Trafficking Humans


Slavery was abolished in 1865 with the 13th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, however, modern-day slavery continues in the form of Human Trafficking.

The practice of enslaving humans of all races has blighted the world throughout recorded history. In the Book of Exodus Moses led Israelites from Egypt to escape slavery and in BC 73 the slave Spartacus was crucified for revolting against Romans.

In this modern age of humanitarian advancement and enlightenment, we may presume we have finally banned all slavery practices. Not so. Shockingly the endemic practice of trading humans for monetary gain is global. Men, women and children are still being trafficked around the world, enslaving people against their will for the sex trades or forced labor.

The U.S. State Department defines the essential elements of the Trafficking Persons crime; “Persons taken through recruitment, transportation, transfer, harboring, or the receipt of persons by means of threats, use of force, abduction or fraud, deception, coercion, abuse of power, receiving payment for having control of a person for sexual exploitation, forced labor, slavery, servitude or the removal of organs…”

The ugly face of modern-day slavery is so globally pervasive that it is almost invisible to most observers. Human Trafficking follows gun running and drug dealing with estimated profits of over $32 billion a year. Trading subjugated humans by the merchants of misery is the world’s most abhorrent offence perpetrated by predatory individuals, gangs or international organized crime. This repugnant crime against humanity is a ticking time-bomb simmering to a boil that has become too big for any one government to crush as the global demand exceeds the supply.

Perpetrators who trade in human beings for the sex or labor markets may lurk for unsuspecting victims in a range of venues; four-star hotels, bus depots, inner city slums, or remote villages. The profiteering ring leaders look for the perfect storm in victims; desperation, opportunity and promised rewards. The perpetrators may emerge as well-dressed men, unkempt street procurers, motherly-type boss ladies, crime boss foot soldiers, money launderers, enforcers, pimps, document forgers, “employment recruiters” or other sundry manipulators of men, women and children.

Most legitimate agricultural ventures, apparel factories and other manufacturers adhere to acceptable labor and pay standards in workplaces, and are not the subjects of discussion in this article. This piece only addresses those persons who use force or slave labor in agriculture or underground sweat shop environments, many of whom don’t abide by labor laws, and who underpay and abuse workers.

Hundreds of thousands of slave workers are estimated to toil in field and factory labor in Africa, Asia and Pacific Island countries; the Philippines, Indonesia, Malaysia and Sri Lanka.

Most often desperately poor people turn to job recruiters, the liaison between factory owner and the workforce. Recruiters are known to troll towns and villages, procure willing laborers with promises of good pay, and then transport them in trucks. Many migrant workers are taken by force, shanghaied if you will. Some are never paid; others earn less than a living wage. Recruiters take large commissions off the top.

Trans-national procurers force migrants to travel to foreign regions with pre-paid fares. Upon arrival their passports, work permits and return tickets are confiscated, and thus the factory or field workers are trapped in the spiral of debt bondage with earnings held hostage to keep the workers working.

Many of the trapped migrants may labor long hours in rogue apparel factories in Indonesia and Bangladesh, slaving from dawn to dusk under appalling conditions in airless crowded workshops with barred windows, without benefits or labor rights, and may be paid about 93 cents to $1 a day. Some workers may never even get paid if they don’t reach daily targets and are forced to work through the night to make quotas.

Some workers are too intimidated to report the abuse of contractors, field bosses and managers, and most often the bribed corrupt authorities do nothing anyway. If workers run away they become trapped in a foreign place without legal documents and no wherewithal to return home. Destitute women and children are most likely to dovetail into the spiraling vortex of sex trades thus becoming part of a tragic diaspora with no happy endings.

Recruited workers for rogue factories and field labor may often be shipped to other regions to break family ties. Some non-profit organizations report that many slave laborers sleep in closets on factory premises, eat one meal a day, and labor long hours to pay off transport debts. A small factory workshop with forced quotas can produce about 15,000 garments daily with about 300 cutters and sewers.

