[01/30/13 - 06:58 AM]
mtvU Harnesses the Power of Digital Storytelling to Fight Human Trafficking in "The Backstory"
"'The Backstory' spotlights the emotional stories of human trafficking victims in an incredibly powerful way," said Stephen Friedman.

[via press release from MTV]


Network's "mtvU Against Our Will Campaign" Partners with Students, Kenna, Ailey II, and Talib Kweli to Take Users Inside the Powerful Stories of Trafficking Survivors and Offers Simple Ways to Take Action

University of Wisconsin Whitewater Wins the Second "Slavery Footprint Campus Challenge"

New York, NY - January 30, 2013 - mtvU, MTV's 24-hour college network, today unveiled a student-conceived interactive video experience to combat human trafficking as part of its "mtvU Against Our Will Campaign," which taps into the growing student movement to end modern-day slavery in the U.S. Launched as part of National Slavery and Human Trafficking Awareness Month, "The Backstory" sheds light on the realities of human trafficking in an intensely personal and affecting way, weaving in simple - yet impactful - ways college students can take action now to help stop this human rights atrocity.

"'The Backstory' spotlights the emotional stories of human trafficking victims in an incredibly powerful way, revealing how young people can be coerced into sex and labor trafficking," said Stephen Friedman, President of MTV. "We're proud to partner with these incredibly bright students to shatter misconceptions about trafficking victims, and to illuminate ways we can all help end modern day slavery."

"The Backstory" draws users in as they become a central character in the storyline. The experience begins as the user selects from a number of provocative ads, and then learns the painful stories behind those seemingly innocuous posts. Soon, they find out how someone they know could become a victim of modern-day slavery. As the experience progresses, the backstory of the victims is illustrated through a powerful series of videos featuring dancers from Ailey II and choreography by Ailey II artistic director Troy Powell, music scored by Kenna and narration read by rapper Talib Kweli, all of which was inspired by a compilation of real-life survivor stories. The experience is further intensified when the user connects to their Facebook account and sees a more personalized storyline unfold. Additionally, "The Backstory" connects users with simple steps to take action against modern-day slavery, from rallying for laws that support the rights of trafficking survivors to discovering how their actions could inadvertently be supporting modern-day slavery. To get started, visit http://TheBackstory.MTV.com.

"This project is such a brilliant way to tell a very tragic story," said Kenna. "In my work with water and women empowerment, you are constantly reminded of the security issues for young people, the risk of being captured and enslaved. I was honored to be asked to contribute and hope to make a difference in any way I can."

"Students are always the vanguard of a movement, so when they move on something as important as human trafficking - I stand with them. This is a creative way to bring a travesty to the forefront, and to make a difference," said Talib Kweli.

"Ailey II is honored to provide the visual embodiment of these powerful backstories of human, labor and sex trafficking. This is the first time we have participated in an effort such as this one, and it is rewarding to be able to bring awareness to such a worthy cause," Troy Powell, Ailey II artistic director and choreographer of the "The Backstory" said. "We hope to move viewers to take action and share what they have learned with their friends and networks."

"The Backstory" was inspired by four James Madison University students' winning entry for the "Against Our Will Challenge," which called on college students from around the country to submit ideas for an innovative digital tool to raise awareness of modern-day slavery. In cooperation with LexisNexis(R) Legal & Professional, the students - Kristen Hotz, Jasmine Jones, Danielle McLean, and Liz Ramirez - were awarded $10,000, along with news that MTV would develop their concept.

Also part of the "mtvU Against Our Will Campaign," mtvU announced the University of Wisconsin Whitewater as the winners of the second "Slavery Footprint Campus Challenge." The challenge called on students to help stop slavery by using Slavery Footprint's Free World mobile app to take actions such as checking-in at retail and restaurant locations to alert brands and business owners that they want slave-free products. Between the two "Slavery Footprint Campus Challenges," more than 200 schools were represented and nearly 30,000 actions were taken. As a reward for the school with the most points, several student participants from the University of Wisconsin Whitewater will be featured on mtvU and mtvU.com.

mtvU's new initiatives are part of the "mtvU Against Our Will Campaign," which, in partnership with Free the Slaves, Girls Educational and Mentoring Services (GEMS) and Polaris Project, taps into the growing student movement to end modern-day slavery. The campaign makes it easy for young people to take action to help stop one of the greatest human rights atrocities of our time and galvanize the college audience's efforts, as there are currently more than 300 student organizations on campuses around the country taking action to stop human trafficking.

According to The National Human Trafficking Resource Center (NHTRC) hotline, incidences of human trafficking were reported in all 50 states in 2012. As defined under U.S. federal law, victims of human trafficking include children induced into the sex trade, adults age 18 or over who are coerced or forced into commercial sex acts, and anyone forced or deceived into different forms of "labor or services," such as domestic workers held in a home, or farm-workers forced to labor against their will. Every year, human traffickers generate billions of dollars in profits, and the International Labor Organization estimates that there are 20.9 million victims worldwide, including hundreds of thousands here in the United States. Human trafficking is considered to be one of the fastest growing criminal industries in the world (source: U.S. Department of Health and Human Services).

