“NOT ON OUR TURF”
This became the new mantra for more than 120 student leaders from seventeen New York Catholic High Schools and Youth Groups who gathered at The Mary Louis Academy on Saturday, November 16. Teen teachers/members of Project Stay Gold, as well as representatives from Homeland Security and The FBI Victim Services helped them to hear, reflect, and plan action steps to end the horrors of human sex trafficking which happen every day and increase greatly during major sports events. These young abolitionists and abolitionists in training will bring the message of “Not On Our Turf” to their families, schools and youth gatherings. This vision of a world without sex trafficking slavery will be spread loud and clear as the country and our tri-state area prepares for the 2014 Super Bowl.
While they listened with great attention, they heard the voices of the victims, the cries of the desperate young people, the efforts of Local and Federal Police, Courts, prosecutors, counselors and local organizations for safe housing. They heard the voices of the Project Stay Gold teens and their leaders and came to realize it was time to use their own voices:
Priscilla from Notre Dame and Cassidy from TMLA declared themselves as new abolitionists. Today Cassidy wants “to spread the word to parents” and Priscilla wants to “help women get out of this slavery and to recover.” As one of tomorrow’s doctors, Priscilla would like to assist that recovery. Nia from Saint Joseph HS said, “This is a lot bigger than I thought it was but one person can help. I want to be an abolitionist.” Nkenge, also from Saint Joseph was more aware due to the two summers at the Sadie Nash Leadership program. “Gender norms have to go – our gender is not a single story. I am already involved. I will continue to bring the message back to school.” Lynn Saskya from Archbishop Molloy says, “I’ll bring this back to the Homeless Shelter where I volunteer.” And Yannic from Holy Cross pledges to “spread the word at the Day Care Center where I work with many kids who have many home problems.” Jorge, also from Holy Cross declared his desire to be an abolitionist immediately, “My parents are meeting me outside and I’m beginning with them. Later today my friends and relatives will “hear” me on my on-line social media sites.” As lunch began Veronica and Joseph, President and Vice-President of The Student Council at St John’s Prep agreed, “Why should we come and listen to go back and do nothing? It can’t be when we can spread the word in school newspapers, through fund raisers and consciousness raising.”
Special thanks school staff members and to the organizers of the day, Sisters Katie Hamm, SC and Connie Kennedy, CSJ from Lifeway Network and NY-CRC-STOP on this side of the Hudson and Sharon Ciliento, Dan Papa, and the young Abolitionists from Project Stay Gold, our new friends on the other side of the river – but not of the mission. Be on the watch for these new young abolitionists as they speak and seek to end this second largest crime in the world today and this most violent denial of young human lives. These Students for a Traffic Free Super Bowl are becoming a force to be reckoned with across our three states. Let our voices all be raised in this new mantra: “NOT ON OUR TURF!”
Karen Cavanagh, CSJ