As we think about the United States of America, we are constantly reminded about one of the most abominable and cruel institutions ever created in the history of this country, that will not only be forever etched in our minds, but will be remembered as a part of our nation’s past that represents the most inhumane and money-centered atrocity that it was – the barbaric institution of legalized slavery.
Just as we can never overlook the heinous and brutal realities of slavery in America, we can also no longer overlook a new form of slavery that has received national attention, especially most recently, as dozens of Black and Latina girls have gone missing in Washington, D.C. this past month, which has garnered even more attention to the issue of sex and human trafficking.
This past Tuesday, Queendom Come, Inc. (QCI), along with several other local Houston organizations and community leaders hosted a town hall meeting to launch its #ProtectOurDaughters campaign to address sex and human trafficking in the Houston area.
The campaign is the brainchild of QCI founder and attorney Sadiyah Evangelista, who believes that the community must take the initiative to deal with this serious epidemic that is plaguing the communities in our own backyard.
“Sex and human trafficking is a major problem in Houston, and we know that there is a disparity amongst African American and Hispanic girls that go missing, but no one notices,” said Evangelista. “We have come together collectively to fight this vicious evil that is in our neighborhood, and this coalition of community advocates will work tirelessly to address it.”
QCI launched the educational and awareness campaign to target women, adolescent girls and their parents in the Houston and surrounding areas. QCI has collaborated with other organizations in the community and women leaders such as, Green House International Church Co-Pastor Sandra Deckard of Greenhouse International Church; Kathy Griffin Grinan of “We’ve Been There Done That”; Valerie Muhammad of the Nation of Islam MGT & GCC; Calandrian Simpson-Kemp of the Village of Mothers; Jinaki Muhammad of the National Black United Front; Attorney Sadiyah A. Evangelista of the Ministry of Justice Millions More Movement; Deric Muhammad and Pastor E.A. Deckard of No More Blood Shed Movement.
According to the U.S. Department of Justice, Houston is not only the largest hub in Texas, it is also one of the largest hubs for human trafficking in the nation, in that Houston has over 200 active brothels, with two new brothels that open each month.
Houston is a popular entryway for internationally trafficked persons due to its two large, international airports and the Port of Houston, which is the largest international port in the United States and the thirteenth busiest in the world.
Age is the primary factor in vulnerability to get caught up in this modern-day slavery, in that pre-teen or adolescent girls are more susceptible to the calculated advances, deception, and manipulation tactics used by traffickers/pimps. Sadly, no young person, regardless of age, is exempt from falling prey to these tactics.
Traffickers target locations that young people usually frequent and congregate such as social media sites, schools, malls, parks, bus stops, shelters and group homes. Runaway or homeless youth are a primary target, but those who have a history of physical and sexual abuse may have an increased risk of being trafficked.
Trafficking is characterized by exploitation that includes forced prostitution, involuntary servitude and the creation of pornography or commercial sexual exploitation
This is an epidemic that has both national and local implications. Here are some statistics:
– The National Human Trafficking Hotline receives more calls from Texas than any other state in the U.S., with 15 percent of those calls coming from the Dallas/Fort Worth area
– 80 percent of those trafficked are female and half are children
– The average age a teen enters the sex trade in the U.S. is 12- to 14-years old, with many of the victims being runaway girls who were sexually abused as children
– The U.S. Department of Health & Human Services estimates that between 240,000 and 325,000 American children and youth are at risk for sex trafficking each year
– The U.S. State Department estimates that 600,000 to 800,000 people are trafficked across international borders each year, with between 14,500 to 17,500 being trafficked into the U.S. each year
– The International Labour Organization estimates that women and girls represent the largest share of forced labor victims with 11.4 million (55%) trafficked victims compared to 9.5 million (45%) men
– Of the estimated $150 Billion world-wide income from human trafficking, an estimated $99 Billion is attributed to sex trafficking worldwide, with roughly $9.5 Billion being earned in the U.S. annually
– Globally, the average cost of a slave is $90
– 80 percent of human trafficking involves sexual exploitation, and 19 percent involves forced labor exploitation
As it relates to dealing with sex and human trafficking on the local front, QCI and the coalition of community organizations and community leaders came away from the town hall meeting with several action items they plan to implement progressively over the course of the next several months, in order to deal with this extremely important issue, such as developing a detailed awareness campaign. That awareness campaign will consist of creating billboards and PSA’s; involving local media; utilizing social media platforms; running print ads; developing a Website; hosting and attending events with an informational table with resources; connecting with the Mayor’s Office for support and resources; block by block organizing; forming street teams; soliciting referrals and raising the necessary funds to sustain and grow the effort. They also plan to focus on Education by working with local schools to teach self-defense and rescue tactics.
The Forward Times supports this effort and plans to work closely with QCI and the other coalition partners to address this important community-wide epidemic.