Remember the Zambian boys choir? They were trafficked.

Did you know that the Zambian boys choir -- those energetic boys with the angelic voices that gave concerts in the mid-1990's -- weren't the happy children they were portrayed to be?  A June 2018 article titled, "Stolen Youth: Modern Day Slavery in Texas," recounted the story of Given Kachepa, a Zambian orphan brought to America as a member of a touring choir sponsored by Keith Grimes, head of a non-profit called Teaching the Teachers: Partners in Education (TTT).  It says,  "When Given Kachepa first arrived from Zambia as a young boy, he expected to sing in a choir and gain an education. Instead he was forced into servitude."  

The article wasn't clear about the status of the older group but the younger of two groups brought from Zambia was trafficked: lied to, forced to perform on an exhausting schedule and used to make money for TTT.  Records show that the combined income from the two choirs was over $500,000 per year.  The young men had been told they would be educated, funds would be raised for a school in their hometown of Kalingalinga, and their family would be given $20 per month -- none of which actually happened.

For Given, the story turns out to have a happy ending.  After Keith Grimes died from a brain tumor in 1999 and TTT was investigated by both the FBI and the Dept. of Labor, Given and other choir members were able to leave the TTT compound in January 2000 and get in touch with INS agent, Sal Orrantia.  Today Given Kachepa is a dentist in Dallas, Texas.  The article says, "His dream now is to open a permanent clinic in Kalingalinga, a community that has never had regular dental care. He hopes to employ a local Zambian dentist, whom he would help train, and make regular trips back himself as well. “That’s the way I can give back to the disadvantaged people of the world. God brought me this far not to let me fail at the end of it.”

One of the amazing things about this story is how it happened in plain sight of thousands of people that were the audiences and homestay hosts for the young choir members.  "To this day, (Agent) Orrantia marvels at how openly TTT managed to conscript the boys. “Even now, it’s hard to imagine that this was a group in plain view. Most labor traffickers keep it under wraps, but these folks were blatant,” he said. “People call it human trafficking now, but at the end of the day it’s slavery.”

Can trafficking happen here?  Yes.  And though much of the time it's hidden from view, it can and does happen right under our noses -- in plain sight.
SAH


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ON THE READING LIST

Not For Sale by David Batstone

An excellent look at human trafficking around the world. Award-winning journalist David Batstone, whom Bono calls “a heroic character,” profiles the new generation of abolitionists who are leading the movement against human trafficking. This groundbreaking global report is now updated with the latest findings, new stories, and statistics that highlight what is being done to end this appalling epidemic, and how you can join the movement.  (Information from Mirror Ministries website.)