YOLO Let’s Rally – Human Trafficking Awareness

In honor of Human Trafficking Awareness month, Amanda Katona, from the Advocacy Committee, wrote the following piece about a rally she and other JLSD members attended to spread awareness about human trafficking in the San Diego area. Thank you to Amanda and everyone else who participated in spreading the word about such an important issue!

Woke up this morning not really knowing what to expect at the JLSD March and Rally. March and Rally what? This was out of my comfort zone, but the Advocacy Committee was putting on the event so my feet needed to get out the door. When I got to the house I was a little surprised with the amazing turnout. Tons of women in grey and blue JLSD shirts were outside the house and all were looking forward to the speakers.  Then I looked left, and saw 3 news crews!!! Later we found out we made the leading story at 6pm & 11pm on channels 7,9 and 10.

Group sits to listen to rally speakers
Audience listens to rally speakers

And so it began with Maggie Sayre giving an incredible introduction of JLSD, our focus area of transition age foster youth and how foster youth are a targeted group for human trafficking and most specifically, commercial sexual exploitation (note to self – need to practice my “what does JLSD do speech,” ASAP). Of sexually exploited children, 65% report having a connection with the foster care system! Unreal…

Her ask was simple – listen to the engaging speakers, and go home tell at least one person what we learned today. That simple task alone creates greater awareness of the issue.

Senator Block speaks to crowd
Senator Block speaks to the crowd

Senator Block took the stage next – WOW is he charismatic. I’ve never really seen the senator speak, let alone in person, and I was very impressed with his passion on human trafficking and his thankful words to JLSD. We learned that his next bill, which is about to hit the governor’s desk, was affected by the federal ruling for states to release 10,000 inmates because of prison overpopulation. Our Governor explained to the Senator that if he passed the human trafficking bill to stiffen the punishment on human traffickers, it would mean more people in jail, which was the exact opposite of the federal guidelines. The Senator’s rebuttal made me proud to be a Californian – just because our jails are over-crowded doesn’t mean we don’t arrest the worst of the worst! With that, he concluded he would be looking to JLSD for support when the time came later this year to get this bill passed! Ahhhh there it was, the reason I am in the league – to make an impact that matters.

Laura McClean of STAR addresses the audience
Laura McClean of STAR addresses the audience

Laura McLean of STARS followed, with the ask of us to stop using the “p” word (prostitution). Being a victim of human trafficking isn’t a choice, and we should use the best descriptive words for these victims of human trafficking. Her speech ended with a thank you to JLSD for jazzing up the welcome room at STARS. There it was again – JLSD making an impact on lives.

Susan Munsey of GenerateHope was up next and explained how she feels it’s her job to wrap these girls up in a hug, then get them ready for the next chapter of their lives. This requires interview prepping, and WE can help by donating interview clothes for these women. She also thanked JLSD for improving their garden, which provides a space for gardening therapy. WOW, JLSD members also connected with this organization.  And what’s better? We are doing it again January 23rd at the Provisional event Grow Hope.

Law Enforcement then took the stage. Not gonna lie, I got a little nervous– I mean the thought of being in the vicinity of a deputy and lieutenant kinda gave me chills. Not sure why… Pavlov’s Law? And this is when it got a little bit more real – Lieutenant Art Wager started and encouraged the audience to talk to our kids, talk to our neighbors, be on the lookout – spy on your kids were his words! Read their texts, look at their FB, find out what’s going on in their cyber lives. Human Trafficking isn’t international – it’s happening right here in San Diego to 11 year olds.  11 year olds?

Well…. Deputy George Chrysler chimed in that if we didn’t think it happened here, think again, jump on YouTube and search for “Pimping on the Blade” – so I did. Yikes!  Wow… so the deputy was right… pimps actually tape themselves and post to YouTube… disgusting.  The latest North Park Bust? Took YEARS of police time to put together the case in order to arrest the 24 pimps. North Park… that’s right – in San Diego. The ladies were lured via Facebook and YouTube promising them lavish life styles if they joined the ring, and then threatened them with violence if they didn’t perform.

I was so impressed! These speakers were so passionate about this cause, our cause. While on a high from how incredible I thought the speakers, we had a small break where I thought I would test my theory… so casually outside the restrooms I said –“well that was a dousy’…. And guess what? JLSD ladies looked at me and said “no, it was incredible”.  Phew… the event was going to be a success.

The group then MARCHED… YOLO style…. We rallied, we chanted, we held signs.

Audience marches to spread awareness of human trafficking
Audience marches to spread awareness about human trafficking – and the need to stand up to stop it

At Balboa Park, we listened to Rabbi Laurie Coskey, Executive Director of the Interfaith Committee for Worker Justice, and the last group of speakers from Survivors for Solutions. Survivor led organizations are powerful because when they speak with victims they know where they have been and show what could be according to Autumn Burris, founder and director of the organization.

While members spoke at the park, our very own Christiane Hoffman passed out flyers to raise awareness on the issue to people passing through the park even those practicing yoga!

Kathy, one of the last speakers, left us with a chilling statistic: 1 in 4 girls and 1 in 6 boys are molested, abused, or raped by the age of 14.  This happens to boys and girls; this happens to our children. The last man that spoke brought this chilling statistic to life – he is a survivor as well.

When we got back to the house, we had plenty of food left so the group packed up the food in bags, and Jessica, Maria and I delivered the food to homeless people in East Village. YOLO – keep spreading the love.

So in honor of New Year’s Resolutions, try something new, something that makes you uncomfortable. It’s in the space of the unknown where we grow as individuals and is where we, JLSD, can make a difference.

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