When hundreds of members and supports of Phi Beta Sigma Fraternity meet in Las Vegas on April 11 for the first day of their 2013 Leadership Conference, awareness will be brought to a situation rarely addressed in the Black community: sex trafficking.
The San Diego chapter of Phi Beta Sigma has recently partnered with San Diego-based non-profit Nu(me)r.a.l.s. to launch a new campaign, “Gentlemen Don’t John,” pushing men of color to speak about the realities of sex trafficking. “John” is a commonly used term to identify men who solicit prostitutes.
The growing number of Black and African American women sold into sex trafficking made it imperative to spread awareness about this growing epidemic, according to Nu(me)r.a.l.s. Executive Director and Founder Chida R. Warren-Darby. Nearly 40 percent of the girls trafficked in the United States are African American and more than 48 percent of the pimps are Black.
During the first day of the four-day conference, the two organizations will sponsor a town hall meeting on sex trafficking and its impact on the Black community. Panelists include Khalifa King, CEO and founder of Harmonious Solutions, a nonprofit that provides therapy and general counsel to minority communities, and Black sex trafficking survivor and advocate Leah Albright-Bryd.
The event will mark the first time Albright-Bryd has returned to Las Vegas since her friend Bridget, who she coerced into prostitution and sex trafficking, was murdered in the city. Albright-Byrd has since founded an organization, Bridget’s Dream, in her friend’s honor to help rescue young girls from the business.
Warren-Darby said that as she began mentoring girls in the San Diego area, the theme of sex trafficking continuously emerged.
“Trafficking kept coming up and initially I didn’t think it was happening here. When you hear trafficking you think of some place abroad like Taiwan,” said Warren-Darby. “I met a lot of survivors. Kids are being pimped in schools. Families are pimping kids.”
She said she then knew she had to use her organization as a platform to address the growing problem.
During the town hall meeting, Warren-Darby said she hopes to inform Black men about the realities of prostitution and sex trafficking.
“It’s supply and demand. We can’t stop them from soliciting prostitution, but we can hope to bring awareness,” said Warren-Darby.
She said she looks for King to address sex trafficking and prostitution and the Black male psyche during the discussion.
Warren-Darby is critical of the rap culture and its violent and sexually explicit lyrics, which she said create numbness to the seriousness of prostitution and sex trafficking.
“Our music culture plays a big role. Unfortunately there are parts of our culture that promote pimping and gaining status and finances through sex,” said Warren-Darby. “It’s like the Pied Piper. You listen to the beat because it sounds good and it brings a numbness to the issue.”
Warren-Darby’s comments comes on the heels of rapper Rick Ross facing criticism from Black community leaders, social critics and fellow rap and hip-hop artists for his song “U.O.E.N.O,” in which he raps about drugging a woman’s champagne and having sex with her while “she ain’t even know it.”
Ross on April 4 apologized about the lyric on Twitter, stating, “I don’t condone rape. Apologies for the #lyric interpreted as rape. #BOSS.”
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