Rogue factories’ low cost production of goods attracts some international apparel buyers who may not be aware of the labor abuse. Many government bureaucrats with elastic ethics may even ignore the reports of slavery and rampant unlawful practices in agriculture, garment and footwear manufacture. The rogue employers tend to own the worker’s time, not necessary the person per se.

Many name-brand manufacturers outsource labor to countries like Indonesia resulting in well-made products and low production costs. Advocates have exposed the practices of no-wage/low-wage labor as well as atrocious working conditions. The culture of slavery in Asia has endured for centuries with accepted practices disguised as versions of indentured servitude and forced labor.

Modern Jakarta in Indonesia, formerly Batavia in the 17th and 18th centuries, was then Dutch territory from where trading companies transported a half million slaves to their colonies and the West Indies. Over three centuries later, the country’s abject poverty still drives predatory practices of targeting men, women and children to fill the burgeoning sex trade or labor trades with no-pay/low-pay enslaved workers.

Many countries came late to the table to abolish slavery; the United States 1865; Mexico freed their last slaves in 1829; Morocco 1922; and Afghanistan in 1923. Niger abolished slavery in 1960 but laws were not enforced until 2003. Saudi Arabia abolished slavery in 1962 and United Arab Emirates followed in 1963. Mauritania, a nation south of Morocco, forbade slave trade as recent as 1981, but outlawed practices continue.

Traditional slavery and hereditary servitude still exist in parts of Ghana, Benin, Togo, and the oil-rich nation of Nigeria where men, women and children are still being sold into slavery. We see it on the news.

Such human abduction atrocities in Nigeria made recent headlines when schoolgirls were taken. Abducted children are sold for as little as $12, some bring as much as $70 apiece on a good day. Boys are sold to fields or mines or as child soldiers to rag-tag renegade groups. Girls are traded for domestic servitude, child brides, or are taken to sex dens. The tribal practice of shrine slavery, Trokosi, is the taking of virgin girls as payment for a family’s religious atonement.

Once stolen children pass through the gates of human trafficking they are forced into lives of servitude with no possible escape. Most are never found. If they run away they are shot. Villagers are helpless as they witness heavily armed traders drive overland Toyota Hilux trucks and motorcycles hunting for humans.

Global slavery practices that once poisoned the past are now poisoning the present. This unspeakable scenario is not thriller fiction, this is fact. Many of us may have been naïve about these abhorrent slavery practices until the heavily-tweeted abduction of 276 mostly Christian Nigerian school girls shocked the world’s sensibilities. This horrific act has driven home the fact that the wretched practice of forced slavery still exists.

Human Trafficking has a dark underbelly in the crime world of trans-national perpetrators with multilayers of subjugated people being traded and merchandised. The lucrative venture attracts criminals in over 127 countries, estimated to bring profits of over $32 to $50 billion annually. Several Human Rights organizations offer startling statistics; about 27 million people are bought and sold of whom 80% are women and children. The International Labor Organization estimates that forced labor markets of $132 billion per year involve money laundering, and unpaid wages have reached over $21 billion.

After the global sex trade markets, the most common industries where trafficked children are forced to work against their will are small workshops and agriculture. Children harvest the Uzbekistan cotton fields, work in apparel “sweat shops”, and brickmaking, palm oil, cocoa, tea and coffee harvesting, and gold and mineral mining. The regions where most trafficked persons are forced into labor are Asia and Sub-Sahara Africa. Many trafficked workers are no-pay/low-pay young children.

The economies that prefer child slave labor to bolster profit margins are varied, and may embrace high revenues over the morality theory. Many agricultural ventures appear to be upright for-profit businesses, but among the worst child-labor offenders are the vast cocoa fields on the Ivory Coast of West Africa and South America. In Pakistan and India over 300,000 children are held in debt bondage slaving for loom masters in the carpet weaving industry. These children have no childhoods.

