Community Activists and Leaders Declare War on Dealing in Humans
HOUSTON- There is a dark side to traffic in Houston.
It is the shameful and disgraceful underbelly world of human trafficking that is infecting and threatening countless poor Black and Hispanic youth and young adults.
Unchecked, it spreads quickly and like a plague sickens communities, neighborhood and families across the city, according to Sonia Parker, founder of the Houston-based Parents Against Predators.
The group the includes a coalition of African-Americans and Hispanics have united and resolve to alert communities of the impact of these abuses and fight tirelessly to quarantine the problem or destroy it altogether.
“We hosted the event on Human Trafficking to spread awareness and show the display of how human trafficking work., Parker said. “My mission remains the same to spread awareness about children safety.”
According to a groundbreaking study conducted by the University of Texas School of Social Work, there are currently an estimated 313,000 victims of human trafficking in Texas.
Community activists joined together and met with children, parents and community members in an effort to increase vigilance in hopes of keeping children safe and to provide a means for anyone affected to break free of this modern form of slavery.
“We want to make the message come through loud and clear: no person is safe and we must all work together to save our families and communities,” said OG1 Operation Outreach Leader Reginald Gordon. “Trafficking and sexual exploitation are hiding in plain sight, and the first step to combatting the issue is informing community members to become aware of the issue affecting them in their own backyard.”
Gordon and Kenneth Morris, who serves as Lone Star Flight Museum Education and Outreach Director in Houston, teamed up to film, discussion and vital positive examples and life directions each hopes will steer youth and young adults away from the dark side of trafficking.
“We want youth to think outside the box and inspire them to discover their real talents, make good decisions and explore positive possibilities,” Morris said. “We want them to learn to think for themselves, set their own pace and pathways and be leaders. That will make them strong against this threat attacking our neighborhoods.”
Human trafficking is an egregious human rights violation. In this lucrative criminal enterprise, people are treated as commodities to make a profit for traffickers.
Victims may be forced to provide labor services or have their bodies sold for sex. While this is a serious problem in other countries, it is not just an international issue.
Men, women and children are bought and sold every day in the United States, and sadly, Houston has been identified as a hub for this criminal activity.
- 26% of the world’s trafficking victims are children. (source: International Labour Organization)
- 1 in 6 U.S. runaways in 2014 were likely victims of child sex trafficking. (source: National Center for Missing and Exploited Children).
In Texas, there were 2,939 confirmed cases of human trafficking between 2007 and 2016. Roughly a third of those cases – 1,006 – originated in Houston, according to Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner and the Houston Area Council on Human Trafficking.
Texas has been a leader in the fight against human trafficking. It was one of the first states in the nation to pass a human trafficking statute, and Houston area lawmakers have been champions for anti-trafficking legislation.
Every year, children and youth are compelled into labor and sex trafficking in the United States and globally.
The trauma experienced from trafficking can have a profound impact on the lives of youth, decreasing mental health, challenging self-identity, and affecting personal development.
Children are trafficked by caregivers, intimate partners, or others who use violence, threats, debt bondage, and other manipulative tactics to victimize children.
“What’s happening in these streets in mind numbing,” Gordon said. “It is slavery and takes aim at the poorest of the poor and vulnerable youth in our community and we want to stop these perpetrators, gangs and cartels from completely taking over.”
Gordon has spent 30 years working throughout African-American communities using his OG1 message to help keep youth from harms way. He was the founder of now famous “Scared Straight” program in 1978 and continued his operation outreach in 1995 under the OG1 banner.
Young people who have faced prior abuse, escaped civil conflict, lost their homes, fled broken child protection systems, or lack strong social support systems are at greater risk for recruitment by traffickers who unscrupulously exploit their vulnerabilities or circumstances.
“The key to solving this problem is getting family structures back in order before we lose more or your youth to the streets and prisons,” he said. “That is why I am committed to working and volunteering in schools, community centers and going house to house helping families get information and find answers to these challenges.”
In addition, trafficked youth who have been compelled to engage in illegal activities, including prostitution or the selling of drugs, are too often arrested and prosecuted as criminals.
Houston’s minority community is under attack and struggles with two main forms of trafficking – Human and Sex Trafficking.
In Houston, the demand is high and driving this unhealthy criminal appetite is a demand for commercial sex.
The city is home to over 300 illegitimate sexually oriented businesses, and hundreds of internet advertisements. Sex trafficking occur
s when a commercial sex act is induced by force, fraud, or coercion, or in which the person performing the act is under the age of 18.
It is active and occurs in a number of venues, including the internet, street prostitution, illicit massage parlors, cantinas, and other sexually oriented businesses.
Victims are bought and sold through force, fraud, or coercion and may be lured
as vulnerable children into a life of prostitution.
MALES ARE VICTIMS OF HUMAN TRAFFICKING
It’s common knowledge that human traffickers seek out the most vulnerable members of society, and women and children are often amongst the most vulnerable. However, women and children are not the only ones who are vulnerable.
An alarming statistic produced by the State Department reports that between 2006 and 2008, the percentage of adult certified male victims of human trafficking jumped from 6% to 45%. It is estimated that Worldwide, m
ales make up 45% of victims population.
Gordon said one of the main issues families face that hurts the message is the lack of strong male figures in many African-American families.
“Our communities are wide open and our children are at risk because of this,” he said. “It is open season on our boys and girls and the only weapon we have to fight back is education strong role models.”
Labor trafficking occurs when individuals are forced or coerced into working against their will. Physical and psychological control are used to make victims work long hours for little or no pay.
The International Labor Organization estimates that over 14 million individuals worldwide are victims of labor trafficking.
Demand for cheap labor fuels this industry, and in December of 2014, the U. S. Department of Labor identified 136 good produced globally through child labor and forced labor.
This slave labor taints the supply chains of goods produced and consumed in our country.
Common venues and industries for lab
or trafficking in Texas include traveling sales crews, domestic work, construction, agriculture, and health and beauty services and many victims often go unidentified.
Morris said his main emphasis is on making a difference by first setting an example, being a role model and being a teacher to the next generation.
The aviation specialist has a strong message for children and youth lured to the sex trade and trafficking.
“Kids don’t have to be caged or trapped by their environments,” Morris said. “Making good decisions and surrounding themselves w
ith positive people is the key. I grew up in some of the same conditions and am a testimony that you can succeed.”
Parker, Gordon and Morris said they will work tirelessly in communities and families until the problem is eradicated and the prognosis is better for Black communities.
“This is a monster that does not mind seeking and devouring who and what it wants at will,” Gordon said. “We will work together to cage this monster and win this battle.”
The group also thanks the
and Acres Home Service Center for their support of the effort and program.
By: Darwin Campbell