In 2016 there is still slavery in the United States
It is not the neo slavery, well known in the sex industry, but plantation slavery as in the old days, the only difference is that, this time the enslaver does not need to skim off the coast of Africa for the filthy task, because the misery of Black American people and their addiction to hard drugs has given them the opportunity to have a captive labor force on site.
The following story is not a fiction but a reality. The names of the major players have simply been changed for identity protection needs, to protect from reprisals against those who dare speak of slavery that continues to plague the most democratic nation in the world. Those who dare speak must be protected from the wrath of the perpetrators, and from those who want to sell a puritanical image of America to the world.
A morning of May 2011, James, well set in his forties, had just woken up from the sidewalk where he had spent the night, buried in a gray blanket that has seen several springs.
A short distance from the basketball arena of the fetish team of the town, Miami Heat, there's a sea of people living below the poverty line, eating only with the help of some souls of good will, who occasionally stop by to give them food. Breaking the Florida law that now prohibits giving food to the poor in open air. As they say when a law is bad, when one is good, it must be broken, and when a law is good when one is wicked it also must be broken. Anyway, souls of good will, have no choice, only in the United States that some have the audacity to penalize poverty.
However, violence and inhumanity of outright capitalism has been brought to the utmost since 2008, with the stock market crisis, that helped to throw millions of Americans in the street, and the most affected community is of course the black community. In the US, they like to say in the popular imagination that, when America is sick the black community is comatose.
Misery is the mother of all vices, many shady farmers found that there was a profitable way to do business by exploiting the idle mass, like their ancestors did before “brilliantly” for centuries, why not them today?
This was the second time the mini bus was touring, handing out bunches of biscuits, whose expiry date was long overdue, when one is hungry he did not read. The miserable pack of homeless was being baited, the wretched of the earth had enough energy to run towards any vehicle that slowed and pulled up in the area, hoping to be first on the distribution line of the pittance, because sometimes arriving late, you could end up getting nothing.
The driver of the minivan parked, Big John a burly mixed man came out of the car and began to distribute cookies that he took out of the trunk of the vehicle, while dispensing them, he harnessed to convince homeless men young enough and looking fit physically, to come with him, promising them jobs and free housing. The most reluctant to embark were those who knew themselves addicted to crack, cocaine, heroin and cannabis. They were aware that the street life easily helped them to obtain these drugs. Big John, knew it. He was then whispering "You can get high over there no problems, if you work."
In addition to drugs he told them also about the presence of women to satisfy their sexual instincts.
The poor, who generally are rejected by the society, are struggling to have any contact with the opposite sex for years. The latter proposal had the effect of a bomb in the subconscious of James, who decided to embark on this adventure. 5 other fellow sufferers, embarked with him, the mini bus of 7 places was booked full.
Big John had done good business, his boss Mister Hicks, would be happy he could touch a tip if these fellows that he was driving to bondage, proved to be docile and productive. In any case, one way or another they would be. The methods they employed in the camp had broken even the most tenacious.
During the journey of 1 hour 30 minutes, that led them to Immokalee in the depths of rural Florida, Big John went to the first phase of the plan by proposing joints of cannabis sanitized with crack to new recruits. Playing the sympathetic guy, he offered them the cocktail, saying it was Ok, they could have it and smoke in the vehicle, they didn’t have to pay for it, but once they started working they could pay him back, the job was well paid, a $ 10 hit would not be difficult to repay on their first day of work.
The trip went without incident. James and his accomplices feel asleep after consuming the narcotic dose. Juan, the van driver looked at Big John, and gave him a wink, that James saw in his drugged state of mind. A questionable behavior, which, if he was not already sozzled would have put a flea in his ear. James a former marines hardened by the galley of the street, that had made him street smart, was not easy to roll in flour, he knew how to sense danger and trickery, but his mind was too heavy, and he dismissed that thought, in addition the vehicle was speeding, he could have done nothing. Ask to get off maybe, but in the middle of the no man’s land of the Everglades, he would have had enormous difficulties to return to Miami.
