Category Archives: Slavery
Notes from 2013 on a trip to Washington and visit to the home of Frederick Douglass:
I had been a bit tired lately and quite frankly a bit beaten by the work I do. This rarely happens but when it does it is due to such loss and destruction of souls that I sometimes witness. I was in search of something to amaze and inspire me but could not think of what it would be. Soon after this feeling began, I was hosted at an event in Washington. Since, I live in Texas this was a rare treat. While in D.C., I made time to go to the home of Frederick Douglass. I have studied Douglass and his writings since I was a young child. I was always so amazed by a man who freed himself by not recognizing the legitimacy of his enslavement. In a time when it was illegal to educate slaves he learned to read and write and later was the editor of newspapers and authored books.
In a time when the American Dream was not available to him he struggled and overcame the legal and social barriers that blocked him from his freedom. After becoming free, he could have stopped there however he continued to combat the institutions that discriminated against and enslaved others. He was a strong advocate for women’s rights, the poor (black, white or any race), improved education, and for prison reform.
He excelled in education, languages, family life and served his country in numerous ways though public service. He was a U.S. ambassador to Haiti, a U.S. Marshall, advisor to Lincoln and four other presidents.
In 2007, I was so fortunate to meet a direct descendant of Frederick Douglas, Ken Morris. I could not believe my fortune. Now, I proudly serve on the board of advisors to the Frederick Douglass Family Initiatives. So when given the amazing opportunity to see where my historical mentor and hero lived I took it with gusto. Since I am unfamiliar with Washington, I had no idea what this meant.
Finding the Frederick Douglass home
I found a wonderful taxi driver and we began our journey. At first my GPS was confused by the address. The driver also could not recognize the address. We stopped and asked taxi drivers at two hotels and no one knew where it was. I was so confused, how could no one know where this amazing’s man’s house was located in a city he had made such a presence?
So finally, thanks to Google, we found the address. I showed my phone to the driver and suddenly all the confusion was clear to him. He said, no wonder- it is in a place in D.C. that is very dangerous. He said are you sure you want to go? I exclaimed, Yes! I told him about my work and how important Douglass was to helping me combat modern slavery. He said, OK, I will take you.
So we were to drive only 5 miles but it turned into another world. We crossed the Anacostia River and exited the freeway. There he so politely said I know you are from Texas but it would be very unethical for me to leave you here- he told me that there was a recent time when there were one to two bodies a day found due to murder, drugs and other crimes. He said they would know immediately that I was not from the neighborhood. I rarely yield to fear of bad neighborhoods however at this time his advice was appropriate.
I giggled and said yes I agree that I would stand out- as we drove by a group of people who all looked to under the influence of several substances. He also told me this area was known for drugs, weapons and prostitution. I thought how disrespectful to my historical hero that in the shadow his home, a symbol of his overcoming historical slavery, modern slavery was flourishing. I was truly angered. I kept thinking the tour is free- why don’t they all take it and understand that they are willingly forfeiting their freedom to criminal enterprises? If Douglass were alive I am sure he would be addressing them. The “Sage of Anacostia” would not remain silent.
So we made arrangements that my driver, Mosh, would drop me off and come back. When we arrived at the home which is a national park we found it was not open yet. My driver looked as if he was again struggling with ethics. He said, I cannot leave you here while they are closed- you will not be safe. I must say I agreed- so again we discussed what to do- it ended with he would stay with me- I agreed to pay his rate with the stipulation that he take the tour with me. He happily agreed.
As I was worried such a wonderful park would be crowded and the tour at capacity, we had arrived 45 minutes before they opened. We drove around and spoke about the city, Douglass, life in the 1800’s and what a beautiful day it was. When the first park ranger arrived we followed him in the service entrance. There, we were able to sit at the top of the very elevated property and see Washington as Douglass must have seen it every morning. It was so breath-taking. The home was on the highest point and the land below was flat and could not obstruct the amazing view. We talked about Douglass and how he must have been able to see visitors approaching his home as far away and the Anacostia River. We spoke about the strenuous life one must have lived even in a fine house such as his- hauling water and materials, walking or riding everywhere and being your own security force in a time where just by being alive he created enemies.
Then the park opened and we went on a tour- again more amazement!
Description of the Frederick Douglass home
Douglass’ house was a grand 2-story home with cutting edge additions for the time- he had a washroom built for his wife before people washed their clothes indoors, indoor water, and the most family centered home one could imagine.
He had achieved the American dream in spite of all the harsh barriers of the time and his most horrific entrance into the world through the system of slavery. He was successful in education, family, finances and health. My new friend, Mosh and I left so inspired and humbled by our experience that we now stay in touch. I cannot wait to return and learn more about what is possible in the face of adversity.
However, it also reminded me of the many struggles we as a society face today. All I could think of is why does the community around this home allow criminal elements to flourish? It is so disrespectful to themselves and to those who came before them. What would Frederick Douglass do?
In my heart I felt that he would not relax, that he would not rest or recognize the situation as legitimate.
So with an inspired heart and determination I returned home and began again- combating these same elements wherever I am called. It just reminded me that modern slavery occurs everywhere- not just in the shadow of Douglass’ house- it is disrespectful and damaging everywhere and must be disrupted.
Thank you Frederick Douglass for reinvigorating my heart, my drive and my passion. Your efforts pass through time and have given me steam to proceed – I can’t wait to visit you again.-
|Marisol Nichols, Terry Crews, Dottie Laster|
Dottie Laster is affiliated with the non-profit Bernardo Kohler Center where she is accredited to practice immigration law. She created their Casita program and Save One Soul outreach.
As a weekly Co-Host on the nationally syndicated radio show, The Roth Show, Laster presents discussion and guests who speak out about a variety of controversial subjects surrounding the abolishment of human trafficking and corresponding crimes.
Dottie Laster is featured in the documentary on sex trafficking in Latin bars and cantinas, The Cantinera, and her direct rescue work is the subject of the MSNBC Documentary, Sex Slaves: Texas Rescue. She is the recipient of several human rights awards and has been featured in numerous publications including recent issues of Texas Monthly, Town Hall, and MORE Magazine.
Dottie Laster is the CEO of Laster Global Consulting which has consulted in several high-profile trafficking cases, and has been directly and indirectly responsible for the rescue and restoration of hundreds of trafficking victims. Her strong multi-disciplinary team has an established track record and provide project development, consultancy, and training resources in domestic and international trafficking.
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