For more information on the "mtvU Against our Will Campaign" campaign, visit mtvU.AgainstOurWill.org or mtvU.com. To report a tip or connect with anti-trafficking services in your area, call The National Human Trafficking Resource Center hotline at: 1-888-373-7888.

About mtvU

Broadcast to more than 750 college campuses and via top cable distributors in 700 college communities nationwide, mtvU reaches nearly 9 million U.S. college students - making it the largest, most comprehensive television network just for college students. Twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week, mtvU can be seen in the dining areas, fitness centers, student lounges and dorm rooms of campuses throughout the U.S., as well as on cable systems from Charter Communications, Verizon FiOS TV, Suddenlink Communications, AT&T u-Verse and nearly 70 others. mtvU is dedicated to every aspect of college life, reaching students everywhere they are: on-air, online and on the campus. mtvU programs music videos from emerging artists that can't be seen anywhere else, news, student life features and initiatives that give college students the tools to advance positive social change. mtvU is always on campus, with hundreds of events per year, including exclusive concerts, giveaways, shooting mtvU series and more. For more information about mtvU, and a complete programming schedule, visit www.mtvU.com.

About LexisNexis Legal & Professional

LexisNexis(R) Legal & Professional (www.lexisnexis.com) is a leading global provider of content and technology solutions that enable professionals in legal, corporate, tax, government, academic and non-profit organizations to make informed decisions and achieve better business outcomes. As a digital pioneer, the company was the first to bring legal and business information online with its Lexis(R) and Nexis(R) services. Today, LexisNexis Legal & Professional harnesses leading-edge technology and world-class content to help professionals work in faster, easier and more effective ways. Through close collaboration with its customers, the company ensures organizations can leverage its solutions to reduce risk, improve productivity, increase profitability and grow their business. Part of Reed Elsevier, LexisNexis Legal & Professional serves customers in more than 100 countries with 10,000 employees worldwide.

About Free the Slaves

Free the Slaves is one of America's leading anti-slavery organizations. We liberate slaves in trafficking hotspots around the globe, help survivors rebuild their lives, and transform the economic and political systems that allow modern slavery to exist. Our research is widely quoted by universities, governments and journalists. Our documentary films and videos about slavery, and news coverage of our innovative efforts to end it, have reached hundreds of millions of people. We are showing the world that ending slavery is possible. Free the Slaves has student chapters at 30 college campuses across the U.S. (www.freetheslaves.net | www.ftsblog.net | www.facebook.com/freetheslaves)

About Girls Educational and Mentoring Services (GEMS)

Girls Educational and Mentoring Services' (GEMS) mission is to empower girls and young women, ages 12-24, who have experienced commercial sexual exploitation and domestic trafficking to exit the commercial sex industry and develop to their full potential. GEMS is committed to ending commercial sexual exploitation and domestic trafficking of children by changing individual lives, transforming public perception, and revolutionizing the systems and policies that impact sexually exploited youth. For more information, please visit www.gems-girls.org/.

About Polaris Project

Polaris Project is a leading organization in the global fight against human trafficking and modern-day slavery. Named after the North Star "Polaris" that guided slaves to freedom along the Underground Railroad, Polaris Project is transforming the way that individuals and communities respond to human trafficking, in the U.S. and globally. By successfully pushing for stronger federal and state laws, operating the National Human Trafficking Resource Center hotline (1-888-373-7888), conducting trainings, and providing vital services to victims of trafficking, Polaris Project creates long-term solutions that move us closer to a world without slavery. For more information, visit www.PolarisProject.org.

About Slavery Footprint

Slavery Footprint is the latest project of the California-based non-profit organization that brought to the public the acclaimed documentary "Call + Response" and its subsequent efforts to deepen public awareness of human trafficking and modern day slavery. This new project allows the consumer to visualize how their consumption habits are connected to modern-day slavery and provides them with an opportunity to have a deeper conversation with the companies that manufacture the goods they purchased. Based in Oakland, California, Slavery Footprint works to engage individuals, groups, and businesses to build awareness for and create deployable action against forced labor, human trafficking, and modern day slavery. In addition to creating and developing online tools, the organization is also engaged in off-line community education and mobilization programs.

About Ailey II

Ailey II, the second company of Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater, is universally renowned for merging the spirit and energy of the country's best young dance talent with the passion and creative vision of today's most outstanding emerging choreographers. Founded in 1974, the company embodies Mr. Ailey's pioneering mission to establish an extended cultural community that provides dance performances, training, and community programs for all people. Under the direction of Sylvia Waters, Ailey II flourished into one of the most popular dance companies in the county. With new Artistic Director Troy Powell at the helm, Ailey II will continue to thrive as he brings a fresh dimension to this beloved company .For more information on Ailey II's world tour, visit www.alvinailey.org/ii.

  [january 2013]  

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