He sank into his seat and fell asleep for good. The soft seat of the minivan was a luxury that he could not afford every day, after a night of sleepiness watching for any suspicious noise around him he could sleep for real at least. Suddenly the vehicle stopped, he was awakened from a narcotic dream, where he saw an enormous blunt approaching, and every time he wanted to put his lips on it to draw out the graceful smoke, the blunt seemed to be moving away. In fact after his sudden awakening he figured out the matter. it was his head waddling on the belt during in his sleep.
They arrived at the plantation. He was surprised to see that it was surrounded by a high fence of barbed wires. It reminded him of jails, where more than once he had been incarcerated. He seemed to relive one of his stays in squalid prisons of Florida known for their ruggedness. There was even a lookout with armed guard. He rubbed his eyes, and he said to himself he had no doubt took a big "high" while smoking earlier. But Big John reassured him by explaining to him "it’s a civil guard not the police, we must protect our lives one never knows. " The vehicle entered the plantation and parked in front of a gray building with an inexpressive architecture, James and his companions came down. Big John asked them to wait a moment on a bench outside, while he went to see the boss. Mister Hicks, asked Big John if he had done a good job. Big John and Juan nodded in unison, he told them - I hope that you checked first that they are addicted to narcotics?
Big John smiled and told him - they are gone to owe us a lot of money, it's been 60 dollars so far.
- "Good," Mr. Hicks said: - “make sure that none of them never leaves the plantation as long as they can be used for something. " that said by a wave of his hand he dismissed them.”
Outside the new recruits were led to a room where they exchanged their rags for navy blue uniforms. A breakfast was served and billed at ten dollars apiece. Before their first shot of picks in the tomatoes farm, each of them was already 20 dollars deep in the scam.
The working day was long, and in the evening, each received a $ 40 pay, minus the $ 20 loaned in the morning, they pocketed 20 dollars, meals of 10 dollars a plate were available, alcohol and cannabis were available, as well as, girls for $ 60 a pass.
Big John made them understand that all those who wanted to have fun could go ahead buy whatever they wanted with the money that they had, and of course if they were short they could borrow for consumption as they wished ...
So began a vicious cycle of debt to James and his companions.
That same night in the warehouse, James recognized Ron, an old brother in arms, he meets in the first Iraq war in 1990, he thought he was dead or missing, his family has been looking for him for over 5 years, and had simply lost all hope seeing him again. He approached for news. The latter recognized him, but suddenly became very shy to speak. Was it shame or fear? James did not know. A few days later he understood why.
A worker tired of living under these conditions, had tried to escape. He had been tracked like an animal, with dogs and horses and had finally been found. He was brought back to the camp, and was publicly whipped and taken to the dungeon.
James quickly realized that he was living what his ancestors had lived through the centuries in the Americas, he could not believe his eyes. It was the United States, a country for which he had fought to impose ideals of freedom and democracy in the remotest corners of the world. And there before his eyes. It was happening. Scenes of slavery.
He had not gone crazy. He patted himself to make sure he was not dreaming, or magically made a leap in the past, but the scene was real.
Some resigned slaves, used to this regime had ended up loving it, but James decided to do something, he could not continue. He had to leave the enclosure of shame.
The next day he managed to work closer to his old comrade in arms, he wanted to have the heart net, get it right once for good. So, he asked him whispering "have you ever at least tried to leave, fly, run away?”
Ron replied, with a resigned tone. “to go where? even my family left me down once I found myself in the street, everyone abandoned me, at least here I have been trying to find some socialization everything is not that bad, if you play the game, everything will be fine.”
He added “I know you just got here, but after a while you will like it may be… you see that fellow over there, he is being here for 10 years, when I came here he was already here for 5 years and he’s cool he does not complain"
James found out that, from that side, it was a dead end, but he could use his old camaraderie to have vital information, about the location of the plantation. In 5 years of life in this plantation, he had to know things. He decided to ask him more later and managed to start saving his $ 40 daily, to prepare his flight.
