In the News

 

“A traveling exhibit sharing the stories of female sex trafficking survivors is scheduled to run at the Loyola University Museum of Art from Feb. 6 through March 19. It will highlight victims who have positively changed their lives and their communities.The exhibit, called “More than a Survivor: More than a Story,” originated in  New York as a project of Girls Educational & Mentoring Services, the only organization in the state serving girls and young women who have experienced commercial sexual abuse and domestic trafficking. According to a GEMS representative, the exhibit is intended to present survivors in an honest and empowering light. ” Click here to read the full article.

 
 

 

Looking back before the Civil War, it’s easy to assume that enslaved African Americans were so profoundly exploited that they found themselves powerless to resist the tyranny of those claiming to own them. There’s a big grain of truth in this view. Take for example a vicious, highly profitable form of human trafficking known as the internal slave trade. It was invented by tobacco planters in Virginia and Maryland who realized that they owned many more slaves than they needed and that there were handsome profits to be made from selling off their “surpluses”. So between 1830 and 1860, they wrenched enslaved black people away from their families by selling them to dealers who chained them together and drove them into the Deep South. There they were sold again to large-scale cotton planters who desperately needed their labor and were glad to pay top dollar. As a result, it is estimated, as many as two million enslaved African American families endured the trauma of having parents uprooted from each other and from their children—forcibly and usually forever—a testimony to profound powerlessness if ever there was one.

 

But accompanying this brutal story is another kind of history, a powerful history of black resistance and self-empowerment that’s far more worthwhile to focus on during Black History Month and, for that matter, throughout the entire year.  That’s what this essay will highlight and there are plenty of examples to choose from— major insurrections led by the likes of Nat Turner, Gabriel Prosser or Denmark Vesey— self-emancipated antislavery activists such as Sojourner Truth, Frederick Douglass and Harriet Tubman— ordinary people trapped in slavery who defied their masters in innumerable small ways such as stealing provisions, feigning illness, organizing secret religious services, etc…..

 

Given all these options, the amazing history of one exceptional enslaved woman, Harriet Jacobs, stands out for special recognition. It’s a story of her enormous personal courage and resourcefulness against the menace of a determined sexual predator, of her family’s astounding protective loyalty, and of her intimate relationship with a white man which, amazingly enough, she relied on in order to protect herself her against sexual abuse and exploitation.  It is a story of she would later reveal when she published her autobiography, Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl (1861).

 

By her own account Harriet had a happy childhood in Edmundton North Carolina even though she was enslaved. But at age 12, in 1825, her mild-mannered mistress died and she became the property of a man who inflicted her with enormous misery, Dr. James Norcom. Soon enough Norcom began whispering sexual profanities into Harriet’s ear and as time went by words led to physical intimidation. Without his wife’s knowledge Norcom built a cabin four miles out of town for Harriet where he planned to force her to live as his enslaved mistress. In desperation, Harriet took a caring white man, Samuel Sawyer, as her consensual lover, hoping that when she had borne children Norcom would sell her and them together to Sawyer Instead, Norcom sold Harriet’s children away from her and continued with his sexual advances. She adamantly refused him and in June 1835 she finally escaped. First, she hid in the homes of neighbors. Seeking a safer refuge she then fled to her grandmother’s small house where her children had been placed by the always-supportive Sawyer, their white lawyer-father.

 

Her grandmother’s house included a crawl space above its porch that was nine feet long, seven feet wide and only three feet high. That’s where Harriet hid herself—for seven full years, emerging only late at night when she could exercise without fear of being discovered. Though she could sit upright, the roof’s sloping ceiling didn’t allow her to turn over while lying down without hitting her shoulder. Through a peep hole, she observed her children playing in the cabin’s front yard. Rats and mice crawled over her at night and there was no ventilation. Harriet’s family supplied her with her basic needs and protected her secret hiding place. Norcom, meanwhile, scoured the countryside and offered rewards for her capture.

 

In 1842, Harriet made her escape, sailing in disguise to Philadelphia and then to New York City. There she was joined by her daughter, who Harriet’s white lover, Samuel Sawyer, had earlier helped to escape. (Later, her son Joseph would also reunite with her after escaping.) Next she moved to Rochester, a hotbed of abolitionist activity, where she met her brother John who had fled from slavery several years before. Now settled in her permanent home and with her family back together, Harriet committed herself to the abolition of slavery by publishing antislavery essays in a newspaper edited by Frederick Douglass, speaking abolitionist meetings and protecting escapees from slavery (She, herself, was still being tracked by James Norcom!) She also began writing about her own life while enslaved, an autobiography that was published on the eve of the Civil War in 1860 and titled Incidents in the Live of a Slave Girl.

