EventsVoices for Justice: Saket Soni: The Great Escape

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Voices for Justice: Saket Soni: The Great Escape

6:00 PM – 7:00 PM
Harold Washington Library Center

Description

Chicago Public Library is pleased to welcome Saket Soni to speak on his book The Great Escape: A True Story Of Forced Labor And Immigrant Dreams In America as part of our Voices For Justice speaker series. Saket will appear in conversation with Ai-jen Poo. 

Organizer and author Saket Soni is recognized as a national expert on post-disaster economies, immigrant rights and the future of work. Originally from New Delhi, India, Saket began his career as a community organizer in Chicago at the Coalition of African, Asian, European, and Latino Immigrants of Illinois. After Hurricane Katrina, in 2006, Saket co-founded the New Orleans Workers' Center For Racial Justice. Under his leadership, the organization won organizing and policy victories for both U.S.-born and immigrant workers engaged in the reconstruction of New Orleans. In 2011, Saket founded the National Guestworker Alliance, an organization focused on defending the human rights and dignity of guestworkers in America. Saket co-authored And Injustice For All: Workers’ Lives In the Reconstruction, the most comprehensive report on race in the reconstruction of the post-Katrina Gulf Coast, as well as Never Again: Lessons of the Gustav Evacuation, an account of the inequities in the response to Hurricane Gustav in 2009, which led to new state policies and new norms for evacuating the most vulnerable residents in preparation for disaster.  

His new book, The Great Escape: A True Story Of Forced Labor And Immigrant Dreams In America, is an eye-opening true story about immigrants in America, a visionary labor leader devises a plan that wins the citizenship of 500 workers from India after being exposed to inhumane conditions.​

In late 2006, Saket Soni, a 28-year-old, Indian-born community organizer received an anonymous phone call from an Indian migrant worker inside a Mississippi labor camp. He and 500 other men were living in squalor in Gulf Coast “man camps,” surrounded by barbed wire, watched by armed guards, crammed into cold trailers with putrid portable toilets, forced to eat moldy bread and frozen rice. Worse, lured by the promise of good work and green cards, the men had desperately scraped together up to $20,000 each to apply for this “opportunity” to rebuild oil rigs after Hurricane Katrina, putting their families into impossible debt. During a series of clandestine meetings, Soni and the workers devise a bold plan. In The Great Escape, Soni traces the workers’ extraordinary escape, their march on foot to Washington DC, and their 23-day-hunger strike to bring attention to their cause. Along the way, ICE agents try to deport the men, company officials work to discredit them, and politicians avert their eyes. But none of this shakes the workers’ determination to win their dignity and keep their promises to their families.

Weaving a deeply personal journey with a riveting tale of 21st-century forced labor, Soni takes us into the hidden lives of the foreign workers the US increasingly relies on for cheap skilled labor to rebuild after climate disasters. The Great Escape is the astonishing story of one of the largest human trafficking cases in modern American history—and the workers’ heroic journey for justice.

Ai-jen Poo is a next-generation labor leader, award-winning organizer, author, and a leading voice in the women’s movement. She is the President of the National Domestic Workers Alliance, Director of Caring Across Generations, Co-Founder of SuperMajority and Trustee of the Ford Foundation. Ai-jen is a nationally recognized expert on elder and family care, the future of work, gender equality, immigration, narrative change, and grassroots organizing. She is the author of the celebrated book,The Age of Dignity. Together with Alicia Garza, Ai-jen co-hosts the podcast, Sunstorm.

She has been recognized among Fortune’s 50 World’s Greatest Leaders and Time’s 100 Most Influential People in the World, and she has been the recipient of countless awards, including a 2014 MacArthur “Genius” Award. Ai-jen has been a featured speaker at TEDWomen, Aspen Ideas Festival, Cannes Lions Festival of Creativity, Skoll World Forum, and the Obama Foundation Inaugural Summit. She has made TV appearances on Nightline, MSNBC, and Morning Joe, and her writing has been featured in The New York Times, The Washington Post, TIME, Maire Claire, Glamour, Cosmopolitan and CNN.com among others. Ai-jen has been an influential voice in the #MeToo movement and attended the 2018 Golden Globe Awards with Meryl Streep as part of the launch of #TimesUp.

How to Attend
This event takes place in person. Masks are strongly encouraged in all CPL locations. Questions about visiting the library? Check out our Using the Library FAQs.

This event can also be seen live on CPL's YouTube channel and CPL's Facebook page. You'll be able to ask questions during the event as well! Can't make it to the live stream? We'll archive the video on YouTube to watch later.

Accessibility
Automatic captioning is available via Facebook and YouTube's closed captioning setting. Need sign language interpretation or other accommodations for this event? Please call (312) 747-8184. Requests must be made at least 14 business days before the event.

Program:
Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage
Suitable for:
Teens: 13 to 19 years
Adults: 18 and up
Type:
Author Events
History and Genealogy
Language:
English

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