Kevin Ryan, President and CEO of Covenant House International is the next speaker in the Little Compton Historical Society’s series exploring slavery and freedom. The series is made possible by the Rhode Island Council for the Humanities and will run through February, 2017. Each event is free and open to the public.
Covenant House is the largest charity across the hemisphere serving homeless and trafficked youth. Each year, the charity reaches more than 50,000 children and youth across 30 cities in six countries. Mr. Ryan will speak Friday, October 21 at 1 pm at the Little Compton Community Center. He will discuss the harsh realities and devastating consequences of human trafficking in the United States and across the word today, especially as it pertains to the homeless children, teens and young adults who seek help from Covenant House. Legal slavery ended in Little Compton two hundred years ago, and in the United States in 1865, but the reality of illegal slavery continued and still continues today.
Kevin Ryan is a best selling author, father, husband and child advocate. He arrived at Covenant House in 1992 to provide legal assistance to homeless youth and he now leads Covenant House International, whose work has been awarded the Conrad Hilton Humanitarian Award and the Olaf Palme Peace Prize.
Over the past five years, Kevin Ryan and his Covenant House team have built an international Sleep Out movement, involving thousands of participants across two countries who sleep outside for one night and raise funds to house, train and help homeless youth who are most at risk for human trafficking.
Mr. Ryan previously served as New Jersey’s first public Child Advocate and first commissioner of the Department of Children and Families. His first book, “Almost Home,” a collaboration with former New York Times reporter Tina Kelley, became a national best seller in the Fall of 2012. The book chronicles the lives of six homeless teenagers as they faced abuse, violence and heartbreak in search of a place to call home. “Almost Home” will be available for sale before and after his talk in Little Compton.
In 2015, President Barack Obama appointed Mr. Ryan as a member of the President’s Advisory Council on Faith Based and Neighborhood Partnerships.
Kevin Ryan is a graduate of Catholic University, Georgetown Law Center and NYU Law School. His numerous media appearances include the TODAY Show, Good Morning America and two appearances on 60 Minutes. He lives in Fair Haven, NJ with his wife Clare Neitzey Ryan, a Little Compton native. Together with their six children, they make frequent trips to visit their family in Little Compton.
The Little Compton Historical Society’s Slavery and Freedom Speaker Series is part of a year-long project honoring the 200th anniversary of the end of slavery in Little Compton. The Society has spent three years investigating the history of slavery in Little Compton and now offers a book and a special exhibition on the subject entitled “If Jane Should Want to Be Sold, Stories of Slavery, Indenture and Freedom in Little Compton, Rhode Island.”
The books’ author, Historical Society Managing Director, Marjory O’Toole became deeply engrossed in returning the stories of over 250 unfree people to the history of Little Compton, but she says the project took on special meaning in light of the thousands of people in the United States and across the globe who are still, for all intents and purposes, enslaved. She hopes her historical work will encourage the public to make connections between the past and the present, and take action against human trafficking today.
Other talks in the Slavery and Freedom Speakers series include:
On Wednesday, November 2 at the United Congregational Church on the Little Compton, Commons at 7 PM, Keith Stokes will present “American Irony—Slavery & Religious Freedom in Colonial Newport.” Mr. Stokes is the co-founder of the 1696 Heritage Group.
On January 25, 2017 at 7PM, at the Little Compton Community Center, Elon Cook, Program Manager & Curator of the new Center for Reconciliation for the Episcopal Diocese of Rhode Island will speak on the exciting work of the Center for Reconciliation and how institutions and individuals can collaborate to increase public knowledge about slavery and Rhode Island’s role in the international slave trade.
On Wednesday, February 1, 2017 at 7 PM at the Community Center, Jeffrey Fortin will present “Two Generations of Freedom: From Kofi to Paul Cuffe.” Dr. Fortin is the Paul Cuffe Fellow at Mystic Seaport Museum and Assistant Professor of History at Emmanuel College. His book on the life of Paul Cuffe will be published soon.
Last in the series on Thursday, February 23, 2017 at 7PM at the Community Center, Tony Connors, President of the Westport Historical Society, will present “Westport’s Stories of Unfreedom” based on his extensive research using Westport’s primary source documents.