 

While using aliases instead of naming names, Jacobs shaped her life story to appeal to northern Christians by emphasizing slavery’s disastrous impact on women’s chastity and sexual choices. She insisted on showing that enslaved black women should not be blamed when white men sexually assaulted them but that instead they were being systematically victimized white racism and male exploitation. White female readers responded to such frank discussions with a disturbing mixture of embarrassment, empathy and voyeuristic excitement, reactions that made Harriet’s biography into a best seller and a widely-read classic of African American literature today. A one-of-a-kind autobiography, Harriet Jacob’s book is as remarkable as the woman who wrote it.  Though it was unusual for the enslaved to be even minimally literate, she wrote believably and eloquently giving a first hand account of slavery’s cruelties that could not be denied. That a woman, let alone a black woman, had actually written such a book and that thousands had read it was extraordinary.

 

During the Civil war, Harriet used her celebrity to raise funds to feed, clothe and educate African Americans who were fleeing into the North from slavery. After the War, she and her children returned to the South where she continued her work to develop educational opportunities for the formerly enslaved and to demand equal rights for all citizens irrespective of race. She died in 1897 and is buried in Boston’s Auburn Cemetery. To learn more about this extraordinary woman start by clicking here

 

 

 

Jim Stewart entry -Linda Brent(Harriet Jacobs) Seven Years Seclusion

Linda Brent, Seven Years Seclusion

Reference: Jacobs, Harriet A., Incidents In The Life of a Slave Girl, (Edited by Jean Fagan Yellin)
 
“It was a pent roof, covered with nothing but shingles…The garret was only nine feet long and seven wide. The highest part was three feet high, and sloped down abruptly to the loose board floor. There was no admission for either light or air. My uncle Phillip…had very skillfully made a concealed trap-door, which communicated with the storeroom…The storeroom opened upon a piazza…The air was stifling; the darkness total…the slope was so sudden that I could not turn on the other [side] without hitting the roof. The rats and mice ran over my bed…I heard the voices of my children. There was joy and there was sadness in the sound. It made my tears flow…This continued darkness was oppressive…Yet I would have chosen this rather than my lot as a slave…
I bored three rows of holes, one above the other, then I bored out the interstices between…In the morning I watched for my children, and presently two sweet faces were looking up at me, as though they knew I was there, and were conscious of the joy they imparted. How I longed to tell them I was there.”

Written by James Brewer Stewart 

 

James Brewer Stewart is the Founder of Historians Against Slavery and James Wallace Professor of History Emeritus, Macalester College. He has published a dozen books on the history of the American antislavery movement, has appeared in several of the American Experience’s historical documentaries, is coeditor for Louisiana University Press of a book series on “Abolition, Antislavery and the Atlantic World” and has spoken widely on college and university campuses on “Abolishing Slavery in Lincoln’s Time and Ours”. His books and articles address the abolitionist movement in the U.S. and the politics of the conflict over slavery and the struggles for racial justice.

 
 

New-Hope-Rising-1536x560

 

According to the Global Slavery Index, there are over 35.6 million victims of trafficking worldwide and at least 200,000 in the United States. Human trafficking has an abundance of factors and, consequently, an abundance of ways for us to make a difference. We at Sun-Gate do so by focusing on survivors of trafficking and providing access to the resources they need to get an education. We are the only organization in the country whose sole purpose is the focus on education for survivors.

Join the Hope Rising Campaign!

I want to offer your organization the chance to join us in making a difference as well, through our Hope Rising Campaign. The goal of the fundraiser is to mobilize organizations like yours to raise raise awareness about the issue of human traffickcing while raising funds to provide financial assistance towards tuition and textbooks for a survivor of human trafficking.

How it works!

  • Decide if you want to help survivors with tuition, textbooks or both.
  • You can choose to raise the money in whatever way fits your organization best.
    • If you decide to host a human trafficking awareness event, Sun Gate will be happy to provide a speaker.
    • Below are are a few ideas of how you can raise funds.
  • Set an attainable goal that your organization fall into as outlined below.
    • High School Organization – $200
    • College Organization – $500
    • Local Organization – $1000
  • Sun Gate will be happy to brainstorm with you about planning an event.
  • Sun Gate will provide additional materials for your event upon request.
  • You can host your event anytime between now and May 31, 2016.
  • To sign-up to participate, please email Jocelyn Moore at Jocelyn@sun-gate.org with the name of your organization, school and state.

 

The road to restoration is a long one for a trafficking survivor. But your participation in the Hope Rising Fundraiser can make it that much easier.

Join our Hope Rising Campaign today!!!

Ways to FUndraise (1) - Hope Rising

 
 

Keisha Head

I can’t quite put my finger on it, but there is something fresh in the air, promising even. I can smell it, taste it on my lips. Am I the only one with this feeling? I know, I know… it’s that New Year’s optimism. That glass–half-full feeling or the out–with-the-old–and-in-with-the-new attitude. Yes, I’ve been bitten by the New Year’s bug. Considering all the great things I foresee in 2016, rightfully so.

A new year springs forth new beginnings, new possibilities, and a fresh start. Many people ring in the year refreshed, attempting new resolutions (that will be forgotten by spring), starting new projects, ending bad relationships, finding new love. The list is endless. You feel empowered to do the unthinkable, and nothing can hold you back, right? Well, wrong. Lack of empowerment, opportunity and support annihilates any dream and limits the ability to move forward, especially in the lives of Human Trafficking survivors.

