domestic trafficking in macon, GA?

Recently, Macon, GA has prided itself in passing legislation that criminalizes massage parlors that do not carry legitimate licenses.  This means that several of the slimy “spas” in town will be shut down (though I have no idea what they plan to do to help the VICTIMS!?!?)– I have personally seen a few on the list still with OPEN neon signs.  I could go on and on about how this only drives the issues to the next town, leaving the women no more safe than they were– but oh yea, we just wanted to clean up Macon, right? Because it looks bad on this Bible belt town to have “prostitutes” and it corrupts our men.  I guess we weren’t really in it to help the women.. My mistake.

My concern today is with the issue of domestic trafficking that has been happening for years, right in our backyards.  There are a few reasons that make this type of trafficking (or suspected trafficking) difficult to tackle– and they are semi-legitimate concerns.  Domestic trafficking that takes place in Macon (or what I would certainly describe as such, which I will discuss below) seems to have strong connections with the gangs in town.  While organized crime in any form can be dangerous, I imagine that most people here have little difficulty feeling a sense of power over the owners of massage parlors (usually Korean, Vietnamese and Chinese)– there is some sense of entitlement over the control of “the other”, the outsider, and most people probably think that they can just drive them out.

Domestic trafficking, I imagine, is more daunting and downright scarier than “dealing with the other”.  White men in their suits and Mercedes may have economic advantage over most of South Macon, but they would be scared shitless (excuse my French!) walking down Houston Avenue or the south end of Second Street– to be sure.  Gangs, “kingpins”, guns, drugs and street prostitution are rampant.

So let me tell you what I know about this breed of domestic human trafficking.  The gang members call it “low-key prostitution”.  From what I understand, it’s the “pimping out” of young girls – sisters of someone who knows someone – and the head of the gang (won’t put his name here, but I bet those of you from Macon might know of this monster) rewards men who do a good job (stealing something, beating someone up, killing someone, managing drug trafficking operations) by offering up member X’s 14-yr-old sister.  Member X is scared of the “king pin” and cannot refuse.  Likewise, his sister (who might protest at first) does not want her brother or family to be in trouble with said king pin, and essentially agrees to the arrangement.  If you want to be a member of this gang, you better understand that your female relatives are now sex slaves, up-for-grabs whenever the boss-man deems fit.  Apparently, you can also “get a girl” by knowing someone who knows someone who knows this guy.  This is not the only form of trafficking this gang uses.  Young boys (and perhaps girls to some extent) are used as runners (and sometimes for sex also) for the groups drug operations.  Some of these young people come from as far as Boston and they are generally thought to be in the custody of some distant family member for the summer.  Unsuspecting parents (and, sadly, some parents who do suspect but do little to intervene) find out that their teens are in fact involved in drug trafficking and being exploited for their bodies.

But this Sunday-only, Bible-clutching community doesn’t really want much to do with this type of human trafficking.  Honestly, I do not really know where to begin with something like this, and I admit that I also would not be brave enough to infiltrate this type of organization.  I just wish the people who have the ability to do so would get on it already.

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sex therapy

In the meeting with the commissioners, individuals for and against the spas in Macon, GA touched on one same aspect: That men going to these spas are typically “family men”- husbands, fathers, sons being “initiated” as men.  On one extreme, this was said to be their god-given right, their freedoms in the US extend to spa-frequenting.  On the other extreme, the women “working” (I put this in quotation marks because work implies that they are being paid, and I’m just not sure that they are..) in these spas are ruining families, luring and corrupting men.

If you Google spas in Macon, you might find reviews for spas. Some of these are in the form of discussion boards, where “clientele” post degrading remarks about how they acting during their paid visits, how they violated some woman’s body, usually, they add, in a way that their wife/girlfriend would never allow them to do.

The other day, I was digesting all of these ideas and points-of-view and started rambling thoughts off to my mom on the way back from Virginia (she lost her voice due to pollen allergies, so I had the chance to sift through my brain and bring up all kinds of interesting topics for semi-one-sided discussion).   What I came up with as a solution during this particular thought process was sex therapy.

Perhaps, Macon, GA, part of the Bible Belt southern US, is home to prudes- male and female- who find it taboo to act or even talk about acting in certain ways in the bedroom.  I don’t know this for sure, but I think it’s possible.  On these posts, there have also been some comments about “upright (uptight) Christian women” and suggestions that they are basically holding back in the bedroom.  I think that what these men and women need is sex therapy.  I think that if they can meet with a professional (or, really, learn how to discuss these things with each other) to bring up their individual expectations and secret desires, then maybe they can reach a happy medium.  I cannot stand hearing some cheating man (or woman for that matter) and sex-spa-visiting Johns, use the excuse that their significant other just wasn’t pleasing them.  That’s so lazy. And so 1800s.  I want to see people be more open and talk about their sex life with the person they supposedly love.  It’s healthy.   This kind of open dialogue, I believe, can be a starting point in eliminating the demand for exploited women– and least the type of demand that (as far as I can tell) exists in Macon.

