent and religiously bound to serve. This is atrocious and each of those estimated 600,000 or 17% of the population, according to SOS Slavery, is one black body forgotten by the West and those of us privileged enough to live in the diaspora.

While British headlines fret and fight over the place of a mixed princess, there are 40.3 million people living in slavery right now across the world. This isn’t just grown men tied up and shackled into hard labour. This is the 15.4 million young women and girls trapped in forced marriages in Africa and Asia. This is the 4.8 million people in forced sexual exploitation facing the most grievous patriarchal violence imaginable. And yes, this is also the 24.9 million people forced by either coercion, mental or physical manipulation and commodification of human beings to labour their lives away.

Disgust is a powerful feeling. Combined with anger, it is a destructive force capable of so much change and so much violence. And it is rightly so that anger and disgust that we feel at the resurrection of slavery before our very eyes and imprinted on our social media, should not be wasted on just petitions. We need more action.


This isn’t to say that the use of petitions has not been beautiful and inspiring. In my own state of rage, scrolling and posting furiously about the issue to my limited social media reach, it was greatly encouraging to see artists Giggs, Kano, Kali Uchis, Cardi B, Maya Jama and way way more commenting, spreading petitions and shedding very needed light on the issues discussed, and showing that people of colour can show solidarity with each other when its needed. A petition to parliament on the issue rocketed from 8000 when I signed it a few days ago to 232,000 and counting as I write this. That’s brilliant but its only the first step.

It’s more important that we lay the blame and focus our rage at the two facilitators of modern slavery. African and Asian governments unable, or unwilling to care for their people that feel so disillusioned that they risk their lives and freedom fleeing to places like Libya in hopes of reaching ‘Fortress Europe’. And Western governments that invade and ravage these same countries for their own benefit with no concern as to the consequences. What did NATO expect from toppling Libya’s dictator and replacing his cruel but stable regime….with nothing? Peace? Equality? Democracy? Well there is none and David Cameron, Barack Obama and Francois Hollande who spearheaded this stupid and greedy decision to secure Libya’s oil should be accountable for the bloodshed and slavery in Libya’s sands. On the other hand, governments like Eritrea, Nigeria and Congo where many migrants originate must take decisive action to end constant corruption and inequality. Rwanda is not the richest country in Africa but they offered to rescue 30,000.

What was the point of freeing ourselves from colonialism if our people are still slaves? What is the point of privilege is you don’t use it to help those without?

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