A few months ago I had the privilege to encounter a remarkable young lady. In the middle of the night, I received a call from a desperate and distraught mother. She explained that she was in another state and her daughter and granddaughter were in Georgia, fleeing a trafficker. Frantically, she begged me to help her. I called the young lady and she shared her trauma and that she had just escaped her trafficker of 6 years. The only thing she had was her three year old and the clothes on her back. Nothing else mattered… she was free! I thrust into action to secure other items for her. Long story short, the young lady ended up in another bad situation.

During it all I stayed close and constant. I knew the disaster would soon come. I was patient.

On Christmas Day she called me in desperate need. She called ME! I understand the strength it must have taken to trust me. Because of those who empowered me during my ordeal, I am now blessed to be in a position to empower others. I quickly reached out to the National Survivor Network for help. Survivors in every state galvanized resources for this young lady. Today she has options to travel to California (a place she’s dreamed of traveling to), Montana, Texas, and a few other states. What seemed like a powerless situation is now hopeful because of empowering opportunities that are limitless.

There are also larger efforts being made this year by organizations such as the Sun Gate Foundation to unfold initiatives that empower the lives of survivors through education. In California, Runaway Girl and Ending the Game empower through awareness and provide employment opportunities to survivors. In New York, at the GEMS’ Survivor Leadership Institute and Resource Center survivors are empowered through Leadership. Online, Rebecca Bender Ministries empowers through mentorship and The National Survivor Network empowers survivors through unity. In Washington, DC, 7 Layers Captive empowers through the arts. Just to name a few, I’ve chosen to highlight these survivor-led organizations because they stand as a true testament of Empowerment.

As a survivor of Human Trafficking, one of the most powerful tools given to me has been empowerment. I have the power to design my life in a way that works best for me and have favorable options for my future. Survivors are no longer limited. For the first time in my life the saying “You can be ANYTHING you want to be” is no longer a cliché. Today Survivors have a HOPE for Tomorrow.

Can you smell it? That smell in the air is opportunity!

Written By:

 Keisha Head
Sun Gate Foundation Secretary of Board

As a survivor of domestic child sex trafficking Keisha speaks, trains, and advocates throughout all the various state agencies who have contact with potential CSEC victims. She has been called upon by the US Department of Justice as an expert and advocates for legislation that protects victims of human trafficking. She uses her personal story of being a victim, turned survivor, emerged leader, to serve as the voice for countless others who aren’t strong enough to speak for themselves.  Click here to read more about Keisha. 

 
 

David Wayne realWhen I received an invitation to write as a guest contributor for Sun Gate Foundation’s blog, I inquired about a specific theme or topic as the focus. Since December is often associated with giving, I was encouraged to write about the greatest gift,. I was also informed that because the foundation’s mission is to provide empowerment through assistance for higher learning, many previous blog posts revolved around education. I was given an opportunity to choose freely, though, and my choice was easy. I chose love.

I don’t mean any ordinary kind of love. The greatest gift we can ever give or receive is unconditional love, with people where they are, regardless of circumstances. It means loving enough to let some people into your life, and also enough to let go. It’s not rushing to rescue someone when they could be empowered to overcome their own challenges. It’s not shutting off when someone is out of sight, and it’s not turning one’s back when we say, “I’m sorry, there’s not much I can do.” There is always something we can do. We can love.

It costs nothing to give love and the action is priceless. It can make all the difference in the world, even though the person you’re loving may not realize that yet. Give them time. Unconditional love is patient. It is justice that our world of suffering deserves. Everyone says knowledge is power, yet power is meaningless unless it is applied. When applied with unconditional love, it breaks chains and tears down walls. That is what opens hearts and minds to possibilities instead of remaining closed by limitations. It is what lights the candle of hope within us when all else is dark.

This perfect gift in an imperfect world doesn’t require converting to any religion, even though many of us think of Jesus when we think of unconditional love. If it required anything at all, it would not be unconditional. You can’t give it because you’re instructed to, or because you’ll suffer if you don’t. We can all start by loving ourselves unconditionally, and forgiving ourselves.

When I work with anyone who is struggling through life because of trauma and negative self-perceptions, I ask them to stand before a mirror with their hand on their heart, and say out loud with clarity, “I am a good person.” That’s a start. I often follow up with having them say, “I am worthy of love.” If the first affirmation doesn’t stir tears, the second certainly will. We forget these truths in the course of our lives, and it’s easy to slip into patterns that take us further away. I know this because I’ve lived it. Fourteen years of sexual abuse, being sexually trafficked as a minor, and two years of commercial sexual exploitation as a young adult left me hollow and forced me to repeat cycles of coping behaviors that held me back. No matter how good my life was, or how much I improved as a person, I fought against my truths.

When we can do this and truly feel it down to our bones, then it becomes possible to give the gift of unconditional love to others. It’s a gift for all seasons, not just December. Give it to yourself and everyone around you, as often as possible.

Written by David Wayne

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