Slavery In Existence Today – Seriously!

There are an estimated 29.8 million people who are enslaved today. Roughly 60,000 of those people are enslaved in the United States. Twenty-nine point eight million people.

A couple weeks ago, 12 Years a Slave took home a well-deserved Oscar for Best Picture. In his acceptance speech, director Steve McQueen provided us insight on what drove him to turn Solomon Northup’s story into an Academy Award winning film. “Everyone deserves not just to survive, but to live,” he said “I dedicate this award to all the people who have endured slavery and the 21 million that still suffer today”.

Maybe I am just nineteen and naïve, but when I heard Steve McQueen’s speech I thought he was surely exaggerating. In a world as great, advanced and ruled as we are, there is no possible way that there are more people enslaved today than any other time in human history. Confused, I did some research. After taking into account information from several sources, I knew that Steve McQueen was not lying. In fact, his numbers were lower than the official Global Slavery Index.

The first edition of the Global Slavery Index was released in 2013 based off research done by Kevin Bales for the organization “Free the Slaves”. Being the first of its kind, this index is based on the measurement of people living in modern slavery today. Country by Country, the estimates are reliable and heart breaking.

This organization, Walk Free, provides an online, interactive map that demonstrates to the extent of which slavery extends with quantitative and qualitative research. By clicking on a dark red country, one can see that slavery is prominent not only by habit, but by that country’s level of human and economic development; the stability of the government and the institutions of the country; the level of discrimination against women; anti-slavery policies; and the country’s respect for human rights.

Ranking number one with the highest percentage of people enslaved is a Sub-Saharan African country, Mauritania. This country is estimated to have roughly 150,000 enslaved with a total population of about 3.8 million. Haiti is ranked second with 210,000 enslaved followed closely by Pakistan.

In the past, human slaves were documented for the slave holders to trade and claim ownership. With the world’s recent spike in population, “people have become cheap and disposable,” says researcher Kevin Bale. In 1850, purchasing a slave cost what today would be around $40,000. In 2013, humans were being bought and sold for roughly $90. With these factors, slavery documentation is non-existent and not needed for slave holders. Whereas before skin color drove the slave industry, profit is now more important.

For those of you who are like me, completely ignorant about this major issue and still questioning its authenticity, Free the Slaves and the University of California, Berkley conducted research proving cases of slavery and human trafficking in over 90 cities across the US.  Cocoa is harvested by slaves in the Ivory Coast while the steel in Brazil is produced by slave made charcoal. Slaves weave carpets in India and eventually these products and more reach our stores and homes. Those are just to name a few.

Every day, people all over the world are forced to work without pay, treated like property and suffer a life without freedom. Some governments have already made steps to help this issue, but that is not enough. I can’t be the only one shocked by this revelation or the one outraged and ready to help. Simply spreading the word and knowing the signs of slavery can go a long way. Learn more at www.GlobalSlaveryIndex.org or www.freetheslaves.net.

*This post isn’t as happy and flowing as I usually like to write. But this issue isn’t happy and flowing either. It is something that I am starting to become very passionate about and I want to be part of a change! I want to help give freedom to those who who have none. As Steve McQeen said, “Everyone deserves not just to survive, but to live”.

Lazy Days & Family

It is the third day of the New Year and I can say honestly that I have been pretty lazy. Thirty-six episodes into Gossip Girl and still going strong. I do, actually, have friends, plenty of things to do, and some sort of a life. But sometimes, it feels so nice to stay at my house and hang out with the family (and the cast of Gossip Girl as I follow their extravagant lifestyles and charmingly good looks).

Says the freshman girl home from college.

I just forced my Mom, Dad, and sister into a family hug. And it was awesome. My 17 year old sister pretended to hate it but I know she secretly appreciated it just as I did a couple years ago. Being away definitely made me realize just how good I have it. I come home and tell my parents that I am giving up my scholarship that I have worked for over six years at so that I can go to a different school and follow my dreams – whatever they may be at the moment. Not many people can say they have done that without feeling the guilt drag around constantly.

