The advocacy of Justin Dillon is to stop slave labor by raising awareness of the problem and getting the companies involved to reduce – or get rid of entirely – the slave labor for which they are responsible. Having worked as a successful artist prior to entering activism, Justin has dedicated his life to ensuring that slave workers are released and given a chance to create a bright future for themselves and their families.
When interviewed about the problem of slave labor, Justin shared these statistics:
“Over 27 million live in slavery today. More than at any other time in history. 80% are women and children. It rivals arms trading in profitability. History is bound to repeat itself unless caring and committed individuals push for something different. And still, so few people know about it, or worse, know what to do about it.”
Getting into Music
Not much is known about Justin Dillon’s childhood, except that he got into music at a very young age. During his high school years, Justin formed a band with several of his classmates and entered music competitions, where he showcased his singing/song-writing talent. After graduating from high school and college, Justin continued his career in music and worked with big names such as Universal, Warner Brothers and Capitol Records.
Throughout his young-adult years, Justin experienced success after success in the music world, and his songs were often featured in films and on television networks such as MTV and CBS. Justin also had the privilege of working with many well-known artists, such as singer John Mayer and the band “Red Hot Chili Peppers.”
Despite his success in music, Justin felt there was still something missing on the inside. Around this time, he stumbled upon an article written by Nicholas Kristof, a Pulitzer Prize-winning author, which talked about the global sex/slave trade. Although Justin thought about the plight of the victims, he did not think the issue would affect him so much.
Crusade against Slave Labor
This thinking waxed away when Justin finally saw the issue first-hand. When his band went on tour in Eastern Europe, he spoke with a group of women and realized how terrible their situation was. Seeing the ubiquity of the sex/slave trade issue in these countries, Justin was deeply moved and resolved to do something to help the victims of the slave trade industry.
Justin recounted the experience that turned his life around in an interview:
“I met girls in Eastern Europe who were telling me of these bizarre opportunities to come to the West to work in service-industry jobs. It sounded like an article I read on the modern-day slave trade. I started asking some questions and realized that they were being duped. I always wondered what would have happened if I had not spoken to them. That feeling never left.”
It really was a turn-around point for Justin. After completing the tour and returning to the United States, Justin started looking for ways to help abolish slave labor. One of the first things he did was collaborate with friends in the music industry to spread the message through music about the grave situations of slave labor victims.
Justin recalled the beginnings of his advocacy in an interview:
“At first I just wanted to find a way to connect the music community to the issue in a unique way. I wanted the power of message to be woven with the power of music. I really had no money or connections. I just started telling people about the issue and asked if they would contribute, both in front and behind the cameras. I had never made a film, but was sure of what I wanted people to feel. I wanted them to feel like I do and I wanted the music to serve as a companion in the audiences journey into a very difficult and tragic issue. I wanted the musical performances to give the audience courage.”
Much to his surprise, many friends joined in his effort, and the music documentary soon developed into a film. The “rockumentary,” as Justin called it, was named “CALL+RESPONSE,” and revealed one of the mankind’s greatest modern secrets: that there are more than twenty-seven million slaves in the world today, far more than at any other time in history. The documentary contained commentary from renowned activists such as Cornell West and Nicholas Kristof, and featured performances by artists such as Moby, the Cold War Kids, Natasha Bedingfield, and Matisyahu. “CALL+RESPONSE” was highly successful and named one of 2008’s “Top Documentaries,” raising over 250,000 dollars to support front-line organizations that fight slave labor.
Having found his new calling, Justin worked hard to raise awareness of slave labor and encouraged people to help in any way they could. However, as he moved further in his advocacy, Justin realized that getting people to donate money was not enough; they had to be part of the fight themselves.
In 2011, Justin’s documentary film “CALL+RESPONSE” caught the attention of the United States Department and its State Secretary, Hillary Clinton, after Justin developed a website called “Chain Store Reaction” to get people involved in the fight against slave labor. When Justin met with the State Secretary, they developed an online campaign which later became known as “Slavery Footprint,” inspired by the then-circulating term “carbon footprint” that had been popularized by environmental activists.
The idea was simple: through the website and coinciding application, people could learn how their consumption habits were connected to the issue of modern slavery by finding out the very question the website asked (“How Many Slaves Work for You?”) and allowing them to do something about it by contacting the companies that manufacture the products they purchase.
In an interview, Justin emphasized the importance of getting people involved:
“Believe it or not, the greatest power we have right now isn’t necessarily in our wallet, it’s through social media. The decision-makers in the companies that we buy from are, almost literally, waiting to hear from us. Some of the changes that need to be made in supply chains can seem kind of daunting and even I have a hard time understanding it all the time, but those that have to make those changes inside of those large corporate structures need to hear from us and need to hear that not only do we support them when they make these changes, but we’ll tell our friends about companies that are doing good work.”
Through “Slavery Footprint,” Justin accomplished his goal of getting people involved in the fight against the slave trade. It was tremendously successful, and even earned a first-of-its-kind grant from Google.com that same year.
Recently, Justin collaborated with CNN to produce the film documentary “Common Dreams,” for which he travelled to Haiti with award-winning artist “Common” to witness the problem of child slavery first-hand. The documentary received equal success, and was aired in over 240 million homes worldwide.
Today, Justin continues to achieve success after success with his work in “Slavery Footprint” and the recently-established campaign, “Made in a Free World.” And, while he knows there are still millions to be reached, Justin never stops hoping that, at some point in the future, everyone will be freed from slave labor and given a chance for a bright future.
“Being an activist is not something that anyone can claim to be an expert at. Real systemic world change has always come from unprofessional people like me who believe things in the world should be different, and find a way—their own way—to respond.”
- 2007 – 2012: “CALL+RESPONSE”
- 2008 – Present: “Fair Trade Pictures”
- 2011 – Present: “Slavery Footprint”
- 2013 – Present: “Made In A Free World”
Organizations and Programmes Supported
- Slavery Footprint
- Made In A Free World
- Restavek Freedom Foundation
- One Just World
- FREEDOM Summit
- Common Dreams Haiti
- I’m With Lincoln Project
- Fair Trade Fund
- Chain Store Reaction
Awards and Achievements
- 2008: Directed the documentary film “CALL+RESPONSE”
- 2008: Produced the documentary show “Common Dreams” with CNN
- 2011: Received a Grant from Google.com for “Slavery Footprint”
Made in a Free World (About Us)
The Huffington Post (Justin Dillon)
First 30 Days (Justin Dillon on Activism for Better Living)
MTV (MTV Australia chats to the ‘solutionist’ on a mission to end slavery worldwide…)
Made in a Free World (Google Interviews Justin Dillon About Groundbreaking Grant)