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Aishah Shahidah Simmons, producer of the award-winning documentary "NO!," says "There is a deafening silence because we do not think that the face of girls who are trafficked are black, which I believe is directly related to the sobering reality that black girls' lives are not valued or considered worthy enough to protect or rescue." Simmons says she is not surprised that even in the international sphere, rescuing and saving black women and girls who are trafficked is absent from most news coverage, films and conversations on addressing and ending trafficking. "For instance, Nigeria is the main country of origin for women and girls who are sold into prostitution in Italy," she says, "and yet most folks solely think about Eastern European and Asian women and girls who are trafficked." The end result is that black girls, in and outside the United States, who are sold into sexual slavery are endangered and abandoned.
Coupled with a deafening silence about domestic sexual trafficking and cultural stigmas about childhood sexual violence within our communities and churches, these girls become casualities of war, with the traffickers emerging as the victors. To end the trafficking of young black girls, we must have initiatives that name the crime as such. This movement, according to Simmons, requires that "mainstream media, many human rights organizations who work on trafficking of women, and Hollywood," include the saving black girls within their missions.
Moreover, this movement shouldn't only feature black male leaders, such as Rev. Al Sharpton and Russell Simmons, who can take back the neighborhood under the mantle of black male protection. That only answers part of the problem. We must also have a cross-gender, multigenerational movement to abolish sexual slavery that prevents young girls (and boys) from becoming potential victims and perpetrators of sexual violence.
Granted, we must understand that the raping and selling of black girls is connected to a myriad of social issues, such as gang activity, the illegal drug trade, failed child protective services and rising unemployment. But, we must place the sexual trafficking of African-American girls at the forefront of our conversations about social justice, our legislations and public policies, and our demands for racial and gender equality.
To not do so, means that we idly sit by, while thousands upon thousands of black girls are sold into another peculiar institution of slavery.