The “employers” prefer the nimble fingers of malleable young children who labor in the shadows of seemingly legitimate industries to harvest cotton, palm oil fruits, and cocoa crops or weave intricate carpets on looms. The child cocoa harvesters work from sunup to sunset in the tropical heat of day, often with little food. The agile boys climb barefoot up cacao trees, slash off pods with sharp machetes, remove the beans, and carry sack loads on their backs. Africa’s West Coast yields about 70% of the world’s cocoa, and about 200,000 boys, as young as seven, slave in the fields.

Hershey’s Chocolate Company, Nestlé, and Ferrero Chocolates are the three main buyers. They have pledged to monitor the growers’ unpalatable labor practices and help eradicate agrarian child slave labor by 2020. Chocolate wrappers bear caveats; “Fair Trade Certified” to imply ethically-sourced products.

The most delectable chocolates may very well have been brought to us by the slave labor of little children’s hands and who ironically may never have tasted a piece of chocolate. Think about it. Our most common purchases may have been tinged by the use of slave labor from the field production to finished products. Imagine if you will that child cotton pickers worked in fields from dawn to dusk; weavers and dyers may have slogged for pennies a day; and cutters and sewers may have worked in airless ‘sweat shops’ in Bangladesh. The nimble hands of young children may have brought us crisp cotton shirts, luscious chocolates, Oriental carpets and high-end running shoes.

Our insatiable appetites for cheap goods swell the profit margins of middle-men who in turn sell to big brand buyers. Have consumers ever considered the cheap goods we buy may have been facilitated by slave labor? No we haven’t.
Some consumers pledge to buy American-made goods, but even labels boasting “Made in America” are actually manufactured by foreign guest workers in U.S. Commonwealth Mariana Islands, north of Guam. Americans never add a single stitch to the $2 billion industry.

So as we consumers peer through the window of rogue labor conditions, we see a trending paradigm shift in the way we spend our money. Billionaire Ralph Lauren, who designs, markets and licenses multi-million dollar ultra-preppy-chic brands, has no hand in the actual manufacturing, but nevertheless only buys outsourced goods.
Their company’s new policies are to buy from only fair trade factories. Other low-priced merchandisers may follow suit by observing the multiple tiers of the supply chain from field to finished product to consumer. If the big brand-boys make enough noise it may lead to profound changes in the international slave labor markets—but then again maybe not. Economics are about profit margins.

Following the money trails sometimes reveal the possibilities of labor law offenders. We tend to buy products with competitive prices—we learn that in Economics 101—hence international corporations outsource production for low-cost manpower. What really happens behind the heavy curtains of commerce?

A case in point is the competitive Palm Oil Industries that produce the ubiquitous ingredient contained in over 50% of all supermarket products. Palm oil is used in bio-fuels, soaps, creams, cosmetics, salad oils, bakery goods, and purchased by manufacturing giants; Unilever, Nestle, General Mills, Kraft and Cargill of California.

Malaysia grows half of the world’s palm oil trees, and with Indonesia, Thailand and Nigeria grows 85% of the world’s supply. The profit-driven market yields 47 million tons and brings over $40 billion a year. More than a million acres of palm oil tree groves now blanket acreage where old-growth rain forests once were. Palm oil industries are considered among the world’s worst eco-villains.

As the palm oil groves produce palm fruits year-round it is work intensive with a labor force of tens of thousands. Recruiters most often import cheap-labor migrant workers, and upon arrival confiscate passports and work permits. Workers pay for transport, food and lodging out of wages. The disgruntled trouble-makers may even be sold into other markets.

Ugly backstories emerge. Most of the 100,000 migrant workers never leave the dense groves; they labor, live and shop at company stores. Thousands of children work in the tropical sun without protective goggles or gloves while spraying toxic chemicals and pesticides. There are rampant abuses of child labor exploitation but the often stateless children fall through the cracks of weak government oversight. Few complain for fear of beatings and reprisal. There is no escape.

