Finding Meaning

By Skip Hellewell

Still Slaves

A harsh reality of our shrinking world is how technology brings mankind’s darkest deeds into high definition focus. Distant wrongs confront people of good will.  It is an ancient story, that humans commit inhuman acts. The strong exploit the weak; the evil prey on the innocent. Yet, we are at our most human when people of good will refuse to look away. By staring evil head on, unblinking, we become part of the solution. Which brings us to a story.

Longtime Laguna resident Ann Nielsen was traveling in West Africa. She is, I think, a fearless explorer. Nielsen previously completed a PhD, working on the subject of women as a force to end hunger and poverty. Slavery has a long history in West Africa, stretching back to the 15th century. From the millions of slaves transported from here, it became known as the Slave Coast. Though modern nations finally rejected slavery, the culture remains with children nearly half the victims. Nielsen, confronted in her travels by modern slavery, determined to make a difference. She wrote and directed a documentary titled “Still Slaves: The West African Slave Trade Then and Now.” Laguna Beach High grad Anna Newell, now a writer and actress, narrated the film and conducted the interviews through West Africa. The documentary premiered at the La Femme Film Festival in Los Angeles on Oct. 12, 2018.

“Still Slaves” examines slavery in its modern forms, including ‘human trafficking,’ focusing on the countries of Nigeria, Ghana, Ivory Coast, Liberia, Serra Leone, Senegal, and Mauritania. Do you like chocolate? Then you’re part of the slavery business. Chocolate is made from cocoa; Ghana and the Ivory Coast are major producers; it is difficult, dangerous work to grow and harvest cocoa and it’s largely done by coerced child labor. The supply chain for chocolate is complex, beginning with family farms, and ending with major manufacturers like Mars, Nestle, and Hershey. No one loves the issue of child labor, yet no one, especially the governments, hates it enough to fix it. You could make a difference.

Want to do something? See Nielsen’s documentary, “Still Slaves.” Since its premiere, she has been showing it to groups, often in churches. (She can be contacted at [email protected]) For inspiration, you can read books like, “Refuse to Do Nothing,” written by Shayne Moore and Kimberly McOwen Yim, activist moms with San Clemente origins.  Want to support those making a difference? Nielsen suggests groups like WELL Africa, founded by Sery Kone, an escaped cocoa slave who made it to a U.S. college and now works to free children through education.

One of the most encouraging stories of modern history is the steady pushing back against slavery, though much remains to be done. Did you notice that so many working against slavery are women? But as Frederick Douglass once noted, “the cause of the slave has been peculiarly [a] woman’s cause.” To help, contact Ann Nielsen, or at the least, write the CEO of your favorite chocolate supplier and express your discomfort at the slow progress being made on child abuse in the cocoa industry. Make a difference—there’s meaning in that.

Skip fell in love with Laguna on a ‘50s surfing trip. He’s a student of Laguna history and the author of “Loving Laguna: A Local’s Guide to Laguna Beach.” Email: [email protected]


Places to worship (all on Sunday, unless noted):

Baha’i’s of Laguna Beach—contact [email protected] for events and meetings.

Calvary Chapel Seaside, 21540 Wesley Drive (Lang Park Community Center), 10:30 a.m.

Chabad Jewish Center, 30804 S. Coast Hwy, Fri. 6 p.m., Sat. 10:30 a.m., Sun. 8 a.m.

Church by the Sea, 468 Legion St., 9 & 10:45 a.m.

Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, 682 Park Ave., 10 a.m.

First Church of Christ, Scientist, 635 High Dr., 10 a.m.

ISKCON (Hare Krishna), 285 Legion St., 5 p.m., with 6:45 feast.

Jehovah’s Witnesses, 20912 Laguna Canyon Rd., 1:00 p.m.

Laguna Beach Net-Works, 286 St. Ann’s Dr., 10 a.m.

Laguna Presbyterian, 415 Forest Ave., 8:30 & 10 a.m.

Neighborhood Congregational Church (UCC), 340 St. Ann’s Drive, 10 a.m.

United Methodist Church, 21632 Wesley, 10 a.m.

St. Catherine of Siena (Catholic), 1042 Temple Terrace, 7:30, 9, 11, 1:30 p.m. (Spanish), 5:30 p.m.  There are 8 a.m. masses on other days and Saturday 5:30 p.m. vigils.

St. Francis by the Sea (American Catholic), 430 Park, 9:30 a.m.

St. Mary’s Episcopal Church, 428 Park Ave., 8:00 & 10:30 a.m.

Unitarian Universalist, 429 Cypress St., 10:30 a.m.



View Our User Comment Policy


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here