True heroes never silence voices from the ground, they expand them

Jes Richardson – WNN SOAPBOX

Rosa Parks with Martin Luther King Jr.
Black civil rights and human rights activist Rosa Parks stands near a young Martin Luther King Jr. during a Montgomery, Alabama rally in 1955. Image: Wikipedia/Ebony Magazine

(WNN) Los Angeles, California, UNITED STATES, AMERICAS: What would Martin Luther King Jr. think of the abolition movement today? What would he think of the movement that uses his name? If he was alive today, I believe he would call out the bitterness and hate. He would call out the injustice of the people. He would speak against the movement that silences the voices from within the sex industry.

I fell into this trap of bitterness toward the very people that helped me. The trap that says sex work equals slavery. The trap that says all buyers are rapists. For years, I spoke of my pain in trafficking, ignoring my own experiences in sex work. I lacked options; I didn’t have any other way to support myself. It wasn’t an organization that helped me find freedom. It wasn’t a church. It wasn’t a rescuer. It was a sex worker.

Martin Luther King Jr. said, “They [white people] have come to realize that their freedom is inextricably bound to our freedom [negro people]. We cannot walk alone. And as we walk we must make the pledge that we shall always march ahead. We cannot turn back. There are those who are asking the devotees of civil rights, “When will you be satisfied?” We can never be satisfied as long as the Negro is the victim of the unspeakable horrors of police brutality.”*

Applying this to our current abolitionist movement, the freedom of trafficking survivors is inextricably bound to the rights of sex workers. I will never be satisfied with a movement that silences the voices of trafficking survivors and sex workers, alike. I will never be satisfied as long as sex workers and trafficking survivors are the victims of police brutality. I will never be satisfied as long as our country criminalizes those making a living through sex work. I will never be satisfied until all people have the option of a living wage. I will never be satisfied until we see the day that law enforcement protects the citizens of this country. I will never be satisfied with one demographic being exalted above another.

Today, I will step forward and say, I’m sorry for my words that silenced the sex work community. I’m sorry for not listening. I’m sorry that I denied a part of my own story in an effort to stop the horrors of trafficking. I will no longer ignore my experiences as both a survivor of trafficking and a former sex worker. I will no longer stand by and watch the anti-trafficking movement silence the voices of sex workers or trafficking survivors.

With great humility, I say, I have my own dream. I dream of a land where freedom rings from the star-lined streets of Hollywood to the ghettos of Detroit. I dream of the day when all God’s people, Transgender and Cis-gender, Black and White, Abolitionist and Sex Worker, Homosexual and Heterosexual, Christian and Atheist, War-Bound and Peace-Keepers, will unite and live the words that our country was built on, but have yet to see, “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.”** I can hear a new bell ringing.

It’s ringing for all people to lay down our weapons of hate and injustice, and raise up our voices of love and equality for all people.

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Jes Richardson is a survivor of sex trafficking and a former sex worker, as well as an educator, speaker, and blogger. She resides in Los Angeles, California with her husband and six children. Richardson is the CEO of the One Dream Movement, that works today to help those working inside the modern abolitionist movement to understand the vast complexities of issues surrounding today’s modern slavery. One Dream also works to give survivors of sex-trafficking human dignity and a step-up in the process to rebuild life.

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