By Chinny Law
It is estimated that there are as many as 27 million sex and labor slaves worldwide. A few years ago, I had no idea that slavery still existed. I was pretty sure it was a thing of the past. But one day, on a total whim of boredom, I happened to watch "Taken," a movie about the modern-day slave trade. It told of a father's efforts to track down his daughter, who had been trafficked into the sex industry.
After watching this interesting story, I decided to learn everything I could about the issue. I watched more movies, looked up documentaries and read everything Google gave to me. Much to my surprise, I learned that trafficking was not only a global problem, but also a problem within the United States and ever more so in my city of Atlanta. I also found that human trafficking is rampant in South East Asia, from where my family hails. After reading all of this, it was like the wind was knocked out of me. I decided that it was time to take action. It was time to do something about this horrific reality.
Conveniently, my senior project at Kennesaw State University was due. My assignment was to examine a global problem and boy did I have one. My first step of action was to investigate. I soon learned that there were people in my community already doing something to help. I found two mentors: Mark and Keisha Hoerrner. They are an inspirational couple and are two of the biggest anti-human trafficking activists in my community. I convinced them to let me be their intern so I could document my efforts in my project. They taught me all kinds of skills: how to research ads online soliciting sex, how to look for signs, how to garner support and how to advocate for the cause.
We soon learned that a restaurant in our community was starting to show some red flags. The staff seemed to leave and arrive in the same van every single day and something was just not right. My fellow classmates documented these observations and we turned in our work to Immigration Customs Enforcement (ICE). They are now using our data to investigate a larger trafficking ring of restaurants, just miles outside of my campus.
My fellow students and I were not satisfied. We wanted to do more. So in 2008, we traveled to Capitol Hill in order to help lobby the passing of the Trafficking Victims Protection Act, the only piece of legislation that provides for trafficking victims. The TVPA passed and it was an amazing feeling to be part of that victory for victims. I continue to support the cause by collecting toiletries and clothing for safe houses around the community.
It was a great surprise when mtvU contacted me to share my story about student activism at the Clinton Global Initiative last week, to help launch the "mtvU Against Our Will Campaign." Students are a powerful source of change and if we work hard enough, our voice will be heard; I'm proof of that. mtvU is listening. Through programming and events coming to campuses throughout the year, the network is giving us a chance to be heard and to promote what is right. You can find out more about the program at AgainstOurWill.org.
Film and media have a powerful ability to spark dialogue on an issue, and to open your eyes to something you never knew existed. For me, this spark came from "Taken." For other students, it could come from mtvU's new campaign. Now that you know, what will you do?