Wednesday, January 20, 2016

A Civil Rights Movement for Modern-Day Slaves

"Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter."  Martin Luther King, Jr., said that, and it's as timely today as when he led the civil rights movement from 1950 until he was assassinated in 1968. .

  Last Saturday a lot of people did not stay silent. At the L.A. Freedom Walk co-sponsored by CAST and CARE 18 on Wilshire Blvd., hundreds made noise about the reality that no human being should be for sale. The sexual exploitation of children is as abhorrent as any form of slavery ever has been and it must stop. The only way to decrease the number of victims is to decrease the demand. And that is going to take more than a morning's effort. More than a day commemorating a great civil rights leader. And more than a month raising awareness about human trafficking. 

It's going to take men, women, and children living lifestyles that do everything possible to fight modern-day slavery, every day. We're starting to see that happen with men and women teaching their sons respect for girls. And their daughters how to respect themselves. It's building desire among young adults for genuine intimacy rather than promoting casual sex without meaning. It's people adopting throw-away kids out of our foster care system and treating them as the precious children they are. (How proud I am to know families and single people actually doing this.) Together we can make enough noise to abolish human trafficking and restore dignity and human rights to its survivors. Some of these courageous women led the way for those of us who care about their dignity and future.

Numerous men came and took a stand against trafficking demonstrating to young boys and guys on the street that they have a responsibility to value girls and do what they can to keep them from being victimized.

Children are never to young to start caring about what's happening in their community.

Let's keep the momentum going. In the coming weeks these blog posts will include basic information that will help you get educated as to how to identify those at risk and those already ensnared by traffickers. It will include simple ways for you to make a difference. Please help us keep making noise all year long.

Friday, January 15, 2016

A classic example of human trafficking, in Pomona

A few days ago, a trafficking victim escaped her captors. This story is a dramatic depiction of what's happening right in our own cities. A girl is kidnapped in another state, held against her will, forced into prostitution, and threatened with physical harm if she doesn't do what she's told. Her ID taken away, she's moved to a place where she knows no one. The amazing thing this time, however, is that this young woman had the courage to escape. Forced to work on East Holt Avenue, while her captors waited at a nearby Claremont hotel, this courageous girl flagged down the first Pomona police car she saw.

Having been involved with Every ONE Free (formerly Traffick Free Pomona) from its beginning through Purpose Church in Pomona , I can't help but think of how far we've all come. No longer are girls on the street considered criminals, but the police recognize them as victims and demonstrate tremendous compassion. Officers go after the perpetrators--and this time they caught the bad guy and girl! And whenever possible, instead of taking the victims to jail, the police do what they can to get them the services they need. This time they connected the young woman to L.A.'s Dream Center.

Right now I have street kits ready to give to Dream Center representatives tomorrow at the L.A. Freedom Walk. Put together by a team of ONE volunteers, these small gifts demonstrate to girls in the life how much someone cares.

Another thing we're working on at Every ONE Free is an online guide to help people learn more about human trafficking and how they can get involved. It's release will coincide with an article published in Facts and Trends magazine's Spring issue that will educate Christian leaders about the problems connected with human trafficking and encourage them to get involved. Pomona's Every ONE Free is featured in the article because of all the great work happening in that community. CARE 18, one of the sponsors of the Freedom Walk, is also mentioned because without collaboration we can't make nearly the strides forward that we can with it.

Won't you join us in this significant effort to fight a heart-wrenching travesty? At the very least, please keep informed. In the next few weeks I'll be posting excerpts from the guide as they are written. By subscribing to this blog, you can find out what's happening right in our own neighborhoods. And we'd sure appreciate your feedback, What's helpful? What's not? What do you want to know?

Tuesday, January 5, 2016

National Human Trafficking Awareness Month, Changing the Cultural Landscape

Getting back to work on this anti-trafficking blog after spending a couple of months on turf removal project hasn't been easy. But that "groundbreaking" project  taught me a few lessons which are motivating me to write yet another post.

It would have been easier not to. My abolitionist efforts seem minuscule compared to the overwhelming nature of the problems. Roots of poverty, abandoned kids, runaways, gangs, pornography, the breakdown of the family, and human rights are far worse than those dug out of my yard. Ensnarled in dirt, they ran deep below the surface and were almost impossible to remove. But persistence mattered, and now they are gone.

Seeing the shovel in my hand and sweat on my face, a young man stopped to talk one day. Noticing that the task facing me was overwhelming, he said, "you need help." It wasn't an offer, just an observation. And, he was right.

It was the hardest physical labor I've ever done. But the days my sister, Janet, came made everything seem easier. And we accomplished at least twice as much as I could alone. Teamwork matters. With enough people involved, the work is easier, and the project reflects the combined efforts of those with different skills. My project certainly wouldn't have been successful without help. It took a man strong and skilled enough to use a sod cutter and rototiller. It took a designer who helped talk me through my plan. Others at Sunshine Growers (an awesome wholesale nursery) guided me to the right plants.

On a far grander scale, it takes a multitude of skills and people to change our cultural landscape. Children aren't so easily tantalized by traffickers when their needs for family and belonging are already being met. Teens with a strong work ethic and moral values are far more likely to refuse "easy money" through sex with strangers. Young adults with a vibrant support system aren't nearly as likely to be enticed by survival sex or a "boyfriend" who claims he'll put food on the table or a roof over their heads. And, there are ways to be involved in all these types of efforts.

So that's why I'm starting to write again--with the hope that others will get involved in changing our cultural landscape. January is National Human Trafficking Awareness month and there are many opportunities to make a difference. A good way to find out about various options is to join the Facebook group Stop Slavery Together, Not only do posts suggest upcoming events and simple things you can do to make a difference, they also offer articles that will extend your awareness of what's happening in our own communities and around the world. Knowledge is power and the more you know, the more you can make choices that inhibit the slave trade. There's no better way to start off the new year.

Two events I'm involved with are especially easy to participate in. One is the 5th Annual National Conference Call Prayer Summit on January 9th--this coming Saturday. You don't even have to talk but can agree silently in prayer for the end of human trafficking. 

The other is the L.A. Freedom Walk January 16th. It's a great way to connect with others who are fighting this travesty and raise awareness. (Details are on the links provided.)

What will you choose to do? It can be as simple as reading some articles to become more aware. Maybe what you learn will make a major difference in a loved one's life. Or maybe you'll decide to do more. Whatever this post cultivates in your life, I'd love to know. That's why I write.