Mental Post-Its

Thoughts, Notes and General Mental Mayhem


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Tapestri Human Trafficking Forum 2018

IMG_8831Ok, so this is WAY overdue. Like almost six months overdue. This event was actually held at the end of January, which is National Slavery and Human Trafficking Prevention Month. I kept meaning to type these notes and post them, but it just kept getting moved to the back burner.

However, that is in no way a reflection of Tapestri‘s event. This is the second year I’ve attended, and I absolutely plan to go back if they offer it again in 2019. This organization is doing tremendous work here in Atlanta, and throughout Georgia, and I’m grateful for them. And, it’s hard to believe, but this is actually a FREE event!

If you’re in the Atlanta area and care about this issue, be sure to join Tapestri’s email list so you can find out about any future events!

And, now, here are my notes:

  • Trafficking Victims Protection Act (TVPA) overview by Alpa Amin of GAIN, Ambassador Susan Coppedge, Alia El-Sawi of ICE and HSI
    • They’re now trying to get moe steep penalties and victim services.
    • It’s up for reauthorization again this year.
    • 14 government agencies deal with the issue of trafficking.
    • There is a Survivor Advisory Council that was appointed by Obama.
    • New laws are trying to keep products made with slave labor out of the country.
  • Georgia Asylum and Immigration Network (GAIN) info presented by Alpa Amin
    • GAIN helps people get T-Visas and legal help for foreign-born people.
    • T-Visa requirements:
      • Victim of severe harm
      • Present in US due to trafficking
      • Would suffer if returned home
    • Age requirement for T-Visa has increased, which is a good thing
    • Less evidence is now needed to prove status, which is also good
    • Transportation is not required, though it is called “trafficking”
    • Continued presence: If someone is VIEWED (meaning potential) as a victim, this is a form of parole that lasts for two years.
      • Allows them to live and work here
      • Helps establish rapport with victim
      • Victim-centered approach
      • Stepping stone to receive T-Visa
      • Gets person a driver’s license and social security card
      • Allows for access to resources
      • Don’t need a successful court case for continued presence or T-Visa, only cooperation
  • Tapestri presentation by Gabriela Leon of Tapestri
    • Works with foreign-born victims
    • Most people do not self-identify as victims, and foreign-born people may not even know that term.
    • Our stricter laws and rhetoric toward victims and immigrants only serves to reinforce traffickers words to victims.
    • Most cases are domestic, but they are also more likely to report because they likely know their rights better.
    • Here in Georgia, most foreign-born victims are from Mexico and Central America.
    • There should be a PR campaign to fight the perception that victims of crimes will be punished.
  • Additional resources:
  • Health Consequences of Trafficking presentation by Dr. Jordan Greenbaum of the Stephanie Blank Center for Safe and Healthy Children at Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta
    • Risk factors:
      • Child
      • Female
      • Missing
      • No skills
      • Prior victimization
      • Marginalized
      • Cognitive delays
      • Homeless
      • Drug/alcohol abuse
      • Family secrecy
      • Violence/abuse
      • Poor
      • Corrupt legal system
      • High tourism area
      • Social intolerance
      • Economic disparity
      • Migration
      • Cultural beliefs
      • Social upheaval
      • Stigma
    • Labor trafficking in the US often involves these industries/professions:
      • Agriculture
      • Hospitality (ex: hotel or restaurant worker)
      • Manufacturing
      • Domestic service
      • Janatorial
      • Construction
      • Landscaping
      • Nail salons
      • Massage parlor
      • Textiles
      • Fishing
      • Most reported cases are foreigners being brought into the US, which is the opposite of sex trafficking.
    • Health consequences of labor trafficking:
      • Untreated chronic medical consitions
      • Work-related injuries
      • Exposure to chemicals
      • Weight loss
      • Infection
      • Breathing
      • Consequences of sexual assault (47% of victims had STD’s)
      • Violence
      • PTSD
      • Mental issues
      • Headaches
      • Fatigue
      • Victims are also often forced to commit crimes for compliance.
    • Consequences of sex trafficking:
      • Drug and alcohol abuse
      • Chronic pain
      • Mental issues (depression, PTSD, suicidal)
      • Malnutrition
      • Work-related injuries
      • Sexual violence
      • Pregnancy, abortion
      • 88% of domestic victims saw health care professionals while this was happening!
    • Challenges to identifying:
      • Don’t self-identify
      • Reluctant to disclose
      • Few clinically-validated quick screening tools
      • Threats
    • Speak using “trauma-informed” care approach
      • Minimizes re-trauma
      • Ensures safety (in all forms)
      • Treat victim with respect (explain what you want to do)
      • Only ask questions you need to know
      • Ask about mental health
      • Respect authonomy
      • Be transparent
      • Listen, explain, negotiate
      • Make appropriate referrals
      • Ask their opinions
  • FBI presentation by Mary Jo Mangrum and Jennifer Towns
    • Has seen an increase in cases in the last decade, but likely because more people are reporting.
  • Polaris presentation on illicit massage parlors by Eliza Carmen
    • New 2018 report
      • Over 9,000 known in the US
      • $2.5 BILLION business
      • Majority of victims are from Southeast Asia
      • Average age is 35-55
      • 37-45% of ads for massage parlor work were illegal
    • Why don’t victims leave?
      • Fear of law enforcement
      • Debt
      • Fear of deportation (may be unsafe to return home)
      • Shame
      • Threats to themselves or family
      • Cultural coercion
    • Only 12% of cities have laws to enforce against illegal massage parlors
      • Usually licenses for therapists only, not the business itself
      • If you see a ILM, report to Polaris via phone, email, or online. Reports can be anonymous.
  • Working with Foreign National Minors presentation by Mersada Mujkanovic of Tapestri, Yamile Morales of Tapestri, and Christina Iturralde Thomas of KIND
    • Much the same tactics as adults, but kids are more naive and vulnerable.
      • Sports are also used as a tactic. Recruiting for traveling teams or initial building of relationships.
    • Victims under 18 do not have to comply or be helpful to gain status or benefits.
    • There is a specific refugee foster care program.
    • The designation of unaccompanied minor affords some protection, but they must also soon after defend themselves from deportation.
    • Common asylum fact patterns for children:
      • Severe child abuse
      • Resistance to or witness to gang activity
      • Family claims (ex: land disputes)
      • Domestic violence (including gang-related)
    • You do not get a court-appointed lawyer for immigration court, unlike criminal law, which again is harmful in them not knowing and understanding their rights.
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The Ministry of Reconciliation

