Students host ball to spread awareness of modern slavery


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Slavery is not an idea most associate with contemporary American problems. However, it happens more than people would expect, even in Iowa City.

William Goldberg, the vice president of Students Abolishing Slavery, said the issue of ending modern slavery is very important, because it is connected to the local community.

“There have been several busts of prostitution rings in the Iowa City and Cedar Rapids area involving minors recently,” said UI sophomore Goldberg.

There have been several recent incidents of human trafficking in the Iowa City area. A 16-year-old girl was allegedly trafficked by her sister in Coralville earlier this year, and in September, three 14- and 16-year-olds were reportedly trafficked from Iowa City to Chicago.

The Organization for the Active Support of International Students has teamed up with UI Students Abolishing Slavery and the Asian American Coalition to host the annual Cultural Ball this weekend. This year, however, the organization will present the event with a unique theme: “Ending Modern Slavery.”

The theme was created by the Students Abolishing Slavery. Members from the organization will give two presentations during the event to raise awareness of modern slavery, a topic that they have focused on heavily for the past couple of years.

The event will include singing, dance competitions, dance workshops, and a petition to raise awareness and help those affected by modern slavery.

After informing attendees about different types of modern slavery, such as forced prostitution and labor slavery, Students Abolishing Slavery will advocate for the Trafficking Victims Protection Reauthorization Act — which expired in 2010 — by collecting petitions to bring it back.

“The act sets up good laws to penalize people forcing women and children into prostitution and protects those women and children from being penalized for something they were forced to do,” he said. “Without this bill, women and children who have been forced into prostitution are the ones who get penalized.”

Goldberg said Students Abolishing Slavery hopes this event will be even more successful than last year’s turnout of 500 attendees. A large turnout would be good news for its petition, which will be sent to International Justice Mission and then sent to Congress.

“It’s a great way for people to have the chance to fight against modern slavery,” said Will Cai, the president of the Organization for the Active Support of International Students.

Although this year the ball’s main focus is raising awareness about ending modern slavery, the event will also feature performances by different cultural groups in an effort to bridge the gap between international students and domestic students.

The performances will include Iowa Agni, an a cappella group, dance competitions among Iowa Anhdi, Hawkeye Bhangra, Champagne Academy of Irish Dance, Kahraman Near East Dance Ensemble, K-Pop Dance Group, and salsa and swing dance workshops taught by Hawkeye Ballroom Dance Company.

“It is a great opportunity for people to interact and learn about each other’s cultures through these performances,” Cai said.

John Hofmeyer, a UI College of Law alumnus and the founder of Hawkeye Ballroom and Latin Dance Company, will be one of three judges of the dance competitions.

Hofmeyer said he is eager to see how other dance groups on campus put together their performances.

Because the dances come from different backgrounds, he said, they will not judge on specific dance techniques. Rather, the focus will be on aspects such as musicality, how well the dancers work together, and how engaging the overall performance is.

“Dancers are very passionate people, so it is a good way for them to raise awareness about issues that sometimes get swept underneath the rug in the U.S.,” he said.

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