Rachel Lloyd, founder of Girls Educational and Mentoring Services (GEMS) in New York City, has spent the better part of her young lifetime on the frontline of the war against sex trafficking. In the immortal words of Marvin Gaye ("Trouble Man"), Rachel "come up hard" as an exploited teen from London who rescued herself and then moved to the U.S. as a missionary. GEMS is her mission and life's work, and she has been known to get out of bed in the middle of the night and travel long distances to face an exploiter in order to save a girl's life.
Sounds dramatic, right? It is dramatic and traumatic when you're underage and selling your body under the threat of violence.
I received an email from GEMS' Facebook administrator containing a letter written by Rachel to rapper 50 Cent. Rachel invited him to be her guest as a part of GEMS' One2One Challenge (One Night. One Person. One Goal.), where participants select one person who has yet to view Very Young Girls, make a donation to the organization in that person's name and then report the experience on Facebook or Twitter.
As someone whose music has been a part of the widespread glorification of pimp culture, I've selected you as the person I'd most like to watch the film and to hear the other side of the issue from the girls and young women who are controlled and coerced by pimps. I'm also inviting you to have a conversation with me afterwards about your thoughts and reactions to the film and am interested to hear your response.
Rachel boxed 50 Cent in: She can't make him do right, but she is making it hard as hell for him to do wrong. He will have to respond either through his silence, which is a form of complicity with the exploitation. Or he will say something either in defense of what he does ("it's just entertainment") or take a bold, grown ass man posture and denounce the "glorification of pimp culture" in music. My hope is that he takes the challenge though I'm not holding my breath.
Interestingly, the girls of GEMS selected Michelle Obama, which is a great choice given the first lady's advocacy of youth empowerment. Should Mrs. Obama become aware of the challenge, accept it and speak out on behalf of our girls in modern day slavery, she'd flex influence in the company of actress Halle Berry and singer Beyonce Knowles who openly support GEMS. Halle, in fact, wrote a letter of her own excerpted below:
She is my daughter... Imagine what we can accomplish if millions of women band together to fight for the needs of girls at the national and local level. Imagine the power we can wield if we all agree that every girl in America deserves the right to grow up and live her dreams. Imagine the enormous change that is possible if we each commit to a simple pledge: Every girl is my daughter and I will do whatever I can, whenever I can, to protect the girls I know and the girls I may never meet.
The One2One Challenge: National Viewing Night takes place on Saturday, October 17. You can secure Very Young Girls on Netflix DVD or Stream and they've made it easy by offering a 14-day free trial subscription. Don't forget to invite a friend or ten, donate if possible and document your experiences and impressions in a tweet or an update.
I've extended my invitation to three sister friends: Rhonda Ernest (Skin Deep Finishing Institute, Sacramento), Tashawnya Menefee (Show Me the Way Foundation, Atlanta) and Savannah Brinson (The James Family Foundation, Cleveland). Each of these women serves young women like the ones featured in Very Young Girls through their organizations. And each of them has a sphere of influence that includes women (and men) who have the power to change a very young girl's life.
And if anyone knows 50 Cent, urge him to accept Rachel's invitation. One of the very girls GEMS will save could be his daughter.
UPDATE: One2One Challenge is over but Very Young Girls is still available on Netflix. Watch!
(For more information, visit and join The Council of Daughters a national network of women working to protect and empower girls.)