People movers may be among the world’s worst traffickers in forced labor. Over 300,000 domestics from Ethiopia, the Philippines and Sri Lanka work in Lebanon, and many more throughout Middle Eastern nations. In many cases passports and documents are confiscated, and work arrangements may be structured as debt bondage leading to exploitation. Some enslaved workers are even sold to European sex traffickers. Others just disappear with no trace.

The trafficking of humans for forced labour is just one of the nightmares facing displaced victims; the other is their possible captivity to be sold into the sex trade. Atrocities suffered by hostages can be one part of the nightmarish equation—but the horrifically macabre buying and selling of humans, especially children and teenagers, for their high-value vital organs, assaults all humanitarian senses.

The most spine-chilling breeds of human traffickers deal in the illegal practices of harvesting human organs for financial gain. Medical technology and pharmaceutical breakthroughs perfected the practice of organ transplants in the 1970s, and it was a matter of time that the illicit market would prove lucrative for the body snatchers.
The most precious of commodities, hearts, lungs, kidneys and tissue from abducted people bring billions of dollars a year. Those who are kidnapped specifically for their organs do not travel far; they are harbored in makeshift clinics close to where they were taken. They are the ‘disappeared ones’.

The taking of human organs for transplants is illegal in all nations except Iran who forbid selling to foreigners. The miracle pharmaceuticals that once saved lives by preventing foreign organ rejection have now spawned predatory organ harvesting practices. The Red Market theft of human organs brings over $1.2 billion a year.
India is the world’s biggest kidney trading centre. Nephrologists pay donors only $600 each and make big money on organ tourism. China harvests organs from the executed prisoners and in Europe a kidney brings $100K, and Rent-a-Womb industries thrive.

Ethical dilemmas often face surgeons when transplanting human organs. As much as 42% of “donor” organs may be yielded from illegal Red Market industries. In the U.S. most organs are donated through the Anatomical Gift Act of 1968, whereby the potential donor bequeaths organs legally.

There are horror stories of organ theft. Trials after the Kosovo-Serbian war accuse a human organ harvesting ring of ex-soldiers and “Frankenstein” doctors of taking prisoners’ organs in makeshift clinics. Human Rights’ Watch Groups report the perpetrators were charging customers in Turkey and Saudi Arabia $45K per body.
The “Yellow House” case tells of a farmhouse in Albania where organ robbers performed surgeries. Many refugees and war prisoners were said to have checked in and never checked out. Surgical tools were later discovered in a nearby river. The gruesome case reads like a chiller thriller but the macabre atrocities really happened.
The harvesting of human organs smacks of science fiction drama. One can visualize Rod Serling offering the Twilight Zone’s iconic tease; “Imagine if you will that living people are abducted to be robbed of their vital organs…” Fade to black.

There are several child advocate organizations that help stolen children and young adults to re-enter the workforce. They are the David fighting the Goliath of the $32 billion industry of 27 million victims of human trafficking.
Though UNICEF and the Polaris Project have a global presence to counteract this overwhelming marketplace, there will never be enough funding to dismantle such far-reaching global ventures. Some organizations realize they can’t solve the entire problem, but with one step at a time to rescue a handful of victims, they may have the ability to empower but a few to escape the churning wheel of forced servitude. These and other organizations are no match to dismantle the vast network, but at least they have a presence to advocate for the victims.

One such organization that has a finger on the virtual pulse of human trafficking is the Red Window Project in Livermore. Mark Fisher heads the project, and with limited funds, concentrates efforts on Cebo City in the Philippines with faith-based focus on preparing young people for the job market.
Human Trafficking still exists in California with porous border points that facilitate the illegal moving and selling of the most vulnerable victims. Assembly Bill 22 is California’s first law that sets higher criminal penalties for Human Trafficking. It is not known how many people are trafficked locally, or how many traffickers are apprehended and sentenced. But each step in the right direction attacks the job at hand gradually, if only saving a single drop in the vast bucket of human trafficking.