Even past my immediate family, I feel like the luckiest girl in the world. Today, I spent the day with my mom’s mom and had a fantastic time. Although Grandma’s health isn’t the greatest, we had fun shopping at Carsen’s, eating and Olive Garden and making a trip to the doctor. She has really worked hard throughout her life as a nurse starting at the age of 16. I have hardly ever heard her complain. She has saved and invested her money so that she could travel the world. Basically, she’s my inspiration.

Unfortunately, all good things come to an end. Even people. This year we lost my Grandfather, man of the family. He loved good music, always made people laugh and was loved by many. I think a lot of my optimism and humorous attitude originated from him.  And even in a time so hard, my extended family had never been so close. With the birth of my new baby cousin, Chloe, and the family together for the holidays, nothing could stop us as we stood in our traditional circle. We laughed, we cried, we took away with us all the good things from the year.

Steve Wilczynski 1947Grandpa Steve 2013

Grandpa Steve 1947                2013

To be honest, I didn’t know exactly what to write about today. I guess it can be inferred that my family always on my mind and I couldn’t be more thankful. I know that I am lucky and I hope that those who do not feel the same way I do can stay optimistic and find or make a family of their own. It doesn’t necessarily matter whether or not you are blood related; a family includes people that will be there for the laughs, the tears, and the memories.

That Adolescent Embarrassing Moment

“Checking in for Cary-Grove High School, number 42, freshman, Mallory Wilczynski,” boomed the announcer’s voice through the speakers in Hersey High School’s orange tinted gymnasium. I ran out onto the court and tried to keep my face neutral while my brain scrambled to remember all the plays and who-in-the-world I was supposed to be guarding. It was my first time playing in a varsity basketball game and boy was I nervous. I had always been good at athletics but this was a huge opportunity to make an impression and show everyone what I was made of. Other then a great personality, of course.

The first few minutes went surprisingly well as I took some good shots and made a steal. I was finally starting to get into my element. My teammate fouled a girl on her shot so we all took our places for free throws. The bald ref, in his black and white uniform, bounced the ball to the shooter and informed her she had two shots. She made the first one. The ref bounced her the ball for a second time, and I positioned myself for the rebound. On my toes, bent knees, arms out, and the mindset that I was going to get this rebound do matter what.

Hersey’s shooter dribbled the ball a couple times, paused and took the shot. As if in slow motion, the ball bounced once, twice around the rim and right into my outstretched arms. My fingers closed around the ball easily. I then, with impeccable form, shot the ball at the perfect angle so it hit the exact center of the painted square and, only then, bounced smoothly into the basket. Swish.

I had just scored my first varsity basket – for the other team. But I was so excited that I didn’t even realize I had literally made the worst mistake a basketball player can make. After my hard to believe shot, I continued to run down the court with long, confident strides in that “no one can touch me” kind of way. My blonde hair was flowing in the wind as I tried to keep my game face on and not grin like an idiot. I listened for the announcer to say my name again. Right on queue the speakers boomed with a low voice, “Two points…by Mallory Wilczynski…” Why was he saying it with uncertainty? It was ME. Number 43, weren’t you watching ya bozo?! The announcer continued, “…for Hersey…” At this point my fair skin turned the luscious color of a tomato and my heart dropped to the soles of my brand new navy and white kicks.

I did NOT just do that.

Why oh why did I shoot at the OTHER TEAM’S basket?

My coach is going to KILL me.

I’m going to KILL me.

I’m off the team.

I’m crying. No, stop I can’t cry. Play it cool!

At this point, I’m trying to laugh off the mortifying mistake but I’m also a 14-year-old girl and very emotional so I’m crying as well. To top it all off, my coach didn’t take me out right away so I had to continue playing the fast paced game with all these older girls literally laughing at me. Looking back, I would argue that my tussled appearance strongly resembled that of the infamous Honey Boo Boo’s when she didn’t get her dessert.

It’s safe to say that this is one of, or thee most embarrassing moment of my life. But it also is a great story to tell. I ended up making the best of the situation and learned an important lesson. Even when things don’t go how you planned, you can either hide or you can laugh and move on. Thankfully, I chose the latter and continued to have a successful career in sports where I learned how to score points for my team.