Screen Shot 2016-07-10 at 6.26.59 AM

I was excited to visit the MLK Memorial in DC last fall.

One of my favorite passages of scripture is 2 Corinthians 5:11-21, particularly the part about God giving us the “ministry of reconciliation.” To me, that is central to the work of social justice. It is a mantle I have taken up, and carry with me. And it is what comforts me when I’m weary of how people have harmed each other over and over again, but feel the need to take a step forward anyway.

I once heard someone define justice as “God’s way of putting things right,” and I liked that. It makes the word both a noun and a verb, and I believe that’s how we need to treat it to make any real progress.

11 Since, then, we know what it is to fear the Lord, we try to persuade others. What we are is plain to God, and I hope it is also plain to your conscience. 12 We are not trying to commend ourselves to you again, but are giving you an opportunity to take pride in us, so that you can answer those who take pride in what is seen rather than in what is in the heart. 13 If we are “out of our mind,” as some say, it is for God; if we are in our right mind, it is for you. 14 For Christ’s love compels us, because we are convinced that one died for all, and therefore all died. 15 And he died for all, that those who live should no longer live for themselves but for him who died for them and was raised again.

16 So from now on we regard no one from a worldly point of view. Though we once regarded Christ in this way, we do so no longer. 17 Therefore, if anyone is in Christ,the new creation has come: The old has gone, the new is here! 18 All this is from God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation: 19 that God was reconciling the world to himself in Christ, not counting people’s sins against them. And he has committed to us the message of reconciliation. 20 We are therefore Christ’s ambassadors, as though God were making his appeal through us. We implore you on Christ’s behalf: Be reconciled to God. 21 God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God. (NIV)

These verses have rung loudly in my ears the past few days as we heard yet again about the tragic shooting of two African American men, compiled with the devastating addition of the attack on police officers in Dallas. Both are heartbreaking situations that never should have happened. But the question remains, what are we going to do about it?

