RA Runs for Freedom with Dressember / by Madeleine Riley

Readers, I'm so honored to have my friend RuthAnn (Or more famously, RA) here today to talk about human trafficking and what we can do to advocate for the end of modern slavery. 

RA and I met when she applied to be on the Diverse Books Club team last August. Her application was impressive, and Lorraine and I both agreed that we had to have her on our team. As we've grown closer over the months I've joked more than once that if RA ever wrote a memoir, it would be titled Thorough as Hell, because she gives everything she does 100% effort and attention. Without RA, the DBC would not have made it through our first year. Without getting too sappy, I'll say this: she's a good human and a good friend.

I'll let RA give you all of the details.

(And if you're a member of the DBC, consider this your hint! We'll be reading more on this topic in our 2018-19 season.)

Hello, Top Shelf Text readers! I’m RuthAnn (aka RA), and I live in southeastern Pennsylvania with my husband and our dog. I work in learning and development in the finance industry, and I am the resident Spreadsheet Nerd on the Diverse Books Club team. Big thanks to Madeleine for letting me guest-post about a topic that is near to my heart!

It’s natural to believe that slavery is a sad part of our collective history, but the truth is that millions of men, women, and children are held in modern slavery all around the world. Through human trafficking, forced labor, and other coercive measures, the poorest and most vulnerable people are victims of ongoing exploitation and abuse. If you’d like to learn more about the reality of human trafficking, I highly recommend these books:


The Locust Effect: Why the End of Poverty Requires the End of Violence, by Gary Haugen: This book is heavy nonfiction with lots of research and case studies. The premise is that the most important element to eradicating modern slavery is ensuring safety for the world’s poor. So many people live without the assurance of fair policing and justice systems, which creates a environment ripe for corruption and exploitation. Reading this book felt similar to reading The New Jim Crow: so tough but necessary.

Sold, by Patricia McCormick: This young adult novel is about Lakshmi, who was trafficked from Nepal into slavery in a brothel in India. The story is told through short sections of prose, similar to a novel in verse. Sold was a National Book Award Finalist for Young People’s Literature in 2006, and I would recommend this book for mature middle schoolers and definitely high schoolers. It’s an excellent avenue for parents and teachers to engage teens on a topic that affects teen victims.

Behind the Beautiful Forevers: Life, Death, and Hope in a Mumbai Undercity, by Katherine Boo: This nonfiction book is an example of excellent journalism, and it’s written in such a compelling way that many readers think it’s a novel. The author tells intertwining, true stories of real families who subsist at an unbelievable level of poverty in a Mumbai slum. Although the book is not overtly about human trafficking, it lurks in the background in tacit understanding that a child may be sold to a brothel or indentured at a factory. It’s chilling and arresting.

It can be overwhelming to consider the vast problem of human trafficking, but we can make a difference! There are organizations that fight human trafficking every day through investigation and prosecution of perpetrators, systematic legislative reform, and aftercare and therapy for survivors. Dressember is a foundation that awards grants to organizations like these, and I’ve been a Dressember advocate since 2014.

Dressember’s primary advocate event is a challenge to wear a dress every day in the month of December while raising awareness and funds to fight trafficking. In 2017, I had the privilege of leading the top-fundraising team in the world! We raised over $73,000, which is enough to fund 10 Rescue Operations through International Justice Mission, a global organization that protects the world’s poor from violence in the developing world. I am SO proud of my team, and we got to celebrate our accomplishments recently with a party!

One of the rally cries for Dressember advocates is that #youcandoanythinginadress, and this year, Dressember is hosting the first You Can Do Anything in A Dress (or Tie) 5K on May 20! You can participate in any city, but I immediately wrote off participating because I HATE to run. I hate it so much!

Then, we had our celebration party, and my team was full of energy! They asked, “What’s next?” It made me remember how one of my main goals as a team leader is to encourage people to stretch beyond their comfort zones, whether it’s wearing dresses or asking people for donations. I knew that it was time for me to step it up and go beyond my comfort zone. So, now I am training for the Kennett Run 5K on May 19, which I will run in a dress to raise awareness (and hopefully funds) about human trafficking!

Will you join me and take a stand against human trafficking? Here’s how you can get involved:

Thanks for considering! Together, we can make a difference in the fight against modern slavery. Every person has dignity, and nobody is property. #itsbiggerthanadress