Poetry Series


Courtesy of Stefan Irvine

June 3 – August 5, 2011
Exhibition Opening Friday, June 3, 2011/ 7-9pm
One Day Symposium Saturday, June 11, 2011 / 10am-6pm
SEA Poetry Series, June 14, 2011 / 7-9pm
Preview of DIGIMOVIES, Thursdays starting June 16, 2011

NEW YORK – CONTEMPORARY SLAVERY, a project of SEA (Social Environmental Aesthetics) and the second annual ECOAESTHETIC exhibition, investigates various forms of contemporary slavery—from human trafficking and the sex trade; to the exploitation of farm and domestic workers, immigrants and prisoners; to sweatshop, bonded, and child labor—through a bombardment of images taken by leading photojournalists documenting this issue. A symposium will unite scholars, humanitarians and activists in dialogue in order to draw critical attention to this under-recognized local and international issue.

According to the United Nations, it is estimated that more than 27 million people are enslaved worldwide, “more than double the number of those who were deported in the 400-year history of the transatlantic slave trade to the Americas.” In his seminal text Disposable People: New Slavery in the Global Economy, Kevin Bales, one of the world’s pre-eminent experts on modern slavery, defines contemporary slavery as distinguished by the low cost of slaves, high profits, surplus of potential slaves, and the disposable, short-term as well as hereditary relationships between slaves and slave holders/traders. From prison labor in America to sex trafficking in Southeast Asia, and child soldiers in Africa, CONTEMPORARY SLAVERY exposes the horrors of slavery that still exist today in all corners of the world.

Contemporary Slavery exhibition conceived by Papo Colo.

Exhibition organized by Herb Tam, Associate Curator, Lauren Rosati, Assistant Curator, Jeanette Ingberman, and Papo Colo.


SATURDAY, JUNE 11 / 10am-6pm
Reception / 6-8pm

EXIT ART, 475 Tenth Ave (between 36th and 37th Streets), New York, NY 10018, T. 212 966 7745
Tickets: $5 – Single Panel; $20 – Day pass with lunch at Exit Art
RSVP and to purchase tickets. http://www.exitart.org/support/rsvp.html


  • 10:00am – 10:30am – Coffee
  • 10:30am – 12:30pm – Panel 1: The Long Chain of Slavery from Plantation to Prison
  • 12:30pm – 1:30pm – Lunch
  • 1:30pm – 3:30pm – Panel 2: The Slave Next Door: Local and Global Labor
  • 3:30pm -4:00pm – Coffee
  • 4:00pm – 6:00pm – Panel 3: Trafficking, Sex Workers, Migration, and Slavery
  • 6:00pm – 8:00pm – Reception

The Long Chain of Slavery from Plantation to Prison

10:30am – 12:30pm
Moderator: Eddie Ellis
Panelists: Gloria Browne-Marshall, Scott Christianson, Joanna Weschler

The Slave Next Door: Local and Global Labor

Moderator: Ron Soodalter
Panelists: John Bowe, Benedetta Rossi, Barbara Young

Trafficking, Sex Workers, Migration, and Slavery

Moderator: Tiantian Zheng
Panelists: Dina Francesca Haynes, Jennifer MacFarlane, Norma Ramos


In the past thirty years, thanks to globalization, new media technologies, and shifts in social, financial, and political patterns, there has been a recognition and resurgence of a wide range of human rights abuses commonly known as “slaveries.” From traditional types of lifelong servitude to forced labor in the sex, prison, farming, and domestic workers industries, as well as debt bondage, slavery persists internationally both in ancient and modern forms. This symposium is intended to bring together diverse communities, controversies, and conversations to address these varied but related concerns.

  1. Not all slaveries were abolished in the US in 1865 with the thirteenth amendment. One type remains sanctioned by the state, which is as “punishment for crime.” The first panel, “The Long Chain of Slavery from Plantation to Prison,” will examine the legacy and contemporary guises of slavery in relation to prisons in the US and abroad.
  2. The second panel, The “Slave Next Door: Local and Global Labor,” will investigate what are more commonly understood as traditional types of slavery and their current forms. These can be hidden, as is often the case with domestic workers, or in plain sight, as seen in restaurant workers or in contexts where such servitude has been accepted as traditional custom and law.
  3. The third panel, “Trafficking, Sex Workers, Migration, and Slavery,” will deal with types of “slavery” that have perhaps received the most attention in the US and internationally: forced labor and trafficked persons in the sex industry. The increase in–and/or visibility of–these disparate forms of human suffering and exploitation are linked to some of the following often intertwined factors: a rise in migration; more powerful corporate globalization; conflicts within and among states; changes in criminal justice and prison labor policies; racial, gender-based, and other forms of discrimination; inequitable redistribution of wealth; and new media technologies. This symposium is intended to ignite and inspire new creative possibilities, ideas, and strategies for understanding and dealing with one of the distinguishing features of our time: “our slaveries.”


