CULLMAN, Ala. – Walkers endured Saturday morning’s cold, rainy weather to participate in Cullman’s third annual Walk for Freedom to raise awareness of human trafficking.
Cullmanites were not alone. Tens of thousands of people gathered in more than 450 cities across 50 countries for the walk, organized globally by the anti-human trafficking organization, A21.
Before the walk began Saturday, participants congregated in front of the Cullman County Courthouse to hear two guest speakers, Kenney Smith, orientation director at Cullman’s R.E. Garrison Trucking and Cullman native and human trafficking survivor Jordan Giddens.
“I didn’t think a lot about human trafficking until about two years ago,” said Smith. “We began a program at R.E. Garrison for new drivers that come in through orientation. We started the program ‘Truckers Against Trafficking.’ One thing that they do is they work with local governments and state governments on that level, and they’re able to provide guidelines for new drivers coming into the business and also drivers that are already established, when they go to renew a license, a commercial driver’s license, some states, I think over seven states follow this program and more on the way. Alabama is one of those states; the governor signed that into law this year and beginning the first of January, when you need to renew your CDL or to get a new one, you’re required to go through the human trafficking training.”
Giddens, former finance director for Alabama Rep. Anthony Daniels, D-Huntsville and current child trafficking care coordinator for the Children’s Policy Council and Family Court of Jefferson County, addressed the crowd next.
“When I was 19 years old, I was kidnapped from a local bar in downtown Birmingham,” he said. “(I) narrowly avoided being trafficked. (When we) pulled up behind a U-Haul, people literally had their mouths duct-taped, so I’m incredibly lucky I made it out of that situation and not trapped in slavery. I have not found justice for my own situation, which is incredibly common. I saw a sign where it said only 1% of victims actually report, so you can imagine how many actually attained justice. The bill that (Smith) referred to, I actually wrote, and I’m continuously working on legislation and to raise awareness and create things like the Cullman County Human Trafficking Task Force, which is crucial to end this issue. Thank you all for coming out and raising awareness about this incredibly important issue.”
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