Vuvuzelas, the loud trumpets that soccer fans are bleating with abandon, aren't the only items making noise at the 2010 World Cup in South Africa. More than 10,000 two-sided "red cards" are being handed out to fans to publicize a reality that's far from fun and games: human trafficking.
The cards, as well as fliers, posters and a large billboard in Capetown, were created pro-bono by Minneapolis-based Martin/Williams agency on behalf of a growing international nonprofit called Not For Sale (www.notforsale campaign.org).
In soccer, a red card signals the ejection of a player who has seriously violated the rules. In life, the facts about modern human-trafficking are sobering: The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services reports more than 30 million slaves worldwide; 80 percent are female. Half are children.
While most are forced into the sex trade, many others labor under lock and key, everywhere from China to Latin American to ... Minnesota?
Yes, Minnesota. Danette Buskovick, a statistician with the Minnesota Department of Public Safety, knows of at least 37 adults and two children who have been victims of labor trafficking in Minnesota restaurants, nail salons, hotels and homes.
Another man, from Guatemala, was promised a green card and an opportunity to become a legal citizen. When he arrived, he was instead "sold for $800" to a dairy farmer in southern Minnesota.
"I'm quite concerned that we don't have a good handle on this in our state," Buskovick said, adding that the issue is being addressed by a statewide human trafficking task force. "We know it's happening, but it's a very hidden problem."
Minnesota is also a leader in the fight to abolish modern slavery. Not For Sale co-founder, Mark Wexler, 29, grew up in the Twin Cities. While a student at the University of San Francisco, he met David Batstone, author of "Not for Sale: The Return of the Global Slave Trade and How We Can Fight It."
With Enrique Bazan, who grew up in Lima, Peru, the three social justice advocates created Not For Sale in 2007, to raise awareness in communities and on campuses, and collaborate with law enforcement agencies to shut down trafficking rings.
Word is spreading. The government of the Philippines has asked them for help in developing anti-trafficking protocols. Fortune 500 companies are working closely with the nonprofit, as well.
"The level of interest and desire has just been insane," said Wexler, whose father, Richard Wexler, is Not For Sale's Minnesota director. "The only way to fight modern-day slavery is with an entrepreneurial approach," Mark Wexler continued." An example: In Peru, older kids are pulled off the streets, where they've worked in the sex trade or as beggars. They are taught skills, which lead them to jobs and self-sufficiency. Others are offered housing and social services.
But awareness is the first line of attack. The Martin/Williams campaign features three red cards held up in front of stadiums or handed out by volunteers (www.tinyurl.com/redcards). One reads: "Enslaved children outnumber pro footballers. Makes you wonder what our favorite pastime really is."
Another: "The youngest pro footballer signed at 14, which is old if you're a sex slave."
"We liked being able to take that concept and use it as the ultimate offense against humanity during the largest global event of the year," said Martin/Williams account director Laura Terry.
"Over 400,000 people are coming into South Africa to watch the games and millions are watching on TV around the world."
Wexler said reaction to the cards often is, "What in the world are you talking about?" That's the opening he needs to inform, then recruit.
"Our hope isn't to paralyze someone, but to give them a next step," he said. "Come join a broad movement of people saying, 'Enough.'"
Gail Rosenblum • 612-673-7350 • firstname.lastname@example.org