Human Rights Begin With The Heart

One Child Sold: Human Trafficking and Rights,  

Poems by Larry Jaffe (Salmon Poetry, County Clare, Ireland, 2010)


With the Superbowl frenzy descending on New York and headlines in the Daily News declaring "Super Bowl XLVIII: Sex traffickers targeted in countdown to big game," what better time to revisit poet Larry Jaffe's 2010 book One Child Sold: Human Trafficking and Rights.

Jaffe takes us on an earnest and relatively restrained poetic journey through assertion, example and advocacy—both personal and political—across necessary terrain: the border-crossing pandemic of human slavery and genocide. Global exploitation of men, women and children for the sex trade or cheap labor speaks to the humanity in all of us, and Jaffe strikes straight for the individual heart from his opening reminder that 'human rights begin with your heart' to his closing enjoinder that his reader become a 'maker of miracles.'

Along the way we revisit Nazi death camps, Darfur, police brutality in LA and the Statue of Liberty wearing a 'dress of tattered barbed wire.' “I am owned/by silence/possessed by others" while slavery is "denied in the highest places," says an anonymous everyman and victim, in 'Owned.' "I am owned by indifference…by finance…by ignorance…"

...Invisible chains Bind my soul You may say slavery is dead I am living proof it lives.

Jaffe, with roots in New York and LA, is no idle armchair poet of witness. He's co-founder of Poets for Human Rights, has served as International Readings Coordinator for the UNESCO Dialogue Among Civilizations through Poetry Project (2001-04), and traveled to see the remains of the Nazi death camp at Terezin in 2006.

"There are times when I think of Larry Jaffe as my own personal poet, so intimate are his words of human rights to me," says Mary Shuttleworth, president of Youth for Human Rights International. Adds Sheema Kalbasi, poet and human rights activist: "Jaffe interweaves human rights and the conscience through his personal search and vision, and demonstrates a deep affection for humanity. This book takes on all the cruelties that line up against human dignity."

Were 10,000 women and girls trafficked to Miami for the 2010 Super Bowl, as the Daily News asserts?

Is sex trafficking even tied to major sporting events? Or—as the Daily News notes—is the connection dubious, as one prominent anti-trafficking group, the Thailand-based Global Alliance Against Traffic of Women, said in a 2011 report?

Either way, as Superbowl XLVIII frenzy takes hold on the icy shores of the Hudson River, it’s time Larry Jaffe's 40 page book of poems, addressing 'human rights, a hunger we may never satisfy fully,' be given a nod.