I honestly think many people just don’t know what to do. It’s not that they don’t care, but they feel stuck in their response. Or maybe they feel conflicted in what to say, or how to react, or where to turn, or simply how not to offend. I’ve felt some of that myself, and I address it a bit here in this guest blog post.

So, if you can relate, I’d like to provide you with just a few resources that I hope will be helpful.

  • The first, of course and as always, is to pray. My friend Latasha started a terrific organization called Be The Bridge, which promotes racial unity and reconciliation through conversations and the Church. I suggest looking through her resources and site. But her first piece of advice for anyone is to pray. Pray for the situation. Pray for your personal response. Most of us live in our own bubbles, complete with people who look and think like us. So, pray for opportunities to make new friends or have these conversations with old friends. I think these are requests God would love to honor.
  • Another thing Latasha suggests is reading books by people who look and think different than you. Additionally, follow these kinds of people on social media, or go to the places they hang out.
  • Continuing along these lines, here is a fantastic conversation by Latasha and IF:Gathering founder, Jennie Allen, that took place on Friday. I highly recommend this 45-minutes as its just an honest sit-down between two friends.
  • This is a great article by Relevant Magazine for understanding the #BlackLivesMatter movement.
  • Check out this article by Kristen Howerton, who is white, which explains the concept of “white privilege.”
  • There are also many terrific books and movies as well. Two books I’ve read in the last year are The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness by Michelle Alexander and Just Mercy: A Story of Justice and Redemption by Bryan Stevenson. And I gotta say, the latter is one of the hardest and most beautiful books I’ve ever read. As far as movies, there are well-known ones like Life is Beautiful and American History X. Here are a bunch more, and it wouldn’t take much research to find others, or you can ask me for more. I have lots to catch up on in this area too, and have books piling up in my Audible Wish List.
  • Pardon the bleeping, but this The Daily Show clip does make some good points while also bringing some humor to the situation. It’s always good to infuse some humor when you can.

There are lots and lots more, but if you need a starting place, hopefully this will provide you with one.

But here’s your disclaimer: I’m telling you now that this can be a messy process. I know that sounds scary, but it doesn’t have to be. If you’re getting outside your comfort zone, which you should in many aspects of life, just remind yourself that you’re doing it to become a better person and more educated. Most often, the people who don’t look like you will be really grateful that you’re making an effort to see life through their lens. And grace will be extended on both sides. Just make a new friend. You’ve done that before. You don’t have initially start with a race conversation. In fact, they might appreciate that too. 🙂

Sadly, I have seen bigotry in action. I have witnessed an actual segregated community south of Atlanta, complete with the literal “other side of the tracks.” I have heard friend’s stories of how they were discriminated against. And even if you missed these things, you’ve probably heard jokes that come at someone else’s expense. We cannot keep pretending these are ok. We cannot keep silent. This kind of harmful thinking often starts in small ways. And therefore, small actions can create change.

When you know these people, not just know of them, you should want to fight for them.

It’s hard work. It’s ugly work. It’s messy work. But it work that matters. And if you follow Christ, you have also been given the ministry of reconciliation. So, what are you going to do about it?

“In a real sense all life is inter-related. All men are caught in an inescapable network of mutuality, tied in a single garment of destiny. Whatever affects one directly, affects all indirectly. I can never be what I ought to be until you are what you ought to be, and you can never be what you ought to be until I am what I ought to be… This is the inter-related structure of reality.”
― Martin Luther King Jr.’s Letter from Birmingham Jail 


UPDATE on 7/12/16

I’ve also just watched these two online sermons from this past Sunday, and they’re additional great examples to watch about how the Church can address the issue.

North Point Community Church

The Potter’s House


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Women’s Empowerment Day (It’s About Us All)

ProgramThis morning I attended a breakfast presentation for Women’s Empowerment Day at the Center for Civil and Human Rights. During the presentation, a panel of notable women spoke on the state of women’s issues locally, nationally and globally. While I didn’t agree with everything they said, it was clear that we all still have a lot of work to do.