The Long Chain of Slavery from Plantation to Prison

Eddie Ellis is the founder-director of the Center for NuLeadership on Urban Solutions, an independent criminal justice think tank formerly at Medgar Evers College, City University of New York, where he is a Research Fellow with the Dubois-Bunche Institute for Economic and Public Policy and was an adjunct instructor. In 2006, he was a member of the Transition Team for Criminal Justice for New York’s Governor–elect Eliot Spitzer. He has served as a consultant on justice policy issues to the Domestic Policy Advisor to President George W. Bush and for numerous organizations including the Council of State Governments, New York State Black and Puerto Rican Legislative Caucus, National Black Caucus of State Legislators, Soros Foundation’s Open Society Institute, and the Vera Institute of Justice. Ellis is the host and executive producer of the critically acclaimed weekly public affairs program, “On the Count: The Prison and Criminal Justice Report,” broadcast over WBAI-FM in New York City.

Gloria Browne-Marshall is a former Civil Rights attorney, teaches Constitutional Law as well as Race and the Law classes at John Jay College of Criminal Justice and the Graduate Center of the City University of New York. Professor Browne-Marshall is the Founder/Director of The Law and Policy Group, Inc. as well as a playwright of seven produced plays and the author of the books Race, Law, and American Society: 1607 to Present, The U.S. Constitution: An African-American Context, and The Constitution: Major Cases and Conflicts.

Scott Christianson is an award-winning author, investigative reporter, documentary filmmaker, curator, and human rights activist specializing in American criminal justice and slavery. He has published hundreds of articles in The Nation, the Village Voice, The New York Times, Washington Post, Mother Jones, the Journal of American History, and other newspapers, magazines and journals. Some of his books include With Liberty for Some: 500 Years of Imprisonment in America; Condemned: Inside the Sing Sing Death House; Freeing Charles: The Struggle to Free a Slave on the Eve of the Civil War; and The Last Gasp: The Rise and Fall of the American Gas Chamber. Christianson has helped several wrongfully-convicted prisoners gain their freedom and a film he directed with Egmont R. Koch made its debut this month on ARTE (France) and WDR (Germany).

Joanna Weschler is the Director of Research and Deputy Executive Director of the Security Council Report, an organization affiliated with Columbia University’s School of International and Public Affairs, which she joined in 2005. From 1994 until 2005, Weschler was the United Nations representative for Human Rights Watch. As the first person appointed by Human Rights Watch to this position, Ms. Weschler developed and articulated HRW’s strategy toward the United Nations. Prior to her position at the U.N. and the Security Council, she was the Poland researcher for Helsinki Watch; Brazil researcher for Americas Watch; and Director of HRW’s Prison Project. She has conducted human rights investigations in countries on five continents and written numerous reports and articles on human rights.

The Slave Next Door: Local and Global Labor

Ron Soodalter has pursued a variety of careers. With degrees in American History, Education, and American Folk Culture, he has worked as a teacher, folklorist, museum curator, scrimshander, Flamenco guitarist, television producer, and author. In addition to his two current books, Hanging Captain Gordon and The Slave Next Door, Soodalter has recently written for several publications, including Smithsonian, The New York Times, Civil War Times, and New York Archives, and is a featured columnist for America’s Civil War. He is the recipient of the International Regional Magazine Association’s 2010 Gold Award. An acknowledged authority on both the historical and modern-day slave trade, Soodalter currently serves on the Board of Directors of the Abraham Lincoln Institute.

