Jasmine Guy isn’t going to put her name on just anything.
In fact, she’s never going to just put her name on something — you better believe she’s going to be invested in whatever piece of philanthropy that she’s signing up for.
The six time NAACP-Award winning actress is the new spokesperson for the ‘I Am Not Yours!,’ which provides financial support to assist organizations throughout the United States in an effort to eliminate child sex trafficking of young girls and women.
Tonight, in conjunction with the City of Atlanta’s Restorative Justice Center of Atlanta, the campaign is co-hosting their first “Diamond on the Half Shell” benefit at the beautiful Atlanta City Hall Atrium from 6:00 p.m. to 9:00 p.m.
We talk with Jasmine and campaign co-founder Mona Stephen about their effort to raise funds to change the lives of sex trafficking victims.
What made you want to be a part of this campaign?
Jasmine: Mona had gotten me an invitation to go to a fashion show that would benefit two different organizations that were fighting sex trafficking: one that housed victims — or survivors, as they like to be referred to — and the other that provided funds for awareness. I was so moved by the information I got, the stats that I got on child sex trafficking, and the fact that it happened in all the major cities. Atlanta was very high, like one of the top 3, where it was going on. I was shocked. I learned that at major events like Super Bowl … they actually ship girls in for those major events and bring them to hotels, and it’s so awful. Young the girls are kidnapped and forced into this life, and it is difficult to then have a normal life when you come out. If I’m gonna use my name for various charities and causes, I would like to pick one and make more of a difference than to spread myself out. I have many interests – the arts, education, prison reform – but I just felt that I needed to focus on one thing and get a real voice out there for awareness for our public, our adult public, but also for young girls so they have some tools and they can recognize when this is happening, if it’s happening.
Obviously to pull off a program like, it’s going to take money. What do you guys need to make this work?
Mona: You just said it: money! One of the things that we’re bringing to the table is the awareness. Because we have launched on a national level and we do grab the ears of people, they listen. There are so many people who are unaware of the epidemic, and so what we’re providing is just that height of awareness for the restorative justice center, so that corporate sponsors and our citizens can contribute dollars. We’re looking to raise $50,000 (tonight) for the Restorative Justice Center.
Jasmine: And I’d like to say that most of the survivors, the victims that are found, is very rare. Don’t think everybody’s going up there and being rescued. This is a situation where we don’t know where these kids are, they could be there for five, six, seven years and the Ariel Castro situation happens all over the country where they actually cage girls, torture girls, they’re raped by multiple men nightly. I don’t think the horror of what happened to those three girls in that one situation, I don’t think the country realizes that that’s going on everywhere. I’m sure it was a shock — it is a shock that it happened right in a neighborhood and that he was so able to assimilate to the community and go home and be this monster, but that is what they do. That is what pimps do and it’s what kidnappers do. They’re very charming, they’re able to seduce girls as easily as giving them some money or buying them some new shoes, taking them around for a few weeks, making them feel grown and special and before you know it they’re driving them out to the country. Some of these girls actually go to school and then get picked up by these men, taken back to where their home. There’s a caste system within these homes, some of the girls have become recruiters, so I don’t think people understand the violence and how hideous it is. What happened to those three girls with Ariel Castro happens all over the country. It is horrible and I don’t think anybody understands.
That all sounds quite horrible …
Mona: That’s right. It’s a mental abduction. I’ve heard people relate it to just an abused spouse. You know, why don’t you just leave? You’re mentally abducted. We both have 14-year-old daughters, and I also have a 17-year-old daughter who has had a classmate who was a victim, left school for a whole year with a “boyfriend.” Nobody really reported her missing, she was just gone, and came back the next year as if nothing happened. But, you know, this is what goes on in our neighborhood — and I will say that that is in one of the top 10 public schools in our state … we’re not talking about just some little neighborhood school, we’re talking about this thing can happen in any type of community with any child.
It’s all just so gut wrenching. Being a mother of a daughter, Jasmine, does that make this more personal for you?
Jasmine: Well, anything I get involved in I would like to know what I’m talking about and have more influence than just showing up at a benefit, speaking and having people come to see me and sign autographs. I wanted something that I could really devote my time, energy and heart to. I go to these centers, meet the victims, meet the survivors, talk to them. It’s very difficult. It’s very difficult to hear, it’s very difficult to watch the videos and documentaries. Some of it, I really can’t do. I can’t stomach … have that in my psyche. To see where human beings can go … like, in the Congo, … to see how easily we’re raped, how easily we’re taken advantage of, how easily we as women and girls are discarded because we’re physically weaker than men, and how despicable these people are. It’s slavery and they’re profiting from it and they’re making lots of money from it. And nobody wants to call it what it is and talk about how brutal it is, just like how nobody talks about how brutal slavery was. They gloss over slavery in our country. They gloss over the brutality of it, of the holes that they dug in the ground so that a pregnant woman’s belly could fit in it while she’s getting flogged and laying flat on the ground. They don’t talk about that. That’s what happened. That is where human beings can go and that is why they need a voice.
Learn more about the campaign — and how to contribute — here: www.iamnotyours.com.