(By the way, that’s me in the picture. Second from the right and clearing winning the brawl. I was an aggressive, little, six foot two bugger. And this was after I had shot for the wrong team. So clearly, my coach had the decency to believe I wasn’t a total lost cause)

Mom Got Ran Over By a…Chairlift

The cheerful holidays are upon us as the fresh, soft snow builds the most perfect winter atmosphere. The season’s first snowfall is always one of my favorite events and I can’t help but let out a small chuckle when the first snowflake lands upon my cheek. As it quickly melts against my rosy skin, my memory is jogged to the time my face was buried in the fluffy substance during a family ski trip gone awry. Subconsciously, I always start to hum “My Grandma got Ran Over by a Reindeer”, only, my version has a few different words.

It was Spring Break 2007 and my Mom, Dad, younger sister and I were all excited for an escape to the mighty hilltops of Granite Peak, Wisconsin. After unloading the ever faithful family van, better known to me as “The Golden Bullet”, it was time to hit the slopes and pretend to know exactly what we were doing. The first few runs went smoothly; my sister, Karisa and I, took to racing down the easy, green paths in order to get the hang of skis again, as it was only our second time in the big leagues of snow sporting. Mom and Dad are super athletes, of course, and decided to tackle one of them runs with the funny looking moguls. We all met at the bottom of the mountain with sailing egos and adrenaline that had us ready to conquer more. So back in line for the chairlift we got, but this time, things went a little differently.

Shuffle, shuffle, shuffle, nonchalantly we skied towards the lines to the lift, separated by long, looping ropes. Here’s the thing about skis: they are long, slippery and very hard to control for those of us who struggle with that whole hand-eye-coordination thing. Nonetheless, the four of us made it to the front without any problems and readied as the gates opened simultaneously. From here in the story, my memory is continuously stuck on the slo-mo setting.

Together, as a group, no, as a family, we (attempted) to glide towards a blood red line drawn in the ice. The line signaled where we were supposed to perform a controlled stop and wait for the chair to swing from behind and take us up to the mountain, to the blue skies of glory. Finally, we reached the line. Grasping two poles in one hand, we each turned our heads around to seek the chair swiftly approaching. Slightly swaying with the wind, the chair came closer and closer until, finally, the rugged, black leather was mere seconds from hitting us each in the behind. We all began to bend at the knees, systematically planning to sit down on the chair with the utmost grace and perfect timing.

While preforming the “sitting” maneuver, an obviously challenging task for any two-legged creature, Mom’s right ski turned outward and hooked onto Dad’s left ski. With gravity never in favor of an embarrassing scene, Mom was pulled to the cold ground while Dad attempted to pull his ski closer to him. Just like dominos, Dad managed to fall forward and take me, on his right, down with him from another hooked ski situation. Karisa, the youngest at age ten, is the only one who had conquered the task of finding the chair with her butt. As she promptly fastened herself on the still moving chair, Mom, Dad, and I tasted the dirty snow face down. Our skies were sticking out every which way creating a massive knot. A laughing crowd seemed to form, their eyes filled with pity as we repeatedly tried to get up, but to no avail.

The man working the machine did not seem to notice the flailing family on the ground, clearly in need of some assistance. I vaguely remember calling out for help…the chair continued to move toward me like the Great White Shark in Jaws (1975). Before I knew it, Mom, Dad, and I had our hands over our head as the chair swept completely over us. Just when I thought the worst part was over, I realized the lift was still moving. Is anyone even working this thing? The next chair was almost upon us and all I could do was stay low to ground and hope that soon, I would be able to get up and walk away from this traumatizing event.

SCHREEEEECH.

The lift had stopped. Praise the Lord! It took five solid minutes to actually stand up, get the skis situated once more and sit on a new chair, one behind Karisa who was already ten feet in the air. The lift started to move again and we were back on track to the top of the mountain with our cheeks full of rosy red embarrassment. The chairlift took us higher, but behind me I could still hear the crowd’s hushed laughter and feel their eyes focused on the family who fell of the chair.

