Johnston Teacher Gets Lesson in Social Justice
Johnston resident Dennis Kennedy, a teacher at Bay View Academy in East Providence, recently attended a United Nations conference.
Bay View Academy Upper School history teacher Dennis Kennedy, of Johnston, recently attended a conference at the United Nations in New York City by the Committee on Teaching About the United Nations’ (CTAUN).
The conference, “Advancing Social Justice, the Role of Educators,” focused on economic inequality and human trafficking. Kennedy was one of more than 550 high school teachers and college professors from around the nation to attend.
The conference included a key note address by U.N. Under-Secretary-General, Peter Launsky-Tieffenthal, and remarks from many, including Somaly Mam, one of Time Magazine’s 100 Most Influential People (2009) and founder of the Somaly Mam Foundation, dedicated to serving and protecting victims of human-trafficking, and others.
Mam, a Cambodian survivor of the Khmer Rouge era, separated from her family as a young child, abused and forced into a life of prostitution, spoke about her rescue from a refugee camp, her subsequent education in France, and how she has never forgotten her past or the girls she left behind in Cambodia.
“To hear Mam discuss her unforgettable experiences,” Kennedy said, “or to listen to Kevin Cassidy, Communications and External Relations Officer for the International Labor Organization, share the plight of agricultural workers in South America relegated to the status of slaves, was a wonderfully insightful opportunity. There are plenty of statistics and other documentation that reflect the struggle of the world’s poor to achieve economic independence, but it was these personal stories that delivered the most powerful impact.”
Mam appeared at the event along with Chloe Flower, a world-renowned concert pianist who has also worked to bring attention to the topic of the sexual exploitation of children. Kennedy reported that Desiree Suo, a foreign affairs specialist with the U.S. Department of State, stressed that human trafficking is not limited to female sex workers; it often includes agricultural laborers.
“After teaching a unit on Lincoln’s struggle to secure passage of the 13th amendment in Congress to end slavery the same week the conference was held,” Kennedy said. “It was jarring to learn of the scope and scale of human trafficking in the world today – which by some estimates, involves over 20 million victims.”