Alexander Burnett & Forest Jarvis
(Students at Middlebury College)
On December 4, 2012, Shamere McKenzie was invited together with Laura Murphy to speak to Middlebury College students about modern-day slavery. Their talk was part of a symposium organized by the Stop Traffick group on campus, a group dedicated to raising awareness about human trafficking.
Shamere spoke to the audience about the culture of sex trafficking within the United States, explaining how words like “pimp” are accepted without question in our everyday vocabulary. In particular she gave the example of the song “It’s Hard out Here for a Pimp”, which glorifies the life of a pimp. The song won the Academy Award for Best Original Song in 2005 with almost no controversy despite its subject material.
She then explained the different types of trafficking and how girls come to be involved in this industry. Shamere explained how her pimp lured her in by appealing to her political and personal interests, creating an affinity with her. She was then coerced into sex slavery, enduring 18 months of exploitation. Explaining how others are forced into the business, she noted how many girls who are being exploited via gangs are allowed to go to school so they can recruit classmates. She told the harrowing story of girls who would go to what they were told would be a “skip party” only to be raped by a group of men. She explained how such men threaten to expose photographs or use other psychological tactics to discourage girls from coming forward. Shamere explained that pimps are the “smartest people in the world” as they are constantly thinking up new ways to manipulate young girls and keep them under their control.
Students next heard from Laura Murphy, a professor at Loyola University and National College Chapter Coordinator for Free the Slaves. She explained how 27 million people are currently enslaved in the world with no hope of escape. She compared past slavery with modern slavery, explaining how there are few differences between the two, with the exception that modern slavery is hidden from view. She spoke of five key elements needed in the abolitionist movement: knowledge, funding, rescue, rehabilitation, and legal enforcement. The first two are categories in which student activists are most able to make an impact. She encouraged students to think of personal skills and of connections in the community that they can use to make a difference.