It’s safe to say that this moment in time was one of my most humiliating yet. But the fact that it happened alongside my crazy family, makes it one memory worth remembering. I will never look at snow the same and every holiday season must include one round of:

“My Mom got ran over by a chairlift…”

Related to: Memories of Holidays Past

Finding Yourself Starts A Journey

So today is Day 1 of my blogging experience. Thank you, thank you, please hold the “Applause” and queue that catchy Lady Gaga song.

Alright, apologies. I will quit the pitiful attempt at humor and just tell you my story instead…

My name is Mallory and I am in the midst of my very first year of college. So naturally, I’m a mess. Finals, deciding a major, parties, internships, money, food, boys, girls and much more. Though it may be stressful at times, I will confirm the ever popular cliché and admit that “I am truly starting to find myself”. So let’s start at the beginning, shall we? That is, if you decide to keep reading which I encourage you to do under no biased belief at all.

I grew up as a blonde, wildly energetic athlete from suburbia Chicago. Basketball, softball, soccer, volleyball, swimming, and even cheer leading took turns occupying my time from season to season. Don’t get me wrong, I am no Missy Franklin or Keri Strug, but athletics come naturally to me, especially since I am a proud height of 6’2”. So when it came time to choose a University, I decided to accept a scholarship and a spot on the Women’s Varsity Volleyball team here in good old Rhode Island. Thousands of miles away from my home and definitely not the school I had always dreamed of as a kid. But hey, a strong business program and an education mostly paid for. Who wouldn’t say no?

Well, a year and a half after saying yes, I am now saying no. Looking back at that summer before my senior year of high school, Charles Horton Cooley’s Looking Glass Self Theory played a crucial role in my decision to continue a life of constant sports. For those who are not familiar with the theory, Cooley believed that how we see ourselves does not come from who we really are, but rather from how we believe others perceive us as (Cooley 1998). Some scoff at the idea that suggests he or she is not in complete control of their own identity. But when facing reality, human interaction is so continuous that it is nearly impossible to avoid the social mirror throughout a lifetime.

It took me a while to realize and truly understand, but now I will confidently admit that I was trapped within the theoretical reflections of the Looking Glass Self. Just like Andy Clark from The Breakfast Club (1984), everyone around me identified me as “the athlete” after years of success in sports from grade school to high school. The more they congratulated me about my athletic talent, the more important and noteworthy I felt; within this enormous world, I had a place to belong. These feelings initiated a desire within me to work even harder to maintain the label I had been given. During the process, I put aside other aspirations and dreams in order to be where I am today: playing Division I volleyball, saving money and earning a stable degree.

In attempt not to sound like an absolute brat, let me please explain that I have a deep passion for volleyball. When I am on the court, I feel powerful and brave. It has taught me a myriad of things over the years that will stay with me for the rest of my life. I am so very thankful for the opportunity to play and do things that many people only dream of. I do not regret any of it. The thing is, I am ready now to create my own identity and leave the life of athletics that has guided me for so long.

So we have reached the end of the condensed story of my life up until now. I am studying for my first semester of college finals and I will complete the second semester here, but not as an athlete. For the first time in my life. I will then transfer to a school that I fall in love with. There, I will follow my dreams of writing, speaking, teaching, filming, volunteering and whatever else my gut tells me to do. I am stepping away from the mirror that I, for so long, avidly lived by. Now, I am ready to shatter it to pieces and create an identity true to myself. Remember earlier when I said it was nearly impossible to live without the mirror’s effects? Well, to overcome “nearly”, you need courage, confidence and optimism. With these things in hand and readily available, I am ready to go out and show the world just what I am capable of. The journey starts now.

 

 

 

Do you feel like the Looking Glass Self theory applies to your life and identity?

Take a chance, admit it and tell me about it. Then go after whatever your heart desires. You can do it, I believe in you.

 

 

Cooley, Charles Horton 1998. On Self and Social Organization. University Of Chicago Press. 1 edition.