The Chocolate Slave Trade

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Faces of the Trade

New Orleans is a port city, making it a primary point of entry for many products imported to the U.S., including chocolate. The Chocolate Slave Trade is a little known, under-reported phenomenon.

The greatest irony of this phenomenon is that the primary consumers of candy and chocolate are children, and, those being enslaved to pick the cocoa beans to make these products are children.

Some of the best press has come from Great Britain (the BBC) and from news agencies in Canada. A documentary created in Great Britain, “Slavery,” reports:

Ivory Coast is the world's biggest producer of cocoa beans with over a million cocoa farms and plantations…90 percent of Ivory Coast cocoa plantations use slave labour. Most are young men and boys from impoverished areas in Benin, Togo and Mali. They are enticed by traffickers who promise them paid work, housing and an education. Instead, they are sold to Ivory Coast cocoa plantation owners who beat them into submission and offer no pay for grueling, 18-hour days.

Others documenting the phenomenon have reported many of these children are abducted. Abduction has been made easy by the A.I.D.S. epidemic. Many of these abducted children have lost family members to the epidemic and now live in large groups without the same supervision that a nuclear family group would provide.

My goals as an artist are three-fold:

  1. Raise public awareness of this phenomenon
  2. Promote civic action (ie: letter writing campaigns to the U.N. and elected officials) around this phenomenon
  3. Document and report on this phenomenon (by creating P.S.A.s that can air on local T.V. and by eventually creating a documentary reporting on this phenomenon)

To begin addressing these goals, I will be partnering with the Ashé Cultural Arts Center to raise public awareness of this phenomenon and promote civic action.