John Bowe has contributed to The New Yorker, GQ, The American Prospect, PRI’s “This American Life” and others. He is currently a contributing writer with The New York Times Magazine. He is also the author of Nobodies: Modern American Slave Labor and the Dark Side of the New Global Economy. He is a recipient of the J. Anthony Lukas Work-in-Progress Award; the Sydney Hillman Award for journalists, writers, and public figures who pursue social justice and public policy for the common good; the Richard J. Margolis Award, dedicated to journalism that combines social concern and humor; and the Harry Chapin Media Award for reportage of hunger- and poverty-related issues.

Benedetta Rossi is RCUK Fellow in International Slavery at the Department of History of the University of Liverpool (United Kingdom). She is Director of the MA Program in International Slavery Studies and exiting co-Director of the Centre for the Study of International Slavery (CSIS). She works on the history of government, labor, mobility, and slavery in West Africa. Her edited book Reconfiguring Slavery: West African Trajectories has recently been published (2009) and she is currently coordinating a publication project on slavery and migration in West Africa.

Barbara Young is the National Organizer for the National Domestic Workers Alliance. She was a domestic worker for 17 years, and is well acquainted with both the exploitation domestic workers face and the potential of domestic workers to organize for lasting change. She is an active member of Domestic Workers United (DWU), one of the NDWA’s founding affiliate organizations, and has provided consistent and inspiring leadership for the NDWA since its founding.

Trafficking, Sex Workers, Migration, and Slavery

Tiantian Zheng received her Ph.D. in Anthropology at Yale University in 2003, and currently teaches as Professor of Anthropology in the department of Sociology / Anthropology at SUNY Cortland. Her book Red Lights is the Winner of the 2010 Sara A. Whaley book prize from the National Women’s Studies Association for its significant contribution to the topic of women and labor. She is the author of four books on sex, gender, migration, HIV/AIDS, and the state: Red Lights: The Lives of Sex Workers in Postsocialist China (2009); Ethnographies of Prostitution in Contemporary China: Gender Relations, HIV/AIDS, and Nationalism (2009); HIV/AIDS Through an Anthropological Lens (2009); and Sex-Trafficking, Human Rights, and Social Justice (2010). She also edited an issue of the Journal of Transnational Women’s and Gender Studies titled “Anti-Trafficking, Human Rights, and Social Justice in Wagadu” (2008).

Jennifer MacFarlane is a Brooklyn-based humanitarian photographer. In 2006 Jennifer traveled to Cambodia to do a story with Marianne Pearl for Glamour magazine on the brothels in Cambodia and Somaly Mam, a heroic woman who has risked her own life to rescue these girls. Jennifer realized that their stories needed to be told and has used every opportunity to raise awareness about this subject (from exhibiting her photos in fashion boutiques in SoHo and spearheading innovative events) to bring attention to the beautiful young girls who stole her heart in Cambodia.

Norma Ramos is a longstanding public interest attorney and social justice activist. She is an eco-feminist, who links the worldwide inequality and destruction of women to the destruction of the environment. She currently serves as the Executive Director of the Coalition Against Trafficking in Women (CATW), which is the world’s first organization to fight against human trafficking internationally, now in its twenty-second year. She writes and speaks extensively about the commercial sexual exploitation of women and girls as a core global injustice, and has appeared on such shows as Charlie Rose, Larry King Live and Tavis Smiley.

Dina Francesca Haynes is a Professor of Law at New England Law, Boston, where she teaches courses related to immigration, international law, ethics, refugee and asylum law, international women’s issues, human trafficking and Constitutional law. She spent a decade practicing international law, in such positions as Director General of the Human Rights Department for the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) in Bosnia-Herzegovina, and as Human Rights Advisor to the OSCE in Serbia and Montenegro. She has also worked for the United Nations, serving as a Protection Officer with the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (Croatia) and has been received positions with the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (Rwanda and Afghanistan). Professor Haynes was also an attorney for the United States Department of Justice and clerked on the Constitutional Court of South Africa. She researches and writes in the areas of human trafficking, labor exploitation, immigration law, human rights law, post conflict reconstruction, international organizations, humanitarian law and migration. She has published one book on post conflict reconstruction in Bosnia and Herzegovina, and has another (co-authored) book with Oxford University Press, entitled On the Frontlines, on the topic of gender and postconflict reconstruction out in September 2011.

CONTEMPORARY SLAVERY SYMPOSIUM conceived and organized by Mary Anne Staniszewski, Associate Professor, Department of Arts at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, Troy, NY. Symposium coordinated and organized by Herb Tam, Associate Curator, Lauren Rosati, Assistant Curator. Additional advice and support from Mark Looney.


Tuesday, June 14, 2011 / 7-9pm
With Tonya Foster

The SEA Poetry Series emphasizes diverse ways in which poets address social and environmental issues in their work. Presented in connection with specific SEA exhibitions, the series aims to investigate and expand the exhibition theme through the lens of contemporary poetry. After each reading, an artist from the exhibition or a community member working within the exhibition theme briefly responds to the poet. Past poets in the series have included Jonathan Skinner, Marcella Durand, Laura Elrick, The Canary Project, James Sherry and Julie Ezelle Patton. Panelists TBA.

SEA Poetry Series conceived and organized by E.J. McAdams, poet and Associate Director of Philanthropy at The Nature Conservancy, New York City. $5. Cash bar. Q and A to follow.

Tonya Foster is the author of poetry, fiction, and essays that have been published in a variety of journals from Callaloo to The Hat to Western Humanities Review. She is the author of A Swarm of Bees in High Court (Belladonna Press) and co-editor of Third Mind: Creative Writing Through Visual Art. She is currently completing a cross-genre piece on New Orleans, and Monkey Talk, an inter-genre piece about race, paranoia, and surveillance. She is a Ph.D. candidate at the City University of New York Graduate Center. A recipient of a number of fellowships, notably from the Ford Foundation, the Woodrow Wilson National Fellowship Foundation, and City University of New York, Foster teaches at Bard College. A native of New Orleans, she writes and resides in Harlem.

SEA Poetry Series support provided by Poets and Writers Inc.


Thursday evenings starting June 16, 2011
Additional dates and times TBA

DIGIMOVIES is a new movie theater at Exit Art exclusively devoted to presenting digitally-produced independent cinema. Outfitted for state-of-the-art presentation, the 70-seat DIGIMOVIES theater provides an intimate and lively setting for screenings and discussions.

DIGIMOVIES is conceived by Papo Colo. DIGIMOVIES screenings organized by Matthew Freundlich, Project Manager.

Film Screenings: DIGIMOVIES presents a selection of documentary and narrative films that examine various forms of modern-day slavery, including human trafficking, forced prostitution, child labor, debt bondage, and person-to-person ownership. Select screenings will include discussions with filmmakers, journalists and scholars. Films and screening dates TBA.

DigiMovies support provided by the Rockefeller Cultural Initiative Fund.


Exit Art is an independent vision of contemporary culture. We are prepared to react immediately to important issues that affect our lives. We do experimental, historical and unique presentations of aesthetic, social, political and environmental issues. We absorb cultural differences that become prototype exhibitions. We are a center for multiple disciplines. Exit Art is a 29-year-old cultural center in New York City founded by Directors Jeanette Ingberman and artist Papo Colo, that has grown from a pioneering alternative art space, into a model artistic center for the 21st century committed to supporting artists whose quality of work reflects the transformations of our culture. Exit Art is internationally recognized for its unmatched spirit of inventiveness and consistent ability to anticipate the newest trends in the culture. With a substantial reputation for curatorial innovation and depth of programming in diverse media, Exit Art is always changing.

ABOUT SEA (Social-Environmental Aesthetics)
SEA is a diverse multimedia exhibition program that addresses social and environmental concerns. It assembles artists, activists, scientists and scholars through presentations of visual art, performances, panels and lecture series that communicate international activities concerning environmental and social activism. It provides a vehicle through which the public can be made aware of socially- and environmentallyengaged work, and a forum for collaboration among artists, scientists, activists, scholars and the public. SEA functions as an initiative where individuals can join together in dialogue about issues that affect our daily lives. Conceived by Exit Art Co-Founder / Artistic Director Papo Colo.


This exhibition and symposium was supported by a major grant from the New York Council for the Humanities. Additional support provided by the Puffin Foundation. General exhibition support provided by the Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts; Bloomberg LP; Jerome Foundation; Lambent Foundation; PollockKrasner Foundation; New York City Department of Cultural Affairs and City Council Speaker Christine C. Quinn; and public funds from the New York State Council on the Arts.

EXIT ART 475 Tenth Ave at 36th St NYC / 212-966-7745 / www.exitart.org
Open Tu–Th, 10am–6pm; Fr, 10am–8pm; Sa, 12–6pm. $5 suggested donation