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Morris decries ‘21st-century slavery’

Kenneth B. Morris, Jr. gave the first talk for the Frederick Douglass Human Rights Lecture, the university’s newest lecture series. Morris is a descendant of Frederick Douglass and Booker T. Washington and also is president of the Frederick Douglass Family Initiatives, a group that combats modern sex slavery with education and awareness. / photo by Katie Madden

Kenneth B. Morris, Jr. gave the first talk for the Frederick Douglass Human Rights Lecture, the university’s newest lecture series. Morris is a descendant of Frederick Douglass and Booker T. Washington and also is president of the Frederick Douglass Family Initiatives, a group that combats modern sex slavery with education and awareness. / photo by Katie Madden

Gabriela Krupa
Staff Writer

Kenneth B. Morris, Jr., founder and president of Frederick Douglass Family Initiatives, spoke at the Frederick Douglass Human Rights Lecture “History, Human Rights and the Power of One,” Feb. 13 in Morgan Auditorium.

“I have used my family history to help stand up to modern day slavery,” Morris said.

As the great-great-great grandson of Frederick Douglass and the great-great grandson of Booker T. Washington, Morris uses his ancestry to raise awareness for human trafficking.

“Douglass was the father of civil rights, and Washington was the person who bridged the gap,” Morris said.

He used photographs and slideshows to show the audience how closely related he is to Douglass and Washington.

FDFI is meaningful to Morris because he created it without any pressure from his family.

While reading a magazine, Morris saw a story about a 12-year-old girl forced into servicing over 30 men a day.

Having a young daughter, Morris realized that he had to stop this tragedy.

He said that the average age girls are forced into prostitution is 13 years old, and people do not even realize this is occurring in America.

Marisol Morales, director of civic and community engagement, said recognizing that human trafficking still occurs in the United States is what affected her the most.

Morris said that when it comes to human trafficking, there is not a lot of support for prevention. His program focuses on the problems leading to human trafficking.

“We empower children to take action,” Morris said. “The fact is we live in modern times with echoes of slavery, and if we listen close enough we can make a change. I hope when I finish that students realize that anything is possible.”

“He made us think about the ability in all of us,” said Linda Delay, director of graduate success.

“I want to be part of the solution, and I am very interested in the subject,” said Jackie Dennis, hospital chaplain at Pomona Valley Hospital Medical Center.

“Dr. Morris is using his history to make a difference. I should go find out mine.”

Through the education system, Morris said he is able to inspire children to focus on their education rather than fall victim to the system of injustice.

Morris uses Douglass’ past to explain what people can do to change modern day injustices.

The program’s foundation is history and the focus is human trafficking.

Morris highlighted that Douglass knew the importance of education because he was a long-term thinker.

He used Douglass’ life to teach valuable lessons to the audience.

As a slave, Douglass treasured food and would use food to pay for lessons.

He also taught himself to read and write and understand the value of knowledge, something his master could not take away.

“If Douglass had the devices we have now, he could have reached more people,” Morris said.

Today, students have the greatest communication devices in the palm of their hands, Morris said.

He hopes to continue incorporating technology throughout the program.

For more information about Frederick Douglass Family Initiatives go to www.fdfi.org.

Gabriela Krupa can be reached at gabriela.krupa@laverne.edu.

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