Jono Hirt | Week 17

“The Sweet Scent of the Other Side of the Fence.”

This week was different, again. At some point, maybe at multiple points, Dave has said to me that Not For Sale is a fast moving stream. The rapidity at which things change here is phenomenal. And to be honest it is hard to keep up. Coming into this situation I had it in my head that I would work hard, produce good and useful work at that and be open to opportunity. The first two things would end up being the easiest and the last, has ended up being, in such a fast moving stream, the most challenging. It is not a bad thing to be challenged by opportunity; no opportunity would be another sort of challenge. One thing I am learning from myself is that, even though I like spontaneity, generally I like having a plan. I had some sort of plan, as I outlined above. I am still being true to my plan; it is just eventuating at light speed. Oh how I would love to press pause and take a breath. Exhale in exile. Even just for a minute. But that is not how it works. And it is all good. Sometimes you just have to release control, roll with those punches and find your feet wherever you land. With all of that said, this week has been a challenge, opportunity has been presented and yet through all the self inflicted anxiety, I have still laughed until my insides hurt, been inspired by those around me and learnt a lot.

This week I had the pleasure of going with the NFS Backyard Academy team to West Palm Beach, to help coordinate the event with Don and to essentially learn how it all works and what needs to happen for it to run smoothly. Just quietly it is a really long way from San Francisco to West Palm Beach. We left Wednesday morning at 6am and arrived home Saturday night at 2am. Maybe I need to toughen up but I was exhausted by the end of it. The Backyard Academy in a snap shot is a 2 and a half day event that we run – during which we offer 5 tracks that are primers to their weeklong Abolitionist Academy counterparts held in San Francisco. The purpose of the Backyard Academy is to engage communities with the Abolitionist movement in their contexts, bridge the gap between knowledge and action and to empower them to fight modern-day slavery in their “backyards”. It was great to witness over 150 modern abolitionists get fired up and inspired by the amazing leadership of our Academy team. I was reminded of why we do what we do, and why I am here. Moreover, I do think the ripple effects of justice that will ensue from this event will add to the movement and save lives from the degradation that is slavery.

It was also really nice to get out of the office, out of Half Moon Bay, and spend some time with Don, Kevin, Julie, Imelda, Dennis, John, NomiS and Dave – to be witness to their individual gifts, to be privy to their passion and energy for justice. It has left me thinking a lot about how I can best contribute to this movement, what my gifts are, and especially where I feel called to use them. I had a great debrief conversation with Don, Dennis and Kevin over lunch after the event on Saturday. A great deal of what we talked about, kept coming back to authenticity – being authentic to the ethos of Not For Sale and ourselves. One thing I know for certain after this week is that for me to be authentic to myself, to my call and passion, I am going to have to, at some point, join the movement to end slavery in MY backyard. I am starting to believe that I can be a leader in this movement. I have been missing home a lot, for a number of reasons – family, friends – my community. But beyond that, as I become more and more convinced in what Not For Sale does – that this truly is the model that will defeat human trafficking in our lifetime – I have had this growing, almost uncomfortable yearning to do all of this in Australia. The beauty of Not For Sale’s platforms is that they are replicable. I felt like I was in a rush after the Global Forum to DO something, so I came to San Francisco and took part in this Fellowship. I again feel like I am in a rush to bolster the efforts of Not For Sale Australia and the abolitionist movement there. However my time and my commitment here is not over, and I do not think it will be over in two months when I finish the Fellowship. Partly because I have not learnt all that I need to learn (like that will ever happen) and partly because there is still work here for me to do. Work that I feel called to do. Although I may be left feeling pulled in two directions, which are ironically working towards the same end, I think I will know when the time is right.

Talking about passion and gifts, watch this video of an A-Capella rendition of NomiS’ “On Behalf of the Silenced” that he performed at the kick-off event at the West Palm Beach Backyard Abolitionist Academy. I missed the beginning, he starts with, “I sit in shock, but even more I sit in disgust”.

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