Hank Voge | Backyard Academy

The San Mateo Backyard Academy


There are about thirty people signed up for the backyard academy in San Mateo, California.  The academy takes place over the first three days in December, so forgive me if I’m starting to worry that the audience will be slight.  To be sure, Not For Sale is glad for the opportunity to educate even one person, let alone thirty.  But the organization was hoping to engage the entire community, to rally them, to empower them around this cause.  Thirty people (even thirty people as wonderful as these fine abolitionists) cannot represent the entire community.


Why so little support?  Well, I think part of the reason has to be ignorance.  I was partly responsible for spreading posters for the academy around churches and schools in San Mateo county.  Most of the people I encountered had no idea that the event was coming up (but that was why I had the poster, of course).  And one woman did not even know about human trafficking—and this is a person who lives in the very first zero-tolerance community (see Not For Sale’s website for more details).  The movement may claim victory for raising awareness, but it has yet to capture everyone’s attention.


Another reason, perhaps, is that people just straight up don’t think they have time.  They have time to exhaust themselves at work, to go shopping, to feed the cat, to see a movie, but they don’t have time to ensure that human trafficking stays out of their city.  And I’m the same way.  I think I’m so busy that I have hardly any time for anything but taking care of number one.


There is also the price to consider.  Not For Sale charges seventy dollars for the three-day academy—money that barely covers the event’s expenses.  Still, seventy dollars is a lot of money.   And I’m sure many people from San Mateo cannot see how the academy merits the cost.  (It does, by the way.  Come and have your eyes opened.)


Or maybe the academy has only thirty attendees because of its title or its branding.  Maybe a slightly different poster or a cooler name would have made it more exciting.  Or maybe there’s a really great local softball tournament taking place on December 1st, 2nd, and 3rd, and would-be abolitionists all happen to be playing in it.  I don’t know.


If you are reading this, and are from the area around San Mateo county, I encourage you to give the academy a chance.  There is slavery in this area (see slaverymap.org), and we cannot expect the police to take care of the problem for us.  We all have to learn how to fight slavery.  If you have been neglecting to sign up because you think you are too busy, or because the event sounds like a drag, or because it’s too costly, or because you have never heard of human trafficking—please reconsider.  The academy will educate you and empower you.  Come learn how you can fight slavery in your city, and take pride in your status as the first zero-tolerance community.


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