Dear VASMS Members,
Happy December to All. I hope you all are enjoying the Holiday Season of Christmas, Hanukkah, Kwanzaa, Winter Solstice, and the beautiful snow and lights filling the area during winter! The bustle of the season always happily reminds me of a good friend of mine who was a Caucasian Jew who married an African-America Baptist and busily celebrated what she called Christmashanukwanzakkah! From November to January, her life was a flurry of a family of 5, tons of friends, Santas, Jesus in the manger, candy canes, menorahs, dreidels, lots of brisket, African and African-American food and art, and lots and lots of gifts. I hope your holidays are less stressful, but just as colorful and merry!
To elevate a little of that stress, we will be canceling tomorrow's VASMS meeting. We had planned to attend an event that ended up being cancelled, and by that time we had rescheduled our December speaker for January. So, take the month off, and I will soon send out an update on our Jan 11, 2010 VASMS general Meetup (Monday at 7 pm)--the first of the New Year! Our scheduled speaker is a member of senior management at a prominent NGO in NOVA that works to stop Human Trafficking, among having other human rights missions! I'm amazed to report that in just over three short months, we've accomplished a huge amount this year, including the following:
- Led awareness-raising outreach in NOVA, which has led to the opening of a current Federal case of human trafficking!!! (this is my favorite thing we did--yeah, go VASMS!)
- Growing to 74 members from across the state and DC Metro area
- lobbying our Governor, Congressmen, Senators, and Delegates
- hosting a major community event, the Safe Child Fair
- being entered into the Congressional Record for our anti-human trafficking efforts and the Safe Child Fair
- being written-up in the news
- being asked to sit in the City of Alexandria's Working Group to look at proposed changes to massage therapist licensing, an issue which may have some effect on law enforcement's ability to track possible traffickers and establishments where trafficking occurs
- tabling at awareness-raising events, such as the MD Stop Modern-Day Slavery Rally and the DC Stop Child Trafficking Now walk, for which our team was one of the largest and top fundraising teams for the entire event
WOW! I sure am proud of you ALL, and what we've accomplished together in such a short time. Can you even imagine what we can do together in 2010?! I'm grateful for all of you for your interest and initiative to join VASMS.
And please join me in thanking the following members for their volunteering, hard work, dedication, and generous support for and of VASMS, and the anti-human trafficking movement in general (feel free to send your fellow members an email, or just say thanks in your heart):
Karen King, Kerre Gadoury, Karen Yang, Elizabeth Gilhuly, Greg Bristol, Becky Farrar, Carmen Radu, Cassandra Clifford, Anna Leung, Lisa Lynn Chapman, Nilouh Nawab, Stacey Ivie, Rissa, Ken Johnson, Marianne Johnson, Dan McKenna, Brooksie Wells, Julie Bridstrup, Julia Bryson, Sergio Hasebe, Dan Brook, Kevin Bales, and of course, our honorary member Marthia Sides for donating her amazing singing talent to the cause! Thank you to Brad Myles for speaking to us about HT in NOVA, and a huge thanks to Linda and Holly for hooking us up! (You know what I mean, ladies. We could not have done it without you!) With respect and humility, I thank the leaders of DCSMS, especially Ray Lian for being an inspiring example and a patient and listening ear. Ray, you have mentored me, whether you know it or not, and I am deeply grateful. You are a true hero of this movement and a stunning reminder of how one person really can change the world!
Of these outstanding members, Karen King, Kerre Gadoury, Karen Yang, and Greg Bristol provided exceptional assistance, including countless hours and late nights of hard work--thank you from the bottom of my heart!
And, finally, a resounding thank you to Congressman Gerry Connolly and his staff for taking so much time to talk with us and being receptive to working on the issue of human trafficking. We look forward to working with this prominent member of Congress representing Virginia in the future. Please call Congressman Connolly's office when you get a chance and thank him personally![masked]
I've learned so much about the issue of human trafficking this year, and have been amazed by the hard work and dedication of our law enforcement, NGO, and community members who work tirelessly to end HT across the world and the United States. We have learned that HT is real and exists in VA, and we have a lot of work to do to end it in our own communities!
Looking to the future, we need a Virginia law, first and foremost. We need a shelter and services for victims in Virginia. We need those who create the demand for sex and labor trafficking to be held accountable. And we need an educated citizenry, including law enforcement from the beat cop to the judge. (We'll be providing opportunities in the new year for you all to work with us to accomplish these goals, and we look forward to your getting involved!) But despite all these needs, most of all we need that most precious thing that makes the world go round, yet is seldom talked-about in public life. That thing is LOVE.
We need Love if we're gonna turn the tides of crime and injustice in our state, and truly see the downtrodden, hidden, "illegal", poor, weak, and flawed as victims, valuable, and necessary! We need LOVE to ask ourselves, "Would I trade places with that person?," and if the answer is "No" to do something about it! And we need LOVE to end Human Trafficking in Virginia! The bad news is that we need a lot of it; the good news is that LOVE is the one thing I know we have more of than we can ever use up!
I love the saying by Cornell West, modern-day prophet, scholar, and writer; Mr, West says, "Justice is what Love looks like in public."
So, if you feel a little weird fighting for LOVE and talking about LOVE out there in the cold, cruel world, then fight for justice, and talk about it all the time. (Just between you and me, we'll be the only ones who know that it's really LOVE we're working for! Don't worry, I won't tell anybody!)
And, with that I say thanks again, happy December and all that goes with it, and see ya next year at the VASMS meetings!
With love and justice for ALL,