Director Fisher of the Red Window Project made a recent presentation to the Blackhawk Museum Guild and explained their modest mission. His group helps the most vulnerable victims of human trafficking; women and children. He spelled out how his staff and the International Justice Mission concentrate on the needy youth in Cebo City, the Philippines.

The crux of their organization’s mission is to focus on victims of modern slavery, one step at a time. Their staff prepares students to graduate high school and provides job training and career counseling to apply for jobs.
The mission and dedication of the Red Window Project is to rescue at-risk youth and plan their education with scholarships. Some of the rescued girls had been sold into slavery by traffickers, many others are the sole providers of siblings, but most of them will find a bright future with the help of those who are dedicated to raising awareness about the modern day slavery one person at a time.


Summer Writer’s Block Party

I’m blocked! Creatively, not digestively. Although come to think of it, I haven’t been very regular for the past few weeks. I suppose one thing could have something to do with the other, but I digress. I always seem to have trouble coming up with something new to write about for our summer issues. 179531528

Knowing that my deadlines are roughly four to six weeks before publication, it makes sense that given the time of year I’m undoubtedly feeling the effects of “spring fever.” Just like our kids start tweaking for summer vacation once the days get longer and the temperature warms up, I must be experiencing something similar. Maybe it’s something we never outgrow, even though I’m lucky if I get one week off from work in mid-July, unlike the ten weeks respite from school my so-called children enjoy.

In years past, my summer articles have ranged from summer relevant topics such as the end of school (Schools Out, June Swoon,Sizzling Summers), to summer vacations (My Summer Vacations, Our Trip to the Moon, We’re going to Euroland). Local day trips (The Last Daze of Summer), to swim team (The Obsession with SwimTeam) and back-to-school (The Back to School Experience and Sentenced to Another Year). Then, when I’m struggling for material, the subject matter has wandered into our community (Suburban Superhero), my run-ins with famous people (I’ve Met Famous People), self-indulgence (My Interview with Me) and my envy of all things canine (I Wish I was a Dog). Admittedly, I tend to reach when I can’t come up with anything topical or tropical. For some reason, my creative brilliance is overflowing when the weather turns chilly and it gets dark around 4:50 pm., but the minute I put on my True Religion cut-off jeans, One Direction tank-top and Tory Burch sandals, my brain turns to mush.

Typically, when I run into a bout of writer’s block, I play a word association game to help stimulate ideas. If I throw out enough word keys one of them is bound to unlock the door to my right brain. I am the Right Brain. I am creativity. A free spirit. I am passion. Yearning. Sensuality. I am the sound of roaring laughter. I am taste. The feeling of sand beneath bare feet and rain upon my head. I am movement and dance. Vivid colors. I am the urge to paint on an empty canvas. I am boundless imagination. I am Art and poetry. I sense, I feel, I explore. Sadly, I stole that description of the right brain from somewhere, but it helps paint the picture. I like to start with the term, “writer’s block” and free associate from there….Okay, writer’s block, go!

Writer’s words… yea, I got nothing. Writers writing…. again nothing. Writer’s right brain, it’s already been done (see above). Maybe I should get away from the word writer and focus on block– Block head…Charlie Brown ©, block of cheese…I like cheese, blocks are for babies…babies can’t write, block party….neighbors, chillaxing, food, music, talking, drinking, etc. I think I can work with this. Something’s coming to me. The creative juices are flowing. My right brain is churning. Here comes the purge baby.

Summer block parties can be a great time spent with neighbors and friends. A time to come out of our houses and bond together as the micro community after too many months sequestered inside. In reality, it’s not unusual to literally go months at a time without seeing many of our neighbors during the long and harsh California winters. I’m pretty sure it rained at least 12 days between November and April.

