Jada Pinkett Smith, actress and activist urged Congress on Tuesday to elevate the fight against human trafficking in the U.S. and abroad. Smith called for an extension of the Trafficking Victims Protection Act, which provides funding to combat trafficking and help trafficking victims. She testified during a Senate Foreign Relations Committee hearing that she plans to launch a campaign that will raise awareness and spur action against human trafficking and slavery.
“The old monster” of slavery “is still with us,” says Smith; almost 150 years after President Abraham Lincoln issued the Emancipation Proclamation that freed slaves in the U.S.
According to TheGrio.com, Smith claims the issue was brought to her attention by her 11-year-old daughter, Willow, who with her father and Pinkett Smith’s husband, Will Smith, wore blazers that read, “Free Slaves.”
The State Department estimates that at least 14,500 people are trafficked to the U.S. annually. The Trafficking Victims Protection Act that Pinkett Smith called for, created a task force chaired by Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton, which coordinates among federal agencies to implement policies against human trafficking.
Democratic Senator of Massachusetts, John Kerry, pledged to try to gather bipartisan congressional support to further fund the act.
“Fighting slavery doesn’t cost a lot of money,” added Smith. “The costs of allowing it to exist in our nation and abroad are much higher. It robs us of the things we value most, our freedom.” Listen to more of Pinkett Smith’s testimonial here: