For this week’sCheap Seats I wrote about Omilara Aribisala of the D.C. Divas. Her story is unlike any I’ve ever encountered in my years of typing.

I’d never talked to a former slave before.

In 1986, Aribisala was brought to America from her native Nigeria as a 12 year old. She spent the next eight years as an unpaid laborer for a family of Nigerians living in Prince George’s County.

Human trafficking experts I talked to for the story say these forced laborer cases are found in immigrant communities all across the country; slavery is alive and well in America.

Aribisala, “Lara” to her friends, escaped when she was 20 years old, with the help of an ad hoc underground railroad of neighbors and strangers.

She was at last able to start chasing the life that her captors promised her parents when they lured her here as a child.

Aribisala didn’t get back to Nigeria or see her parents again until she was 35 years old.

She admits still having scars from all the fear and physical abuse she lived through before gaining her freedom in the early 1990s.

But the pain and wounds are not obvious at all. Friends and Divas teammates describe Aribisala as the happiest person they’ve ever met.

Read her story and tell me there’s not a movie there. Aribisala is already living the happy ending. She says she’s found the American Dream.

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