Street Art for Mankind: Murals With a Mission to End Child Slavery

A former child slave makes a statement.EXPAND
A former child slave makes a statement.
Courtesy of Street Art for Mankind

Right now, 168 million children are working, and 85 million of them are slaves. They may be toiling on farms or in factories. They may be hidden hands of hospitality. Three things are certain: They're being robbed of their childhood, they need your help, and some of them are here in Miami.

“People are aware that it does exist, but they all believe it's happening on the other side of the world,” says Thibault Decker, president and founder of Street Art for Mankind, or SAM, a new global initiative that aims to raise awareness and funds to end child slavery through the lens of community and art.

Miami is the the third-largest hub for human trafficking in the United States. That's why Decker and his team chose the Magic City for SAM's debut. It's a five-year annual event that will travel to Paris, São Paulo, and Dubai, gathering 30 global and local graffiti artists at each location and opening for exhibitions, concerts, and family-friendly events for ten days. The final day will end with an auction, whose proceeds, as well as ticket sales, will go to fund Nobel Prize winner Kailash Satyarthi's Children’s Foundation, a global organization dedicated to ending child slavery.

“Use the power of art to create social change — that's really what we believe in,” Decker says. “If you're talking about a form of expression which talks to everyone, which captures the reality, sometimes emphasizes it, sometimes just sets it as it is, and at one point pushes people to react and act and rethink, [art is your answer].”

Decker became aware of the travesty when he was an investment manager. He worked closely with hospitality industry giants and soon found himself no longer able to ignore a moral wrong.

“You start digging, and you understand that there are a lot of people aware [of the problem], but everyone thinks there's someone else taking care of it,” he says. “There is a lack of courage in general... It's not the corporate world who is going to solve the problem, mostly because they have a fear. If you look at all the industries that are involved in it, a lot of them are pretty scared of being hit.”

Kailash Satyarthi stands with children he has freed.EXPAND
Kailash Satyarthi stands with children he has freed.
Courtesy of Street Art for Mankind

His own digging led to Satyarthi's organization. That man has spent 35 years fighting child slavery, both through political means and by physically raiding the places where these children are being kept and setting them free.

Decker hopes SAM will bring communities together and show how easy it is to get involved by highlighting the international and local organizations that are already doing so much to make a difference. He applauds the street artists who've gotten involved.

“There's a huge connection between those street artists and those children of the street,” Decker says. “[I'm amazed by] the power, the magnitude, and the size of the pieces these street artists are doing through generosity. It's one of the rare arts where the artists are still generous and still willing to make a statement.”

Upcoming Events

The selected 30 will converge on a secret location in the Little River district to work on a colossal collaborative piece in the style of the old “exquisite corpse.” It's a surrealist game where you fold a piece of paper in thirds and then take turns drawing a picture on each section that should relate to the one before, but each drawer gets only a glimpse at the old form. When you unfold the image, it becomes a strange and exciting creature or scene. The SAM artists will do just that, but instead of using paper, they'll work with shipping containers.

The artists will converge in Miami and take turns creating October 26 through November 3. That will give them just enough time to prepare before SAM's grand-opening celebration November 4. SAM will offer ten days of events, finishing with the auction November 14. Those looking to get involved or learn more can visit SAM on Facebook or its website.

"People need to hear those numbers, and they need to hear that it's happening not only in India, Asia, Africa, or even South America, but it also happens in the United States," Decker says. "We need the art to solve the issue, to attract people, and to make sure it's not an alien topic."

Street Art for Mankind 
Friday, November 4, through Monday, November 14, at a Little River location to be announced. Visit Facebook or

Sponsor Content


All-access pass to the top stories, events and offers around town.

  • Top Stories


All-access pass to top stories, events and offers around town.

Sign Up >

No Thanks!

Remind Me Later >