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priorities in development

After having to delay my trip to Hanoi, Vietnam, I find myself trying to make the most of my time here in good ol’ Macon, Georgia. I was born and raised here and I do love the way the South feels for the most part– I feel, well, at home.

Last Tuesday I attended a hearing at the Courthouse– to talk about an new ordinance that will regulate the massage parlors and spas here in town.  Apparently, in the years that I have been away, there has been a huge trend of “Asian spas” cropping up in Middle Georgia. We’re not far from the world’s busiest airport (in Atlanta) and we’re 30 minutes away from a military base, so it kind of makes sense.

I’ve tried to learn more about what’s going on and what I get from news articles and information from friends & family is that the police raids and investigations on these spas have been unsuccessful. Well, what I would consider unsuccessful.  If a witch-hunt is their purpose, then I suppose they feel pretty happy with themselves. Prostitution is illegal here, obviously.  So until very recently women have (and continue to be) treated as criminals, cited with “masturbation for hire” and other such crimes.  There was no consideration given to the fact these women may or may not be victims of human trafficking.

Luckily, I met some kindred spirits at the hearing and I even got up and said a few words myself.  Sadly, however, some of the arguments for and against the ordinance fell short of recognizing women as potential victims of human trafficking.  Arguments for the ordinance held that these massage parlors ruin the way visitors view Macon, GA (Cherry Blossom capital) and that their presence is corrupting men and ruining families. One man speaking against the ordinance felt that it was a man’s right to go get a hand job or blow job at one of these places and that we’re all Fascists if we think that the government should have any say in the matter.  Some people (and I’ve heard this argument more than once) feel that Macon – which is ranked as 7th worst city in the US in terms of crime – has enough to worry about with all of the drugs, murders and robberies.  I hate this way of thinking. It’s the same with rape cases.  I probably wouldn’t know as much about this if my beau wasn’t a police officer, but seriously, what we read about with rape kit backlogs and such happens everywhere.  Furthermore, prevention isn’t even on their radar. Why would they worry about an attempted rape case when they have actual murders in progress every single night? Why would they “waste time” with saving people who they consider to be prostitutes (since human trafficking victims would readily testify against their captors).

Maybe I’m too much of an idealist, or maybe I am just defensive because this happens to be my passion, but I find it ridiculous to think that people living in slavery (granted investigations need to be done, I guess we can’t just assume they are.. though there’s a good deal of evidence) are treated as less worthy of assistance than people who are robbed.. Not only that, but they are usually treated as criminals! UGH.

Disappointing and frustrating at best.

I did have the pleasure of meeting Dottie, Mary Alice and Andrew, who work as part of MG Alert, which has apparently been working on advocacy and awareness in the Middle Georgia area. I am excited at the prospect of working in their team and look forward to learning more from them and helping them where I can.

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playing with PREZI

Can you tell what the ‘big picture’ is???

http://prezi.com/f4ytdi4xct3b/

Picture 2

http://prezi.com/mnvgl8wutpwu/china-factor-scenario-development/

Picture 1

http://prezi.com/nglvmknspelt/

Picture 2

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progress report

I’ve wanted to use Prezi for presenting my intersection project in Women’s Human Rights class.. I’ve seen it used before a few times and I’m not afraid of playing around with something new. So I have been.

The primary deliverable for my project, like it or not, is a paper. So that has been taking up the bulk of my time. Other than that, I’ve been tossing ideas around with friends like a mini photoshoot (since I don’t have my own photos of trafficking victims) that can compliment the stories that I have of women who have found themselves in false marriages in Taiwan. I’ve also done the preliminary contacting to friends in Vietnam for the interviews..

Bob and Lynn suggested several things about my project on Friday..
1- back to the power of a story– maybe the interviews are secondary.. people need to hear the voices behind the issue– the young women’s stories.
2- prezi.. it’s about the big picture.. what’s the big picture?

Well, I know the big picture, but what does prezi do for the project that powerpoint doesn’t/can’t? It let’s you step back and see the whole. Amer completely jump-started my inspiration for using prezi in a more effective way! I told him about the project and what the issues were and what’s expected in the paper.. “From what you say, it looks like …” and he drew a box with “problem” in the middle and two arrows pointing toward it, one labeled “Taiwan” and the other “Vietnam”– these are the push and pull factors of migration that I was telling him about.. “Then you can put little points along the arrows.. or zoom in to explore this …”

Basically, I need to step back away from the structure of my paper and play around with the space that I have– take advantage of the tool. ha. Prezi, I’ll have you figured out, yet! Photo 518

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finding meaning.

