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.
Salamishah Tillet is an assistant professor of English at the University of Pennsylvania and co-founder of the non-profit organization, A Long Walk Home, Inc., which uses art therapy and the visual and performing arts to document and to end sexual violence against underserved women and children.