Okay, maybe it’s not the weather that keeps us from interacting, but the truth is with fewer daylight hours, a lot of us are on the road before the sun comes up and don’t get home until way past sunset. That and I’m also pretty sure one of my neighbors (who shall remain nameless –Ed Leonard) hibernates all winter. There’s no hard proof that he sleeps from Thanksgiving until roughly Easter, but that gut and beard aren’t helping his “I’ve been traveling a lot for work” argument.

If done right, a block party can bring out the apparent agoraphobics (Lofbaum family), can help those that have trouble engaging in neighborly conversation (Dr. Leon Roth) and even mend fences due to some small riff (Guy Nadivi suspected Jerry Wiener of stealing his Maxim magazines). At worst, it’s a chance to enjoy a libation or twelve (Debbie Malin) with friends. Once the tables are set up and the grilling begins, good times are usually had by all. The cool thing about a pot luck block party is that everyone contributes to the communal table; chips and dip, fruit bowls and veggie platters, jello shots, hot dogs and hamburgers, desserts, beer/wine and margaritas. It’s just like in the book Rock Pasta… or was it a movie?

Stone Soup is an old folk story in which hungry strangers persuade local people of a town to give them food. It is usually told as a lesson in cooperation, especially amid scarcity. In varying traditions, the stone has been replaced with other common inedible objects, and therefore the fable is also known as button soup, wood soup, nail soup, and axe soup. It is an Aarne Thompson tale circa 1548. Thanks, Mr. Wikipedia.

At our recent block party, I noticed that a few of my neighbors looked like they haven’t seen the sun in a while. Either that or they’re vampires. This is Danville, California, not Forks, Washington. A Block party can often times lead to a pool party. Now that’s what I’m talking about! Here’s a chance to lather up with a sunscreen (given the fact that I’m follicle challenged, SPF 6000 is my brand) and chill in my water wings by the old cement pond. We had a pool at our house until the dog bit a hole in it.

Getting back to the block party, so much of the fun is catching up with the people that share our little slice of suburbia. We may each have individual homes, but we do essentially live together. In the prehistoric days, clusters of families were known as a clan and the clan usually lived in blocks of cave neighborhoods (much like the Flintstones and Rubbles). Everyone had a role within the clan that was integral of the group’s basic survival needs of food, shelter and clothing. Back then, no one cared if the Zimmet’s lawn wasn’t mowed as long as the Mrs. Zimmet could skin a bison. Of course, that was during Clan of the Cave Bear times. Today HOA’s have rules. Do you hear me Zimmet? How about pulling the Toro out of the garage this weekend and mowing down those corn stalks in your front yard?
The Clan of the Cave Bear is a historical novel by Jean M. Auel about prehistoric times. It examines clan culture and speculates on the possibilities of interactions between Neanderthal and modern Cro-Magnon humans. A great summer time read.

The young and virile men on our block party would have hunted wholly mammoth together, while the women folk cared for the children and tended the garden. The older and wiser neighbors might have built tools, painted hieroglyphics on the cave walls and taken on roles such as medicine man/woman. I’m pretty sure several neighbors have their medicinal marijuana cards. I just can’t determine who amongst us is smart enough to discover fire or the wheel, but it’s probably not me (or Rick Simmons). My jobs would probably entail communicating with other clans and determining where to dig the poop hole?

When you think about it, prehistoric neighborhood clans had a block party virtually every day of the year since they shared most meals together, prayed together, entertained together and bathed together. This is likely the origination of today’s modern day version of a block party, minus the bathing part. Unless you live in the Shadow Creek development, I’ve heard their after-hours block spa parties can get pretty crazy.

Look at that, 1,363 words about writer’s block and a block party. Damn I’m good.