When Seth told us to spread out where we sit today, I knew there was going to be a quiz. But I had no idea they were going to quiz me on the meaning of life. Le sigh. Furthermore, I can’t believe that I was sucked into thinking that Seth and Pablo could actually score such a quiz! Silly me. Another thing I can’t believe is that you made me choose between “God” and “solving global human trafficking”.. eek. That one, honestly, took me the longest time to figure out (just a silly labyrinth game, right?) I won’t share which one I ultimately chose for that one.. but I can tell you that I chose to feed the cat instead of attending the make-up lecture =P

Meaning.. This weekend, I will complete the “But Out” exercise in the appendix of the chapter on Meaning in Daniel Pink’s [A Whole New Mind].. mmmm!

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10 things

[display_podcast]

1- glasses
2- cup of tea
3- necklace with jade ox from china
4- walgreen’s brand ibuprofen
5- slippers from nyc chinatown
6- apple core
7- pen
8- pad of paper
9- laptop
10- chinese dvd ‘red cliff’ that i was supposed to give back to my prof yesterday

jade ox

The item that means the most to me is my necklace with a jade ox pendant on a red cord. You might see a lot of Chinese people wearing jade on red cords.. I wear mine everyday.  It reminds me of my time in China.  The necklace  reminds me of my wonderful experience in the country.  The jade pendant, the ox, is my Chinese zodiac sign. This year, if you didn’t know, is the year of the ox! The ox is supposed to be down-to-earth, logical and hardworking, among other things (see below).. I don’t think that I’m very ox-like.. so wearing this necklace is somehow, in the back of my mind, a way to center and balance myself. I hope that wearing the necklace reminds me of this.

The Ox is the sign of prosperity through fortitude and hard work. As one might guess, such people are dependable, calm and modest. Like his animal namesake, the Ox is unswervingly patient, tireless in his work, and capable of enduring any amount of hardship without complaint.

The ox person needs peace and quiet to work through his/her ideas, and when he/she has set his/her mind on something it is hard for him/her to be convinced otherwise. The ox person has a very logical mind and is extremely systematic in whatever he/she does, in spite of a total lack of imagination. He/she can be very stubborn, and difficult to dissuade once he/she decides on something. These people speak little, but are intelligent, and when necessary, they are both articulate and eloquent.

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i lied!

I was just now washing dishes and that’s a time when I get to think about a million things.. and I just realized that I lied to Bob in class today. hahaha. You can all read about it in my other post about the digital story, but I indeed chose the fotos before I had anything to say story-wise.  Well, at least the fotos that I had of my own, because I knew that I had some dark-ish ones that would express my feelings … THEN  I journal-ed.

It’s Friday.

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so what? :: the question for 9oct09 class

what’s the connection with all that we have learned so far in the digital media for change course? empathy.. symphony.. story..

how do i move forward from here? and what do i take with me when i leave?

well, for starters, empathy is a huge aspect that’s going to be important for my future work in anti-human trafficking.. having the empathy to listen to stories and the ability to transfer that empathy to an audience that might not be able to relate otherwise. then comes the story-telling part.. i think that in order to reach out to people and create empathy through the stories, i will need symphony.. because i need to take something that can be so abstract for many of us and connect it to our lives.

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tightrope.

To me, it’s really so simple, that life should be lived on the edge. You have to exercise rebellion. To refuse to tape yourself to the rules, to refuse your own success, to refuse to repeat yourself, to see every day, every year, every idea as a true challenge. Then you will live your life on the tightrope.
- Phillipe Petit

I watched “Man on Wire” with a friend last night. What an amazing movie! Speaking of storytelling, Phillipe is an awesomely engaging storyteller. He really sucks you into the scene. Granted, walking on a rope from one of the Twin Towers to the other is a pretty awesome feat, but his animated face and body make you feel like you are also sneaking past security.. or feeling the rush of adrenaline as you step from the corner of the building on to the rope.

Living life on the edge… it doesn’t mean getting into trouble, breaking laws or causing harm to people. It means living life to the fullest and never regretting a single moment, but learning and growing from it. I guess it also doesn’t mean act first and think later, which it might sound like. On the contrary, Mr Petit was very calculating (with the guidance of the often more practical members of his team of course).  It’s not that life is a game and it’s not that you try to outsmart the gods. It’s more that, out of respect and awe for the fragility and beauty of life,  you act to push the limits within reason.. and you don’t settle for less.

If this film doesn’t inspire, I don’t know what can..

The end was a bit sad.. seems that some friendships were lost in the completion of this feat and in the making of the star tightrope walker.. I like that the film didn’t forget to include this part..

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