By Holly Austin Smith — From her column Speaking Out in the Washington Times
WASHINGTON, October 24, 2012 – Very few images and videos regarding the topic of sex trafficking are able to stir my emotions. They are often too violent, too overdramatized, too sensationalized, or just too innocent. When I watched, Ballerina, a promotional clip for George Perez’s and Mohammad Maaty’s brainchild television series project, The Life, I was honestly moved.
It took me back in time to a middle school child who had been lured away from home by a man promising tales of Hollywood stardom. This man, who turned out to be a top-ranking member of a sex trafficking ring, forced the 14-year-old girl into a life of prostitution.
That girl was me.
Within five minutes, actress Jessica Devlin transported me back to the summer of 1992, back to a moment on the streets of Atlantic City, New Jersey, in which the memory of my rock stardom goals seemed like distant pipedreams.
It is because the producers were able to capture this moment with such subtlety, compassion, and evocative power that I am writing to tell you about their mission to create a television series called The Life.
If producers George Perez and Mohammad Maaty are able to gain the attention of an able and willing network, their mission is stated as follows:
The Life will examine, in depth, the causes, experiences, and struggles taking place in the world of under-aged sexual exploitation in New York City; from the perspectives of the exploited (teenagers), the exploiters (pimps), and those involved in the fight against under-aged sex trafficking (law enforcement, prosecutors, advocates, and private investigators, among others).
In addition, we will follow one pre-adolescent female character to the trigger incident, to running away, to recruitment into “the life,” to survival on the streets and under the slavery of pimps, to escaping “the life,” and then to the reclaiming of her own life and future.
This will give audiences the most thorough explanation and understanding of how victims of sexual exploitation come to be and what resources exist (and don’t exist) to help them. We will also examine how the legal and law enforcement systems are not yet fully organized and efficient nationwide. We will examine how male victims of child sex trafficking continue to fall through the cracks because most awareness and funding is geared toward helping female victims. Thus, this series also hopes to reshape government policy toward the expansion of resources and protection offered to all child victims of domestic sexual exploitation, regardless of class, race, or gender.
We also aim to spread awareness of this epidemic issue and to help enact positive change through safe, active participation from our viewers by providing contact information at each episode’s conclusion to organizations that can help. Viewer activism is what we’re striving for. Despite the gritty tone of this compelling, scripted drama, there lies a hopeful message at its core about people who fight this fight 24/7 and strive to provide a successful future for rescued youth.
Perez and Maaty’s advocacy caught the attention of actress and activist, Q’orianka Kilcher, who, at the age of 14, emerged into the front ranks of young actors with her portrayal of Pocahontas opposite Colin Farrell and Christian Bale in The New World. Her performance won her the National Board of Reviews’ best breakthrough performance (2006) and the Alma Award for best Latin American actress in a feature (2006).
Q’orianka is also a committed human rights and environmental activist. Traveling frequently to speak at youth events, colleges, and universities; she has been a featured keynote speaker and workshop facilitator at international conferences and events for organizations such as Amnesty International, the International Forum on Globalization, and the United Nations.
With Q’orianka’s support, Perez and Maaty have created a crowd-sourcing funding campaign for their pilot episode. In order to make this television series project a reality, the producers are asking for donations to help them film the pilot episode.
“We think of it as more than a television show,” stated Perez, “The Life represents a movement, a call for action; the drive propelling us to create this series is one of justice and human rights. Join us in the movement.”
Will you join the movement?