Modern-Day Abolitionists Sheila Siegel, Virginia Williams, Robert Birk, James Hannaham, Margaret Graff, Derek Mount, & Debra Orenstein Contributions are Being Showcased

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Free the Slaves is launching a new film series with award-winning filmmakers this week to spotlight personal stories of people who support their work. This is unlike anything they have done before.

I free slaves because I believe we are all created equal

Original Film Series spotlights seven Americans
who have become modern-day abolitionists

Free the Slaves is launching a new film series this week, “Why I Free Slaves,” to spotlight deeply personal stories of seven people who support its crucial work.

The series is unlike anything Free the Slaves has ever done. The group is well known for sending award-winning filmmakers around the globe to document poignant stories of slavery and freedom. Now, they’re turning the camera toward the group’s most committed contributors—those who not only make personal donations, but who also rally their friends, neighbors, colleagues, students, readers and listeners to join the anti-slavery cause.

“We Don’t Free Slaves—You Do”

“Why I Free Slaves” highlights seven inspiring donors from around the country: a psychologist, a teacher, an author, an investor, an actress, a musician and a rabbi.

Meet the Inspiring Abolitionists

Sheila Siegel is a psychologist in Los Angeles. “I free slaves because I can’t not,” she says. “It touched a place in my heart where I have an ache to do this.” Her profile debuts November 3rd . Siegel has journeyed to Africa, Asia and the Caribbean to teach Free the Slaves staffers how to handle psychological trauma in slavery survivors.

Robert Birk is an 8th-grade teacher in Potomac, Maryland. “I don’t have to give much; I don’t have to do much,” he says. “But there are people who, through that support, can really change lives and change the world.” His profile premieres the week of November 7. Birk inspires his students who read books about slavery in the 1800s to do something to fight slavery that still exists today.

James Hannaham is an author in Brooklyn. “Fighting slavery is important to me because I would like to live a life knowing that I am not contributing to the abuse or torture of other people,” he says. His profile premieres the week of November 14. Hannaham’s award-winning novel, Delicious Foods, reveals how slavery is present in the world today.

Margaret Graff is an investor in Atlanta. “I free slaves because it is a moral imperative,” she says. “Once you understand that slavery exists, once you understand that you can help, how can you not become part of the solution?” Her profile premieres the week of November 21. Graff has traveled to the front-lines of slavery in Nepal, and has hosted fundraisers to build bridges between those who need help and those who have the resources to provide it.

Virginia Williams is a television actress in Los Angeles. “I free slaves because I believe we are all created equal,” she says. “People ask why I have gotten involved with Free the Slaves. I just can’t think of anything that has a higher purpose than putting value on human life.” Her profile premieres the week of November 28th. Williams is a member of the New Hollywood movement of actors who are taking a stand for social change.

Derek Mount is a musician in Atlanta. He contributes to Free the Slaves as part of his religious tithing. Confronting slavery is something all faiths agree on. His profile premieres the week of December 5th.

Debra Orenstein is a rabbi in Emerson, New Jersey. “Slavery is not historical,” she says. “It is happening now. The truth is: we might be free, but as long as other human beings are enslaved, no one is free.” Her profile premieres the week of December 12th. Rabbi Orenstein has mobilized synagogues, Jewish schools and rabbinical associations to take a stand on slavery as part of the Free the Slaves Passover Project.

Free the Slaves will send reminders through social media and email announcing the debut of each profile. Stories will be posted at

Free the Slaves’ mission is to liberate slaves, help them rebuild their lives, and transform the social, economic, and political conditions that allow slavery to persist. The group supports community-driven interventions in partnership with local groups that help people sustainable freedom and dismantle a region’s system of slavery. Free the Slaves is showing the world that ending slavery is possible.

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Terry FitzPatrick
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