Shamere McKenzie does not hide from the fact that she is a survivor of sex trafficking. Sold a false dream by a seemingly nice man, McKenzie ended up being forced into sexual services and subject to physical violence for too many nights. Nowadays, as a Protected Innocence Initiative Policy Assistant for Shared Hope International and a mentor to fellow survivors, she is a testament to the strength and perseverance of survivors modern slavery. In a small room above the Mad Hatter in DC, McKenzie revealed a bit of the sex trafficking world to her audience at the Stop Modern Slaverymeeting on Monday night. "Trafficking is a subculture," she shared. "It has its own code of conduct, its own language and its own consequences." Modern slavery is in our own backyard with between 14,500 and 17,500 and it can be seen every night in cities across the country, including K Street in downtown DC. Traffickers and buyers can be an uncle, a brother, a cousin, a boyfriend, a mother...and victims can be your sister, your neighbor, your cousin, your daughter, your son. "Pimp Codes" can be compared to the slave codes where victims work long hours, take 0% of their earnings and don't control decisions such as when they eat. It's a business where 13 is the average age of entry and traffickers are earning millions of dollars a year.
Soon after McKenzie stepped down, Stacy Jewell Lewis stepped up to share with the audience a preview of the fear she felt as a victim from her upcoming play, Stolen: From Playgrounds to Streetlights, which will be premiering at the Atlas Theater in early August. A stirring and dramatic monologue, Lewis let her words create a scene of desperation and terror, but also one of hope- hope for survivors and also hope for the volunteers and activists dedicated to eradicating this epidemic. Her story will be one of many, including McKenzie's, that will be featured in her play as a call to action and a catalyst to ignite indignation and passion.
This year DC Stop Modern Slavery and BTFF are partnering, along with another 13 organizations, for the Stop Modern Slavery Walk on September 29th at the Washington Monument. To register to be part of our team or to donate please click here. Not only will there be a walk, but survivors like McKenzie and Lewis will be present to speak, as well as musical performances.
In a week when we are hard pressed to reflect on our liberty in this country, we must also take the time to remember those whose freedoms have been abused. If you have come across ANYTHING that resembles human trafficking please call the hotline at 1-888-3737-888.