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How to build a world free of slaves


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Justin Dillon and Tenzin Seldon during PHR speakers series
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On March 6, Justin Dillon, musician, film director and consultant to the State Department Office to combat human trafficking, spoke about open source activism and the work of to build a world free of slaves. Mr. Dillon presented at the eighth installment of the Program on Human Rights Sanela Diana Jenkins International Speakers Series at Stanford’s Bechtel Center.

Mr. Dillon recounted how he was deeply moved and decided to take action against trafficking after he and his band, Tremolo, toured Russia in the 90s and came across scores of young women lured abroad with the promise of a better life and bogus job offers. “As a musician, in the middle of chaos, I want to bring order,” he explained. “When I returned, I wanted people to feel what I feel,” Mr. Dillon added. He explained that the roots of his music, soul and jazz, are also products of slavery and the cry for recognition and help. He understood that it was natural to use music against modern day slavery.

Mr. Dillon explained that his first efforts were to help raise awareness of the problem and help organizations in the US that were addressing the issue of human trafficking. He hosted benefit concerts and came with the idea of a documentary that combined both critically acclaimed artists and social luminaries. “Although I am not a celebrity, I was impressed by the people that agreed to talk to me,” Mr. Dillon said. He also advised students “don’t ask for permission to change the world.” The result of this work, the film Call+ Response, was sold out in the theaters and widely acclaimed.

Explaining that open source activism is a thought and a value, Mr. Dillon suggested that organizations working against trafficking need to think more innovatively. They can learn from the environmental platform and adapt it to fight slavery. He reminded the audience that businesses spend a lot of money trying to work out what consumers want and that we live in a historically important time when consumers can tell companies what they want: a world free of slaves.