If you could do just one thing to stop human trafficking what would you do?
I would do what I always do: teach.
The release of the “This is to Mother You” video by GEMS (Girls Educational and Mentoring Services) on National Human Trafficking Awareness Day (January 11, 2010) is a powerful starting point for bringing the conversation back to our students. The video is part of their powerful Girls Are Not For Sale campaign.
“This is to Mother You” was an original single by Sinead O’Connor and was re-recorded by O’Connor, Mary J. Blige, and Martha B in the summer of 2009 especially for GEMS’s fundraising efforts to stop commercial sexual exploitation of children.
Seeing the photo of members of my feminism class–all of whom are high school juniors and seniors–holding signs in the video reading “I am a survivor” and “You will survive” emphasizes the message about where we as feminist educators can and need to do the work of awareness about sex trafficking: in our very own classrooms.
The video above as well as the film Very Young Girls can easily connect to middle/high school units and courses focusing on human rights, media literacy, gender and women’s studies, health, and the history and literature of slavery.
For those in need of a text, I suggest using GEMS founder and executive director Rachel Lloyd’s Op-Ed “Corporate Sponsored Pimping Plays Role in US Human Trafficking.” Lloyd’s excellent piece can be taught in everything from a literature or media class to a math, economics, or government course to classes on music and music production. Lloyd brilliantly analyzes how corporate dollars not only reward pimp culture but ultimately contribute to the blind acceptance of the degradation of women and girls both on our local streets and on our local screens. Lloyd states:
“It would be easy to point to hip-hop culture as the primary culprit of this tidal wave of acceptance towards pimps. Hip-hop clearly needs to take responsibility for its ongoing misogynistic images and lyrics, but rappers could not have achieved what has become a mass acceptance of pimp culture alone. The tipping point came in 2003, when 50 Cent released his platinum selling song P.I.M.P. Several months later, Reebok rewarded him with a 50 million dollar sneaker deal. A few years later, Vitamin Water did the same. Why wouldn’t they? ‘Fiddy’ proved unequivocally that no one was objecting to his blatant degradation of women and girls when P.I.M.P went platinum three times and reached the Top 10 in 18 countries.”
Too often we say that don’t have the resources to address contemporary issues within our discipline. Conducting a close reading of this passage alone with our students points to the multiple fields in which we teach: economics, history, literature, media, music, politics, women’s studies, and much more.
No matter how we address sex trafficking in our classrooms, the upshot is to teach our students to take action. Content alone is not enough.
The Council of Daughters, which is also a part of GEMS, sent a letter today to its members with President Obama’s proclamation of January 2010 as National Slavery and Human Trafficking Prevention Month. They included five things we can do to stop human trafficking:
1. Host a viewing party for Very Young Girls this month.
2. Inspire 11 friends to buy “This is to Mother You” to fund services for young victims of sex trafficking in America.
3. Watch our new video “We Are Millions” made with photo contributions from daughters and other supporters across America. Share with 3 friends.
4. Buy a Girls Are Not for Sale T-Shirt and or donate $11 today.
5. Read Rachel Lloyd’s powerful front page Op-Ed “Corporate Sponsored Pimping Plays Role in US Human Trafficking” published today on TheGrio.com.
But doing just one thing on National Human Trafficking Awareness Day or even National Slavery and Human Trafficking Prevention Month is also not enough.
Everyday must lead to the abolition of modern slavery. Start with yourself, start with your students, start with your school. Just one thing everyday.
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I read your profile in the most recent Smith Alumnae Quarterly and was particularly moved to read about your students’ support of GEMS – I was hoping to find out more about the specifics of their support and was happy to find that on your blog! Thank you for that post and for this one as well. I work for a large church in Chicago and am putting together a panel and subsequent study group on child sex trafficking to explore how this congregation might take action. We have some good local resources but I think the resources you share from GEMS, particularly the videos, will be most useful. Thanks again. – Anne Ellis ’93
Thank you for your very kind words about my Smith Alumnae Quarterly piece; I’m so honored that you read it and enjoyed it. I’m also honored that you found my blog and read about my students’ work with GEMS. I’m so glad that the links and videos on the blog will be useful for your work. Keep fighting the good fight and do keep me updated!