Thoughts on African anti-slavery speakers' visit D97

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By Ashley Lisenby

Digital Editor

Bakary Tandia and Biram Abeid, natives of Mauritania, visited Gwendolyn Brooks Middle School Monday to talk about slavery and other social justice issues facing the people of Mauritania including the strict caste system to which the country still adheres. 

In 1981 the West African nation outlawed slavery. It was the last country in the world to do so. 

As a part of their Integrated Studies class the eighth graders at Brooks are challenged to grapple with the question, "What are the essential elements to promote growth and change?" 

Promise not to hate me, but I am a millennial—22-years-old. In the past few years a lot has been written about us. According to some writers we are the generation of privilege with a serious Peter Pan problem thereby making us the generation that cares the least about haunting global issues.

Grant it, the Miley Cyrus, Kardashians and Justin Beibers of the world probably haven't given everyone much hope. Trust me. There are a lot of 20-somethings who are also shaking their head at some of the obnoxious, lewd behavior of our peers.

All is not lost. 

The fact that Tandia and Abeid came to Oak Park to speak to younger millennials about social injustice is a glimmer of hope. A hope rooted in a belief that we can be the generation that looks outward, regardless of gender, race, religion or national origin, with much more ease than previous generations. 

We can be the generation that cares about the people of West Africa as much as we do about the people along Austin Boulevard. Perhaps, caring about the quality of life of those half-way across the world will create a desire to better understand neighbors only a few blocks away.

Brooks was Tandia and Abeid's last stop in the Chicagoland area before heading to New York City where Abeid received the 2013 United Nations Human Rights Prize, awarded every five years, on International Human Rights Day which was on Tuesday Dec. 10.

Find more information about present day slavery and how to stop it visit or

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joe from south oak park  

Posted: December 12th, 2013 10:08 PM

I'm glad that the kids had teh opportunity to hear the men speak. I'm sure that many of these children were not aware that slavery still exists in the world. However, it is disingenuous if not outright insulting to compare the socioeconomic situation that our neighbors in the Austin neighborhood are facing with the problems that folks in Mauritania are facing with slavery.

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