Photo By Malik Rainey

On Saturday, Mayor Byron W. Brown, elected officials, and author Cyntoia Brown Long will gathered in front of Buffalo City Hall to welcome back Project Mona's House founder, Kelly Galloway, and 13 others who participated in a 902-mile walk to bring awareness to human trafficking. The journey, called The FreeTHEM Walk, began on May 3 in Lynchburg, V.A. following an anti-human trafficking rally in front of Buffalo City Hall days before. Since human trafficking is called modern-day slavery, The FreeTHEM Walk traveled the Underground Railroad with visits to historic sites in nine cities to pay homage to abolitionists who fought to end slavery generations ago. Galloway and The FreeTHEM Walkers arrived back to Buffalo and gathered right at City Hall the morning of Juneteenth  along with Community members for the welcome back celebration and parade.

Photo By Malik Rainey

Mayor Brown said, “I proudly stand with the FreeThem walkers as they conclude their historic walk from City Hall to the African American Heritage Corridor. Our City has a rich history in freeing slaves through the Underground Railroad. Kelly Galloway and the FreeThem Walkers are continuing this legacy through their bold efforts.”

Upon arriving, the group was also greeted by author and speaker Cyntoia Brown-Long. Long who is a former trafficking victim who was sentenced to 51 years in prison for killing a man who bought her for sex when she was 16 years old. Her story gained national and international attention resulting in garnered support from celebrities, faith leaders, and social influencers advocating her release. After serving 15 years in prison, Long was granted clemency. Today she a traveling speaker who advocates for criminal justice reform, and the author of her memoir "Free Cyntoia: My Search for Redemption in the American Prison System ".

Photo By Malik Rainey

"My life-long commitment to rescuing victims of human trafficking was personal, and for years, I didn't know why," said Galloway. "My uncle sat with me at our family's dining room table, and he told me what he knew about our family history. He said that people sold our relatives for labor, sex, and entertainment. They worked in fields in Virginia, and some helped build The White House. My commitment to rescuing victims of human trafficking is personal because my ancestors were also victims. Today over 40 million people are still victims. We all have to care to help stop this crime. I am very excited to return to Buffalo after walking 901-miles on the Underground Railroad to bring awareness to human trafficking. 14 FreeTHEM Walkers took this journey with me. Each of us is changed forever. "

Galloway and The FreeTHEM Walkers' returned on Juneteenth emphasizes their commitment to fighting to free modern-day slaves. Following their arrival at city hall, the group walked the 902nd  mile of The FreeTHEM Walk to The Michigan Street African American Heritage Corridor for a Juneteenth celebration. The corridor was the last stop on the Underground Railroad in Buffalo. Mayor Brown, Long, and elected officials all joined community members, organizations, musicians, and cultural dancers in the last mile march.

Photo By Malik Rainey

"The insidious crime of human trafficking is a form of modern day slavery," said Lieutenant Goveror Kathy Hochul. "I want to commend Project Mona's House founder Kelly Galloway and the 13 other FreeTHEM participants for not only walking 902 miles - along the Underground Railroad - to raise awareness around human trafficking, but also challenge us all to step up in preventing at-risk individuals from becoming victims."

Photo By Malik Rainey

Project Mona's House and its sister location, The FreeThem Center are committed to rescuing victims of human trafficking and preventing at-risk women and girls from becoming victims. According to the International Labour Organization, human trafficking globally generates $150 billion annually. A 2019 report by the State Department identifies the U.S. as one of the world's worst places for human trafficking. Victims are modern-day slaves used for sex, labor, medical experiments, and organs. Human trafficking is happening across the country; however, many people are uninformed about what it is and where to get help. The FreeTHEM Walk is the first public act by The FreeThem Center, which opened earlier this year on March 4.

Over the past few months, Project Mona's House and The FreeThem Center, have solicited donations for The FreeTHEM Walk as they aim to raise $1 million to build the nation's largest human trafficking restoration home in Western New York. Recently, The FreeTHEM Walkers challenged themselves to help rally donor support on social media through gofundme. In addition to supporting their cause, donors have sent funding for food, lodging, safety, and incidentals for The FreeTHEM Walkers throughout their journey.

If you or someone you know is a victim of human trafficking and looking for assistance, contact Project Mona's House at 716-795-MONA. For more information or to donate to The FreeTHEM Walk, visit the web at www.thefreethemwalk.com.

 

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