Two things became forefront issues as the discussion continued: violence against women and the debate over how much control women have over their own bodies. It’s true that most people can agree that violence against women is a bad thing. We tend to form an overall consensus there. Yet, it’s still a huge problem. The latter, I realize, is a hot-button topic for politicians and us Christians alike. It’s not my desire to head down that rabbit hole right now, though. Instead, I think we can tie it back to the first, and agree that women should be protected from being forced into something they don’t want to do.

CenterI also learned two very startling facts. The first is that Georgia has the fifth highest rate in the US of women being killed by a domestic partner. The second is that the average age for a human trafficking victim in Georgia is 12 years old. These statistics should shock you, and I hope move to you action.

Issues like these can seem overwhelming. And you may not personally know anyone affected by them, therefore, you are unsure how you can help. But I assure you, you can create change.

 

 

In fact, here are six actions you can take immediately:

  1. Start at Home. Your biggest sphere of influence is likely within your home. Have open and honest conversations about these important issues within your own four walls. Also take stock of jokes and off-handed remarks that may could cause a problem or portray you as different from your actual beliefs in the eyes of those around you.
  2. Watch What You Watch. Sure, media is easy to blame. But the argument can also be made that we’re taking the time to watch and listen to what they have to say. The media is focused on ratings. They don’t keep putting out content we don’t, as far as the masses are concerned, care about. From TV shows to movies to music to video games and much more, media’s reach is far and wide. Take a hard look at your participation and what message it sends. Be a solution, even when no one else is watching.
  3. Realize It’s Not Just a Women’s Issue. Of course, it’s largely taken on by women, but more men should definitely be invested. Women’s issues affect the community and society as a whole. So if it makes you feel better to focus on capitalism, do that. When women are educated, working and thriving, it stimulates the economy.
  4. Talk About Sex. Um, so, yeah, it can get uncomfortable. But I hope you also realize that if you aren’t talking to your kids about sex, someone else will. And it’ll likely be from a source you wouldn’t want—refer back to #2, for example. Gender stereotypes and sexuality portrayed in the media are often far from the truth, but if that’s the only way your kids are getting their info, they won’t know that. You got designated a parent or guardian, so be that first.
  5. Help Your Boys Become Real Men. Too many men are set on their boys not becoming “soft.” They want their boys tough. They put them in sports and roughhouse with them and laugh when their little boys push or kiss little girls. On the surface, none of these things are bad. But how are they viewed? How are they reinforced? What is the intent behind them? Real men know how to treat women, and this is a taught and learned behavior. It begins when they’re little.
  6. Empower Your Girls. Abusers and traffickers are experts at finding a vulnerability and exploiting it. Instill in your girls confidence and a sense of self worth. It will make them a very unlikely target.

 

Clearly, these issues and suggestions are just starters. They are just the beginning of a dialogue I hope you will continue.

As my friend Stephanie and I walked around the Center afterwards, we landed in the Civil Rights area. It brings me to tears just standing in that room. We started talking about what we’d heard that morning, and what we were seeing in front of us, and how it was all still so unbelievable.

I told her that human rights and trafficking were our mantel to take up. They are our Civil Rights movement. I told her that if I’d lived during the 50’s and 60’s, I hope I would’ve had the guts to be a part of demonstrations and freedom rides. And I also told her that I hoped one day the displays would show how we eradicated such injustices.

Both times I’ve been to the Center I’ve stared at the older people who walk through the displays. I wonder what they’re thinking. Do they look at those walls with pride because they did something, even in their own small way, to bring about change? Do they feel shame because they did nothing and accepted racial inequality as part of the culture? Or are they just glad someone else did the work? I don’t know.

But one thing I do know is that if those displays are ever erected that tout trafficking and human rights injustices as part of our history and not our present, I want to be able to walk my friends and family through with my head held high, knowing that I helped make them a reality.

I will be the change I want to see in this world.

Won’t you join me?