However, he still had to pay his own meal at a non-negotiable price of $ 10 each and at the end he was left with a few dollars to get high. For the first time in a very long time he realized that to get away he had to wean himself from narcotics. The next few days to encourage his former brother-in-arms to spin him more information he occasionally gave him a couple of dollars, two weeks later he had a general idea of where Immokalee was. Located between the Everglades and Fort Myers the best solution for him was to flee north, through Fort Myers, as walking south was impossible there was Everglades a swampy expanse of rainforest and mangrove, one of the deadliest natural reserve in the world, infested with poisonous snake, mosquitoes, flies, boas, alligators and others ...
Taking the road was almost forbidden, he would get caught easily, especially since Mister Hicks had long arms. He had a very good relationship with the county police and more than once the police had brought back the fugitives, both, men sentenced to a life of hard labor and the whores who were there to ensure le sexual satisfaction of captive customers while spending their meager dollars in drug use, meals and racket of the pimps.
The uniform for the workers was required everywhere, there had to be spare clothes, and once again Ron had been a great help to him, he could go everywhere and those who held the camp trusted him because he had no intention of going anywhere else.
The same night he received clothes, James decided to escape, through the words of Ron, he had built his escape route. He understood that he could not jump the wall, but had to dig under the fence of barbed wire, he had managed to conceal a pickax at the end of the work day, the day before. Far into the fields, that stretched out of sight, and close to the fence. he would have to walk no less than 25 minutes just to reach the place where he had the tool hidden, before making a hole under the fence without touching it because it was electrified. He had to dig for about 15 good minutes. he had to do everything in less than an hour because the guards were doing their round every hour in those specific points.
At midnight, he left his bed leaving his uniform under his bed cloth and took the door. He crossed the dormitory on tiptoe, and 5 minutes later he was in the field walking and running with intermittent pace he arrived at the place where he had hidden the pick. Anyway, that's what he believed. To his surprise the pick was not there. Was he mistaken? Had anyone found out? Had he hidden it at the other end of the field or farther ahead? Time was rife, in about 20 minutes the guards would make their watch round, although the latter could come earlier than expected, for if he had already been mistaken on the location of the pick, he could also have erred on the time. He gasped, his heart pounding, he thought of turning back. He stood there, haggard sounded.
While he was desperately getting frozen, a cloud cleared the moon and he saw the reflection of a metallic object about a hundred yards away from him, was it the longed pickax? He ran towards the spot, rummaged in the ground. There it was. A tip of the pickaxe was brought to light earlier probably by dogs or wild animals delving often in the camp. he had stopped a little too early, he approached the fence and began to dig with meticulousness, pulling the earth with his hands, looking at his watch. A gift from Ron, who somewhere had decided to leave him a small memory of him.
Twelve minutes later he made a fairly deep hole under the fence, he flattened himself to the ground and began to crawl under the fence. This reminded him of military exercises of his years of training. Coincidentally at Fort Myers, a town on his Escape road map, a few miles away.
As he came out of the hole he had dug, on the other side of the fence, a mound of earth fell on the electrified barrier, there were a few flashes. If the guards had heard they would be there, in a few minutes in their all-terrain vehicle. He hoped not. The plantation was too huge, but nevertheless he decided to launch a sprint in the dusky night. free at last.
However, he still had to walk 35 miles, or about 56 kilometers. At least twelve hours of walk were necessary to join Fort Myers. If the moon had helped earlier to find the pickax, it didn’t have to help those chasing him or curious people he may found on his way. To be seen at that time of the night could be deadly, in a Florida armed to the teeth, in the redneck country if someone was to meet you as black in the dark, he had every reason to shoot you first and ask questions later.
He ran parallel to the road, taking care to stay in the forest while keeping an eye on the road, for it was not necessary to get lost or get caught. he walked all night and dawn. At noon he continued to walk without looking back, the flat surface of the littoral had enabled him to advance without too much trouble.
2 hours later he decided to get closer to Highway 82 East, Fort Myers was only a 30-minute walk away. He was saved.