Creativity Can Quiet the Mind & Soothe the Soul

Have you ever wondered if you have a painting, a book, or a sculpture buried somewhere inside yourself? Do you connect deeply to other people’s works of art and envy their ability to express themselves creatively?
If so, then you may be hearing the creative call stirring from within yourself. Unfortunately, some people try to override their creative energy by listening to their “Inner Critic”—the voice in their heads that continually reminds them that they “certainly are no artist.” Well I invite you to consider this:

~ It is never too late to discover and cultivate your creativity ~

Yep, the “Inner Critic” can rant and rave, but that negative chatter doesn’t have to win. In fact, you might let the Inner Critic know that you don’t have to create “a masterpiece”—you can just have some fun! Reassuring that cautious, fearful part can be a great way to give ourselves permission to dip a toe in a refreshing, creative pool!
Now, just so you know, a creative call can descend upon anyone without the slightest provocation. And, a creative call can even whisper to people who believe they don’t have an artistic bone in their bodies—like one of my clients experienced. In her work life, Rachel was a successful CPA who enjoyed helping her clients manage their finances. However, after 20 years in the field, she began to notice some creative stirrings going on within herself. At first the creative call was subtle; Rachel unexpectedly found herself attracted to art galleries. grpx_1754

The creative call became louder one night while Rachel was attending an art opening that featured various abstract expressionists’ work. She stood in front of one painting and felt tears welling up in her eyes. The wild abandon expressed in this painting made her heart ache—in kind of a good way. Rachel stood mesmerized by the rich colors and flowing textures.

The next morning, Rachel searched the Internet and found a page on my website: “Creative Process Consulting.” She called and came to see me once a week, for about two months. During our work, Rachel learned tools to help tame her Inner Critic so that she could connect to her “Inner Muse.” During our work together (I’m happy to report), Rachel moved quickly beyond her resistance to being an artist. And, she began painting in acrylic—doing abstracts. Years later, she still paints, shows with local art organizations, and sells some of her original art.

In my private practice, I work with many creative souls. Some of these clients need support in finding their “creative voices” for the first time, like Rachel. Other clients are seasoned artisans who feel stuck in the mire of a creative block. Now, in case you’re interested, this summer I’m offering a fun workshop to assist people who want to explore their creativity in a nurturing and nonjudgmental environment. My workshop is called, “The Zen of Sketching.” And the cool part is—this workshop combines two of my favorite practices: meditation and sketching.

One of the benefits of combining meditation with sketching is—that when we’re fully in the “creative process” we often relax into the present moment. The world around us quietly recedes as we are transported into our creative expression. That’s when the peacefulness of creativity flows in…and quiets the mind and soothes the soul.

So, if you are feeling curious and hearing the creative call for the first time, or if you are an intermediate level artist, or an established artist who wants to dig deeper—then I have numerous tools (including my upcoming workshop) that may be of interest to you. And, to take that first step into your creativity, know that you don’t need a beret or a paint-splattered smock, you simply need a curious mind…and a willing heart.
To receive more information about Trina’s upcoming workshop, “The Zen of Sketching” (for women and men), send an email to: Don’t miss out on the creative FUN!

Trina Swerdlow, BFA, CCHT, is a Certified Clinical Hypnotherapist, an artist, and the author and illustrator of Stress Reduction Journal. Trina’s artwork and bio are included in Outstanding American Illustrators Today 2. She currently has a private practice in downtown Danville. Trina passionately supports her clients in reaching their goals. You can reach her at: (925) 285.5759, or

Certified Clinical Hypnotherapy services in California can be alternative or complementary to licensed healing arts, such as psychotherapy.


ALIVE Review: Peacock Alley by Dorothy Hom


In 1904, employment in Californ (California), especially in the cities of Loo Sahng (Los Angeles) and Dai Faw (San Francisco) was scarce. Hunger gnawed and desperation for a place to sleep spared none of the common folk.

The rail workers who had swamped California during the building of the railways were used to fat paychecks. Now they found themselves destitute.