“The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing.” – Edmund Burke


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First Visit: Center for Civil and Human Rights

photo 2Yesterday my friend Emily and I visited the new Center for Civil and Human Rights here in Atlanta. It just opened last month, so we were pretty excited to see it for the first time.

The second floor is about the Civil Rights movement here in the US. They have managed to include some good interactive portions so it’s not solely standing and reading. The most memorable part, to me, was the lunch counter demonstration. You sit at a lunch counter with a screen in front of you full of images from the era of inside sit-in protests and the reactions to them. But then you also put head phones on, close your eyes and place your hands on the counter. As you do, sound begins to feel your ears. It puts you in the place of the demonstrators. You hear people mocking you, yelling at you and even whispering in your ear. It’s eery how real the whispering feels, like it’s on your own neck and right next to you. My eyes, and so many others I saw, were filled with tears as I stood up, with a little better understanding of what that reality was like. Of course, there is also an emphasis on Atlanta and Georgia. The local info was really interesting, as I wasn’t that aware of how things played out here in Atlanta. While there was tension, as there was everywhere in the South, it remained well, more civil. It was, in fact, a stark contrast to the horrible things you heard from so many other areas in the region like Alabama and Mississippi. It really set the tone for Atlanta to become a more modern and progressive city. Martin Luther King, Jr. and numerous other activists and organizations were located here, but I never thought about the demonstrations, bus rides and the like happening in other cities and states because they weren’t needed as much in Atlanta. We even heard a older black woman sharing her personal experiences of growing up in the South and the things she faced with a few others. If it hadn’t looked odd, I think we would’ve both just followed her around the whole place!

Almost the entire third floor was reserved for Human Rights. It had some really cool interactive elements, including mirrored holograms when you walk in. You scroll through different types (Christian, Muslim, Blogger, Activist, Gay, Woman, Child, etc.), press one, and then hear personal stories of people who have photo 1had their rights violated all over the world. These are not the people who have books written about them, but are just as important. Their stories matter. There is also an Offenders and Defenders wall where you can see the heroes and villains of human rights. It was heartbreaking to see the number of lives represented in the Offenders section—millions and millions of people over the last century. But just as inspiring on the other side of the wall to see how many people’s lives were made better by the Defenders. After that, there was also a section on supply chain, showing you how your everyday purchases can help and hurt others. I’m really glad they included this part as it shows everyone’s involvement at an individual level and what to do about it. It doesn’t matter if you care about these issues or not, you still play a role in them. At the back of the main room, there is also a political freedom map which shows you countries where people are free, partly free or not free. There are also smaller exhibits on the role of technology and media, and touch screens where you can learn more about specific issues that are important to you. I also really liked that they told you ways to get involved in issues with the amount of time you have available.

The first floor, which we only really discovered as we were bout to leave because you actually enter the building on the second floor, was a MLK photography exhibit. Unfortunately, we ran out of time and were unable to see it. But we’re both looking forward to returning soon! I think this floor will have rotating exhibits.

My favorite part of the visit, I think, was watching a father escort his two elementary-aged sons through the center. He stopped and told them, in their language, what things meant and how important it is for them to know. It was the sweetest, most encouraging thing. After all, what good am I to this movement if I never share it with anyone else? Maybe the most impact I’ll have on these issues is telling someone about it with a greater capacity than myself to do something that creates change.

I love that this center is open and here where I live. If you are in the Atlanta area, be sure to stop by and bring others with you. If not, plan on making a trip. (For those of you with families, it’s literally beside the Aquarium and World of Coke.) It was encouraging to see the place crawling with people, young and old, with many colors and backgrounds. The website says an average visit is 75 minutes, but if you are truly interested in these subjects, plan on much longer. We were there three hours, and could’ve easily spent another!

Unlike many museums I visit, I think I would’ve been happy to sit at the door all day and just ask everyone who entered why they were there. There would have surely been some fascinating stories!

I also felt a strange sense of connection to everyone around me. It was a place of like-minded people. We were there because we believe in the mission. We were drawn there because people matter. I don’t think we gathered there because of any particular names on the walls, but because those walls were needed. We mourned, we celebrated and we were changed.