When he arrived in Fort Myers he tried to tell his story at the military base, no one believed him and he was sent instead to the police, the police as well disbelieved him, for them he was a drug addict, a delusional who wanted a spotlight. They dismissed him telling him they were going to call the local police a call they never placed for sure. Disgusted he decided to go back to Miami to continue his little life of homelessness after getting a free bus ticket from a Fort Myers charity organization.
The misadventure of James, is not a fiction. Nearly one million people disappear every year in the United States, black Americans who make up only 13 per cent of the population alone account for 35 per cent of the disappeared, many are never found, some who end up in these fields as slaves never return. Many who try to escape are simply erased, while the living conditions in these camps as well, can repeal their existence on earth, and entitle them to a hole as final resting place somewhere in the vast American territory.
The fields of slavery, are not the privilege of Florida alone, cases were recorded throughout the American territory, from Georgia to Washington state, and justice drags to crack down this secular phenomenon, even if very few cases are reported.
With drones and satellite technology US authorities have the means to know what is going on behind these fields of death.
However, in the annals of American justice there is a good number of cases of slavery aggravated in the 21st century.
In the case US Vs Navarette in December 2008, employers Cesar and Geovanni Navarrete were sentenced to 12 years each in federal prison on charges of conspiracy, holding workers in involuntary servitude, and peonage. They had employed dozens of tomato pickers in Florida and South Carolina. As stated in the DOJ press release on their sentencing, “[the employers] pleaded guilty to beating, threatening, restraining, and locking workers in trucks to force them to work as agricultural laborers… [They] were accused of paying the workers minimal wages and driving the workers into debt, while simultaneously threatening physical harm if the workers left their employment before their debts had been repaid to the Navarrete family.”
In July 2010, Cabioch Bontemps, Carline Ceneus, and Willy Edouard were indicted by a federal grand jury on charges of conspiracy to commit forced labor. Dept. of justice officials accused the three of holding over 50 guest workers from Haiti against their will in the bean fields of Alachua County, Florida. The indictment states that Bontemps raped one of the workers and threatened her if she were to report it. The employers held the workers’ passports and visas, and forced them to work in fields recently sprayed with harsh pesticides, causing permanent scarring.
The Immokalee coalition workers with local law enforcement and churches rescued, and assisted the workers and referred the case to the DOJ. The DOJ dropped the charges in January 2012
In September 2010, staff of guest worker recruiting giant Global Horizons were charged with operating a forced labor ring active in 13 states, including Florida. Global Horizons CEO Mordechai Orian and six others were accused of holding six hundred guest workers from Thailand against their will in what prosecutors called “the largest human trafficking case in US history.” FBI Special Agent Tom Simon described the case as “a classic bait-and-switch… They were telling the Thai workers one thing to lure them here. Then when they got here, their passports were taken away and they were held in forced servitude working in these farms.” Of the eight people originally indicted, three pled guilty; a Global Horizons manager pled guilty to conspiracy to violate the forced labor statute, and two field supervisors pled guilty to document servitude. A fourth defendant pled guilty in Thailand to recruitment fraud. In July 2012, the DOJ dropped the charges against CEO Orian and another Global Horizons executive.
Many of these cases show a complacency of US authorities to sanction US citizen guilty of slavery against citizens of foreign countries such as Haiti or Thailand for fear may be to create a precedent which could blow out in their face, in view of the troubled history of America in the business of shame. Slavery remains a taboo subject in the United States a taboo that camouflages well, the current situation where here and there, there are still mainly in the South, cases of true slavery, and worse, complacency is not just the fact of American authorities but also and especially the fact of large supermarkets who buy from these farms, although they know pertinently the conditions in which these commodities are produced. Ironically even a black president and a black attorney general were not able to curb once for good this secular phenomenon.
In any case one thing is certain, as long as there's capitalism there will be slavery, the prison industrial complex use the labor of prisoner’s workers it pays barely a dollar a day's work, while agricultural product resulting of this free labor are sold in large surface at whooping prices. When the same oligarchic entities advertise gangsterism by artists they promote, they know that behind, the candidates in debauchery who end up in jail, will make them even richer.
By Hubert Marlin Jr. Elingui