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From UC Santa Cruz student to modern-day abolitionist


Even at UC Santa Cruz, a campus known for its idealism, sociology major Jesse Abrams set an ambitious goal: build a community of student abolitionists to help bring men, women and children in India from slavery to freedom.

Abrams founded an organization called the Freedom Coalition, which is working with international non-profit Voices4Freedom to liberate villagers in India from generations of debt-based bondage.

He has since rallied dozens of his fellow Banana Slugs and members of the local community to the cause, including a medical practice, Santa Cruz Integrative Medicine, that has signed on to contribute the full cost of a three-year program to bring an entire village to freedom.

“Most people think slavery is a thing of the past,” said Abrams. In fact, the Global Slavery Index estimates that a staggering 45.8 million people around the world can be classified as slaves — meaning they are forced to work under threat of violence, without pay and unable to escape.

An estimated 18 million are enslaved in India, many conscripted to pay off acquired or inherited debts — a practice that is illegal but remains pervasive.

Abrams has long been aware of the problem of modern-day slavery thanks to his father, a literary agent who helped publish an influential book on the subject. But it wasn’t until his sophomore year at UC Santa Cruz that he discovered his power to do something about it.

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Image above and on home page of Link: Jesse Abrams visits villagers near Varanasi, India as part of his work with the Freedom Coalition, the organization he founded. Photo courtesy of Miranda Penn Turin, Voices4Freedom

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