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Local News in Virginia

Local Workshop To Address Human Trafficking

The Civil War physically ended slavery in the United States in 1865, but it was the passage of the 13th Amendment that legally abolished slavery.

Yet, the practice of enslavement has been ongoing in various forms since 1865.

After emancipation, Black men and women could be arrested for frivolous reasons, jailed and leased to farmers to labor on farms or to the state to work on chain gangs.

Even today, thousands of people around the world have lost their freedom of mobility, and their constitutional and civil rights associated with being free.

A modern version of slavery is called “Human Trafficking” or “Involuntary Servitude,” and according to the FBI website, it is existing in the shadows today.

“Here in this country, people are being bought, sold, and smuggled like modern-day slaves, often beaten, starved, and forced to work as prostitutes or to take jobs as migrant, domestic, restaurant, or factory workers with little or no pay,” notes the FBI on its website.

It occurs in rural and urban communities in America.

Recently, according to various media accounts, a 20-year-old woman telephoned a Sandy Springs, Georgia police dispatcher and said she and a house full of girls were being held against their will.

“It’s a house full of girls and … if I try to leave, he’ll try to kill me and stuff,” she said, prompting the dispatcher to ask, “Wait – did you say you’re in a house full of girls?”
Georgia authorities eventually uncovered an alleged case of human trafficking based in a $1 million luxury home in the suburbs of Atlanta.

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The man who ran the operation, Kendric Roberts, 33, who is African-American, was charged with additional felonies, Sandy Springs police told NBC News.

The authorities found eight women ranging from ages 19 to 22 at the home.

Roberts faces five counts of false imprisonment, five counts of trafficking persons for labor and two counts for possession of a firearm in the commission of a felony. An AK-47 pistol and a Glock .45-caliber handgun were found in the home, police said. Possible federal charges are also pending.

Roberts was renting the residence, and the homeowners weren’t there. The president of the local homeowners association told The Atlanta Journal-Constitution that the group had received complaints from neighbors about cars constantly “coming in and out.”

On March 18, at the Historic First Baptist Church’s Murray Center’s Taste N See Banquet Hall in downtown Norfolk, Paula Fillmore will host a five-hour workshop on the subject of Human Trafficking.

According to Fillmore, the program is designed to look at the “Crisis of Human Trafficking” and the critical role of local government and police, the criminal justice system, civil rights groups, churches and other institutions in stopping it.
It will have two sessions starting at 9 a.m. with experts who have firsthand knowledge of the issue from their professional insights.
The first will included a presentation by Mitze Glass, a Licensed Social Worker and her daughter Brittney J. Gainey on making the “Connection Between Mother and Daughter.”
Tasheeba McLeod will talk about “How to Access the Resources for Victims and Family Members”. The issue related to civil rights will be addressed by Social Worker Marcia Watkins. Rev. Stanford Macke will look at the topic from the “Pulpit’s Point of View.”
During the second half of the program, Norfolk’s Commonwealth Attorney Gregory D. Underwood and his Assistant Krtistyina Fulton will look at the issue from the perspective of the criminal justice system.
Fillmore is a Court Appointed Special Advocate for the City of Portsmouth and an advocate for various issues related to social and criminal justice system, including domestic abuse, gender, elder and victim’s rights.
Fulton is a leader of her Crisis Circle at her home church. She said she has been involved with the Lott Carey Global Christian Missionary Community, which is supporting anti-human trafficking laws domestically and abroad.
Her interest and advocacy related to human trafficking and domestic violence came after years as a registered foster parent in the Hampton Roads area. She has sheltered over 20 children and her own children.
Her experiences as a foster care parent exposed her to the factors which lead to human trafficking, especially abandoned children and homelessness.
“Human trafficking is today’s slavery 2.0,” said Fillmore. “All people, Black, White, Hispanic, rich poor…all should be concerned about this new form of slavery and should be supporting its end.”
“People are being held against their will and are sexually and economically exploited,” she continued. “Not only small children, but adult women and men. It is not just prostitution, but people are working for free and abused as domestics or in the nail shops doing manicures, nails and other works.”
Victims of human trafficking in the United States may be lured into it from overseas; however, many victims are born in the states and are just as vulnerable, according to the FBI.
“It is right here in our own back yards,” Fillmore said.
The most vulnerable victims are persons fleeing domestic abuse, the abandoned, runaways, and homeless adults and youth, men and women.
Many people are working as domestics, or as skilled laborers in factories in urban downtown business districts and malls.
Coercion, physical or emotional, are the keys to entrapping victims. But many poor adults and youths are lured by drugs, material goods like clothes, food and cell phones, and promises of security.
“They are told ‘if I can get you off the streets or get you out of town or to another country, there is something you must do for me’,” said Fillmore. “Then they are threatened and physically intimidated.. beaten. The traffickers promise to kill members of their families and even them.”
Full indoctrination involves destroying their self-esteem and stripping victims of their personal cultural memory, by traffickers who take full control of the victim’s lives and movements.
Fillmore said one warning sign of people who are victims is they are always accompanied by their traffickers. There are signs of physical abuse and if they are asked about it, they say they fell or had an accident.
“If you have seen them a while, and if you ask them about a well-known street or place in Norfolk….Tidewater Drive or Virginia Beach Boulevard and they don’t know, that is a sign,” said Fillmore. “They are not allowed to know where they are located to assure they won’t seek to escape. Trafficking is happening in our own backyard and often it is not easy to recognize.”
Fillmore is supportive of Senate Bill 553, introduced in the last Congress designed to fight the human trafficking internationally and in the states. It has yet to be passed.
“This workshop is a way in which we can alert the public about this problem which impacts thousands of people,” said Fillmore. “We want to expose it and build support for laws to stop it But first we must educate people, get them involved to help pass legislation and help those who are modern-day slaves.”
There is a $20 donation for the event.
For more information call (757) 332-4906 or

By Leonard E. Colvin
Chief Reporter

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