Modern Day Slavery
In 1984 in the village of Urukpaleke in the southern Nigerian town of Enugwu-Ukwu, 10-year-old Celestina paced her family’s dirt courtyard. She wanted to cry but held it back. A relative came for her that day and she left for the United States and never saw her parents or siblings again.
For the next decade of her life, she suffered severe abuse at the hands of relatives in Houston, Texas where she was brought to work as a servant. She wasn’t permitted to attend school and was in the U.S. illegally. She cared for infants and children in the home of her relatives when she was only a child herself.
This story documents her life in Houston as a woman in her mid-thirties in limbo. She could not get her green card, attend a university or travel home to Nigeria to visit her family without losing her right to stay in the U.S., her home of over 15 years. She was waiting to see if the U.S. government would eventually grant her residency. Her dreams of becoming a nurse, getting married and having a family of her own were delayed indefinitely.
I traveled to Africa in 2008 to see her home village, meet her family and retrace her childhood steps.
Tragically, Celestina’s story is not uncommon. A report by the Human Rights Center at UC Berkeley said at least 10,000 people are working as forced laborers at any given time in the U.S.