Those immigrant Chinese coolies who worked on the railroad migrated early on to menial jobs in shoe and cigar factories, and many went to work on farms. A good many who did not want to leave their city homes did “dirty work” – mopping floors and cleaning toilets and outhouses. A few of the more prosperous Chinese managed to open laundries and bathhouses.jack6.140x9.210.indd

To make ends meet, many Chinese lived fifteen to twenty people in a room. Some labored by day and others by night and shared their beds in shifts. They were all determined to ride out the bad times, managing to save a few dollars each month to bring their families to Gem Sahn (America or “The Golden Mountain.”) Many of the men brought their sons or nephews to the new land so they could labor side by side or help with the family business, adding their monies to the family till. A few far-sighted Chinese sent their sons to the schools of the Fahn Gwai (white man or “White Devil”) in hopes that the next generation of Chinese might cope better with life on the White Devil’s level.

As the economic crush became worse, the idle White Devils began to notice the industrious yellow men (“Chinks”) seemingly doing well. In reaction, they took up the cudgel against the Chinks for usurping their jobs. Fueled by the whites’ uneducated frustration, hatred grew by the day, and soon a cry went out to exterminate the Chinese. The White Devils had found their scapegoat!

Mob violence grew with each jobless day, and anger grew to senseless proportions with the burning, shooting, looting, and killing of Chinese wherever and whenever they were encountered. So common was the murder of Chinese that there arose a phrase among the whites: “A Chinaman’s life is beneath that of his mule.”

A politician running for office seized upon the widespread hatred of the Chinese, building his platform on the cause of the white working man and attacking the “unfair” labor practices of businesses that hired Chinese who were willing to work for lower pay .Thus was planted the unfounded belief that Chinese undercut the white man’s chances of fair wages, thereby robbing him of jobs that would give him the means to retain his dignity and self-respect.
The white businesses for which the Chinese worked fought back, saying the men of their own race refused to do the work the Chinese were doing. They claimed the politician was using the emotional unrest of the white populace to get himself elected. But it was too late; many came to believe that the Chinks were to blame for the Depression.

Thus, in the wee hours before dawn on June 1, 1904, a group of masked white men stealthily crept up the slopes to the terraced farms in an area called the Peninsula on the outskirts of Dai Faw. They stopped at the top, looked around and, seeing the area deserted, raced into the group of buildings housing Chinese farm workers. Those carrying clubs shattered windows; others threw in blazing torches made of rags soaked in oil. Once the tinder-dry buildings were burning furiously, the men darted back down the slopes, jumped onto their waiting horses, and fled into the darkness.”

Peacock Alley by Dorothy Hom, is the compelling story of Liah, a courageous Chinese immigrant wife and mother and her struggle to establish an ethnic community within early 20th Century Los Angeles where the Chinese inhabitants would be safe from the wanton persecution of the “White Devils” and where a traditional Chinese lifestyle could be preserved.

Repeatedly driven from various homesteads by angry mobs and drunken gangs, Liah must overcome not only the challenge of raising her family from poverty, but also the enormous challenge of creating and maintaining a de facto Chinatown government beset with both internal and external intrigues.

Ninety-four year-old author Dorothy Hom takes the reader on a riveting journey with a cast of brilliantly crafted characters who immediately capture the reader’s attention and offer a unique insight into Chinese customs and culture. The overall theme of the importance of family is evident as we follow our heroin, Liah, through her many trials and tribulations. Her efforts to protect her family and her heritage from both the “white devils,” and her own countrymen, make this emotional rollercoaster ride hard to put down.

Hom grew up during the first half of the 20th Century in Los Angeles Chinatown, in what she describes as a motley, dusty, smelly area along Alameda Street near the Union Pacific and Southern Pacific train yards. A precocious child, Dorothy knew everyone in the closely-knit community and everyone knew her. It is said that little children have big ears, and Dorothy was no exception. Otherwise, how could she have known about the many intrigues and passions that played out around town, giving life to the many composite characters she so adroitly brings to this novel.

Although a published poet, this is Hom’s first novel, which she claims was fifty years in the making. She continues to live in Los Angeles enjoying her books, her garden, her friends and members of her family.

“May Kwan Yin shower her blessings upon you and may Kwan Koong watch over you.” With thanks, Dorothy Hom